Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has charged security operatives not to allow miscreants to use violence to disrupt the governorship and state assembly elections and undermine Nigeria’s democratic process. He also urged them to be professional in their responsibilities by maintaining law and order and ensuring that perpetrators of violence are brought to book.
Jonathan who spoke after casting his ballot at his Otuoke polling unit in Bayelsa State, where only the House of Assembly election is taking place, also condemned the incidence of violence and voter suppression recorded in some parts of the state and other parts of the country.
The former president noted that Nigeria has been recording some progress in our democratic journey and miscreants should not be allowed to undermine the gains.
He said: “Nobody should be allowed to mess up our electoral system. In the past that kind of criminal acts took place but the country is moving forward and some criminals cannot push us backwards. The world is watching Nigeria and we cannot allow criminal elements to push us backwards.
In terms of general security, the former President stated that the atmosphere in Bayelsa was peaceful although he expressed concern over the reported crisis in the State Constituency Two in Anyama part of Ogbia in Ogbia Local Government Area where election materials were alleged to have been burnt by miscreants.
Calling for the arrest and prosecution of the troublemakers, Jonathan said: “The police must arrest all those involved and prosecute them. They must be stopped and the security authorities; the police, army and operatives of the Department of State Security in Bayelsa State must make sure that all those involved in that criminal activities are prosecuted.”
Speaking on the voting process and his experience with the voting exercise, Jonathan said: “Judging from my voting unit, election materials arrived earlier today than three weeks ago and if that reflects in 70 – 80 per cent of the country, then we will be very happy that INEC is improving in terms of the early arrival of voting materials.
Speaking further, Jonathan commended all Nigerians for their commitment and the resilience they have shown in the 2023 elections cycle, beginning from their interest during the voter registration exercise which was sustained up to the primaries and days of voting.
He said: “I believe that Nigerians have decided that we must all participate in selecting our leaders. Any country where the ballot paper cannot help in the leadership selection process is doomed. We must run a system where the ballot, and not the courts, will decide who leads us, either at the levels of the president, the Governor, council leaders or parliamentarians.”
Jonathan also debunked a recent online report which alleged that he asked those not satisfied with the outcome of elections not to seek redress in courts, stressing that the legal system is part of our democratic process which helps to check the excesses of politicians and the errors and misconduct of the electoral umpire.
Responding to a reporter’s question, the former President said: “The Nigeria electoral process involves voting in the field and also a legal process, when necessary. I did not say people who feel aggrieved should not go to court. I am a key member of the West Africa Elders Forum and during the elections we met with the major presidential candidates. We encouraged them to go to court if they feel aggrieved but not to take laws into their hands.
“The legal system is part and parcel of our democratic process. What I am saying is that if you go through the electoral process and also go through the legal system and you don’t succeed, do not embark on actions that could cause problems in the polity.
“If you have a case you should go to court because it is one of the ways we can correct errors and injustices in the system. If people don’t go to court, INEC and politicians can do all sorts of things and get away with it. People have to go to court so that every year we can improve our system.”