Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says some of the critical tests of the credibility of electoral contests is the integrity of the umpire and the electoral courts.
Osinbajo made the submission in his address at the 14th edition of Leadership Annual Conference and Awards on Tuesday in Abuja.
The vice-president, who also bagged the Leadership Award, said that the founder of the organisation, deceased Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, believed strongly that the media was to serve as the foremost moderator of public discourse.
Osinbajo said that Mr Nda-Isaiah was one of the most forthright journalists of his generation who paid his dues in politics and sought the highest office in the land.
“In both pursuits, Nda-Isaiah retained the essential values of integrity and service that had always driven him.
“I commend you all for striving to keep his legacy alive and for continuing to follow the trail that he so doggedly blazed during his accomplished life.
“The topic has already been extensively considered by our guest speaker; and I have little to add except to re-emphasise that there is hardly any issue of greater significance to the people and the government alike than the economy.
“The daily struggles for food, shelter and clothing are bigger than other matters; certainly bread and butter trumps everything else,’’ Osinbajo said.
According to him, democracy, the rule of law, and the election of governments by free and fair elections are crucial.
He said such credible processes were meant to support the primary objective of enabling citizens to live well and have access to well-paying jobs, opportunities, and services.
“Or in a broad sense to support the growth and stability of the economy of the nation.
“It is evident then that we must carefully curate these safeguards for the well-being of our citizens to ensure that they do not negatively affect the very well-being that they are meant to protect, namely the economy.
“And this is a delicate task indeed because in every election cycle, the first casualty is the economy; there is a reluctance to invest, and consumers are careful not to spend their savings or be bullish in the stock market.
“Sometimes, this is because of the fear of electoral disturbances that might spiral out of control and make business and commerce impossible.
“For the more sophisticated economic actors, it makes sense to simply wait until the complexion of the new government is clear.
“But the prospects for disruption of the economy are even greater where elections for one reason or the other produce governments that are not credible.
“Legitimacy of governments as conferred by the freely given mandate of the electorate is a major consideration for savvy, substantial local or foreign investors.
“Capital, they say, is a great coward, running away from the slightest sign of trouble,’’ he added.
He said recent electoral history in Nigeria had too many examples of electoral violence following electoral outcomes that were widely disputed.
Osinbajo said that such incidents meant destruction of public and private property, and infrastructure aside the waste of man hours while the unrest lasted and in its immediate aftermath.
“The third test of the credibility of electoral contests is the integrity of the umpire and the electoral courts.
“Where the umpire is perceived as unfair there is potential for trouble; where the courts are perceived as arbitrary, whimsical or acting in contradiction to established precedents, there is an almost commensurate loss of confidence by the electorate.
“The political elite in Nigeria have a duty in the interest of the economic well-being of our citizens to ensure that elections and electoral disputes resolution processes are free, fair and credible.
“This is the least we can offer our nation and the continent; finally let me specially congratulate our very deserving awardees,’’ he said.
He said that retired Gen. Buba Marwa, one of the awardees, had led the most effective and result-oriented fight against drug trafficking in Nigeria and internationally
The vice-president said another awardee, Dr Benedict Oramah, President, Afreximbank, had showed that the bank could proactively and creatively provide and target capital to relevant sectors to drive economic change and prosperity in our nations.
Osinbajo also acknowledged another awardee, Miss Tobi Amusan, an Olympic and world record holder in the 110 meters hurdles for women.
“And all of these Nigerians have shown what is achievable when you have the right people in the right positions in the public and private sectors of our country and the result of hard work, diligence and focus in personal and national development.
“This year’s awardees are icons of our collective possibilities as a people; there is so much budding talent to nurture to greatness in Nigeria.
“We must create an environment that permits these talents to bloom into the fullness of their potential.
“Finally, let me congratulate our ever gracious host, and Chairperson of the Leadership Media Group, Mrs Zainab Nda-Isaiah, a woman who has taken up the mantle of leadership of the group with clarity of vision and diligence,’’ Osinbajo said.
Earlier in her opening remarks, Mrs Nda-Isaiah, said the 14th edition of the award was special for some reasons, among which was the presence of the vice-president who had graced the event three times.
The keynote address was delivered by former Prime Minister of Kenya, Mr Raila Odinga.
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