Former President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has asked the European Union and United Kingdom to place visa restrictions on certain Nigerian politicians.
Saraki made the demand few hours after the United States announced visa restrictions on some Nigerian politicians for their ignoble roles in past elections, including the governorship polls in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
He added that the sanction should go beyond politicians and include electoral officers, security operatives and judiciary officials who undermine democracy by their actions before, during and after elections.
The former Kwara State Governor stated this in an address to mark the 2020 International Democracy Day, with the theme: “Electoral Reforms and Democracy,” organised by the Centre for Advancement of Civil Liberties on September 15, 2020.”
He also solicited for a law banning the Military from election assignments.
Saraki said: “The next general election in this country is even more important because it signifies the end of a tenure. The election will be supervised by a President who is not eligible to re-contest.
“The last time we were in this same situation was in 2007 and you all saw what happened. The election was adjudged largely unfair. So, if we do nothing, from what we saw in the elections of 2019, the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa, States and the tell-tale signs we are seeing preparatory to Edo elections, 2023 elections could be worse
“It must be noted that the rigging of the electoral process is not just about manipulation of figures during elections. It spans the issue of registration of voters, process of evolving candidates, internal operations and administration of political parties, preparation by the electoral commission, equal treatment meted out to all political parties by the electoral bodies, genuine Independence by the electoral commission, neutrality of the security agencies, and patriotic consciousness of the electorate to always act with good conscience.
“The growth of democracy also requires having truly strong and impartial democratic institutions that can act above the dictates of the party and people in power and honestly exercise their powers as provided by the law. Let me now take the issue to the day-to-day occurrence in the political process.
“The Ninth National Assembly should quickly work on the Electoral Act now that the next general election is almost 30 months away.
“Completing work on the passage of the Electoral Act now, will save both the legislature and the executive the distraction that partisanship can create for them.
“Remember that the only problem with the last amendment of the Electoral Act is that it became a victim of partisan consideration.
“It is necessary whilst we do our bit at home, we also call on the international community to help curb actions of politicians who undermine democracy.
“Here, the US decision to place visa restrictions on certain Nigerian politicians for their ignoble roles in the 2019 elections is commendable.
“I call on the UK and the European Union to follow suit. This is necessary to send the right and strong signal that those who undermine democracy in Nigeria are enemies of the rest of the democratic world.
“The sanctions should go beyond politicians and include electoral officers, security officials and judicial officers who undermine our democracy by their actions during and after elections.
“Let me also state here that the legislature and the executive must find a statutory solution to the issue of illegal interference in the electoral process by security agencies.
“May be there should be a law that prevents the deployment of the military for election assignments.
“We should ensure strict compliance with the law on this and even go further to enshrine this in our constitution.
“Elections are civil engagements and should be left to both the police and the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps. This should probably be legislated and provided for in the constitution or the Electoral Act.
“It is also important we come in strong in the enforcement of the provisions of the law which provides for punishment of politicians, law enforcement agents, ordinary citizens and electoral officers who are caught subverting the electoral process.
“All stakeholders must show commitment to diligent enforcement of and compliance with the law. This has been addressed in the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 worked upon by the 8th National Assembly.
“It is also important to stress that democracy can only grow if those of us who are politicians get ready to play by the rules at all times.
“Politicians must stop the mentality of electoral victory at all cost. The stability of the nation’s democracy and peace of the nation are definitely higher goals than the personal aspiration of individual politicians. Politicians must learn to always act in a manner that gives confidence to the people that truly, elections still provide the best process for sourcing leaders and kicking out those that are not wanted by the people.
“I want to also quickly point out that I am eminently qualified to pontificate on this, as I can use myself as an example.
“I went into elections in 2019 in Kwara State, our party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and myself, lost the elections. We had our reservations on the credibility of the entire electoral process.
“We had good evidence of the illegal deployment of state forces and other undemocratic means to achieve the results declared by the electoral body.
“The whole country witnessed the level of desperation displayed by those who could not tolerate our guts to turn the election results against us.
“The utterances of the former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, who continuously boasted about how his number one priority and objective was to win Kwara State by whatever means necessary, were well documented.
“After the result of the 2019 elections was announced, I sent out messages to my followers, despite their anger and quest to express their grievances, that they should accept the result and maintain peace.
“I then congratulated the winners and urged our people to support the newly elected officials. To further demonstrate good faith and gracefulness in defeat, I refused to challenge the process at the tribunal.
“With this experience, I believe one is in a good need for political actors to sometimes suppress the desire for power and take side with the survival of the system. When I argue that politicians should learn to accept election results and demonstrate patriotism even in the face of naked provocation, it is based on my experience.
“The lives of our people, the stability of our democracy and the peace of the society are more important than our personal interest or the inflated egos of the leaders.
“Let me at this point also mention that next Saturday, four days away, the Edo Governorship Elections will be taking place. Also, on October 10, another gubernatorial election will hold in Ondo State.
“This should be a starting point for our demand for a credible electoral process. Whilst we wait for the new Electoral Bill to be passed, we can begin to demand that the right things are done by all stakeholders in these elections. Led by President Muhammadu Buhari, we can ensure that these two elections signpost his desire to leave for Nigeria and Africa a legacy of a true democracy and clean electoral process.
“President Buhari must use the Edo and Ondo elections to demonstrate ECOWAS commitment to credible electoral process.
“The President must put his feet down and ensure that the security agencies will, and must, not be misused to influence the results of the elections in Edo and Ondo States.
“Also, the electoral commission should be made to be truly immune from manipulations by individuals, no matter how highly placed.
“Already the international community have given a verdict on some of the recent elections by the sanctions announced by the United States yesterday.”