By Cecilia Ijuo
A National Assembly member, Sen. Stella Oduah, said approval of independent candidacy in ongoing review of 1999 Constitution would help in reducing political parties’ impunity in picking candidates for elections.
Oduah, who represents Anambra North Senatorial District in the Senate, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
She said that inclusion of the clause in the Constitution would also give Nigerians the opportunity to freely “choose any person they truly want to represent them’’.
She expressed optimism that the bill would succeed at the end of the amendment process, and said that it would present a freedom platform for candidates and the electorate.
“For the first time, with that platform, people will vote for those they really want and not party and so, it will be a direct contract between the contestants and the electorate.
“So, if faced one-on-one, the electorate will ask how the candidates’ emergence will be of benefit to them.
“If both agree that the man or woman is the person they are looking to impact positively on their lives, then it becomes a contract.
“Nobody will come tomorrow and say it is not you we voted for and no party will impose on people the candidate that is not of their choice.
“So, it will have direct impact, ensure freedom and remove party impunity, where parties often impose some people that are not the people’s choice.
“I think that is what we need in this country at this point in time,’’ the lawmaker said.
On measures to put in place to ensure that the independent candidacy platform is not abused, she said that it was the duty of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to set stringent criteria.
Oduah said that if the right criteria were put in place it would not be an all-comers’ affair, adding that “when all the filters are put in place you will not have more people than political parties will present.’’
On fears that political parties might not allow it to flourish, she said that there was nothing to be afraid of.
“The political parties cannot stop this from coming. Clearly they will fight but I believe that even political party members will be those that will apply under independent candidacy.
“For me, there is nothing as freeing and as fair as giving the people who they truly voted for.
“That is just what independent candidacy means. For the first time, you won’t have party imposition or impunity and so, people’s vote will count and their voices will be loud,’’ she said.
Oduah, who supported the approval of independent candidacy clause in the Senate, said she was able to convince her colleagues about the importance of the platform.
She said, “I believe that politics is all about horse-trading; it is about assuaging people, it is about allowing people to work based on their conviction and they know the right thing to do.
“It wasn’t that difficult because we have a spectacular Senate this time. A senate that represents hope for Nigeria and I believe they did what the Nigerian people are asking for.’’(NAN)