By Celestine Okafor, Abuja

As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) concludes verification exercise on political parties, the National Chairman of the opposition African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, has, once again, advised the electoral body to focus on ensuring that the 2020 Edo state gubernatorial election and subsequent polls leading to the 2023 general elections are free from the usually associated irregularities that have characterized the previous elections.

The ADC Chairman who spoke exclusively to NEWS-LEADER ONLINE at the weekend in Abuja said his advice to the electoral umpire was based on what he described as the general dissatisfaction of majority of the electorates with the manner in which INEC conducted the 2019 general elections and the recent governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, which he claims, fell short of standard and public expectation. He pointedly accused the electoral umpire of deliberate connivance with the ruling party to subvert the nation's democratic system.

Nwosu stated that INEC has the requisite capacity and resources to ensure that the nation's democracy was protected through its conduct of elections that would be accepted by a majority of the Nigerian people and the international community. He warned that if INEC does not "get its act together" in 2023 and in other coming elections, the commission would be setting the stage for an avoidable national catastrophe.

The ADC chairman recently chided INEC over the same issue of credible poll conduct when officials of the Commission visited the Wuse Abuja national secretariat of the party during its party verification exercise. Nwosu who did not hide his anger and dissatisfaction while addressing his visitors and members of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) present, however, challenged the leadership of INEC to "search their conscience" on whether the Commission has actually delivered on its mandate of credible election conduct to the satisfaction of the electorates as expected of it.

He pointed out that INEC "is one of the well-funded Agencies in Nigeria. The government is usually well supported by the National Assembly to give priority to INEC’s financial and other needs. In addition, foreign governments and NGOs support the body with election management protocols, capacity building, and human development. All these are to ensure the best outcome for INEC's works. But rather than good outcome, I want the men and women running INEC to search their conscience. Unfortunately, the entire Nigeria democratic ecosystem looks more like a criminal enterprise.

The ADC boss had argued that in a more reliable election outcome, his party which he claimed was one of the most popular political party platforms in Nigeria, should have "produced a minimum of three governors, 12 Senators and 72 House of Representatives members and 178 members of Houses of Assembly of various states". Rather than this scenario, the current election conduct "system aided the parties in power, cash-and-carry politicians and warlords, and the incumbent governments to rub our candidates and our model party. But we remain undaunted.

"Our House of Representatives members and their states Assembly counterparts remain the authentic voice of Nigerians in representing their constituencies and our great party. They will continue to project an alternative voice without fear. Nigerians know that they are a part of the few that truly are deserving of their mandates.".

Nwosu reminded his visitors that the outcome of recent elections in the country has created a serious backlash. "I wish to put it clearly, our country Nigeria is in great danger. The systems are corrupted and the country is hemorrhaging. The quality of leadership is, to say the least poor; institutions have become compromised and undermined. State agencies are in ruins and infrastructures are in a completely decadent state. I hate to and will not classify security. Unemployment is at the highest, and the country has become the poverty capital of the world under this imposed leadership of APC at the center and some other parties in the states.

He continued: "The condition of our country is troubling. If the systems and leadership in place have reduced our country and sunk its current population of 200million so low, I doubt if we shall have a country in 20years when the population of the country becomes 400million. It will cause global rupture. Dear Madam Director Abu, I want you to relay to the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his team of commissioners that by their continued connivance, they have inadvertently set the country on a free fall, and caused the world democracies great pains, and serious damage to the present and future world. I will say no more.

"But we, the African Democratic Congress ADC remain undaunted in our missionary and rescue journey. And, I use this media to beg INEC and all institutions of government, and the security and defense establishments of our country, not to stand in the path of development and progress in the democratic journey of this country. I earnestly urge that all patriots reclaim their professionalism and to never again submit themselves to be used for parochial and sinister agenda.

In his own reaction, ADC presidential candidate in the 2019 poll and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadia Mailafia, lamented what he described as the impunity and killings attended the election process. He chided INEC and its Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who he said was his classmate in the University, to ensure a clean democratic process for the country.

While responding to the comments by the ADC chairman in his welcome address, the INEC verification team led by an Assistant Director in the Commission, Nkechi Abu, thanked the leadership of the ADC for enjoining INEC to do what is right. He assured the party that their concern will be looked into by the leadership of the commission with a view to address them.

She disclosed that the INEC officials were at the party secretariat for four main reasons: to authenticate the executive membership of the party; to confirm that the party actually occupy its national secretariat complex with the necessary valid documentation line the tenancy agreement or certificate of occupancy, CFO; to ensure that the party is up-to-date with its book of accounts and to authenticate the party's manifesto and constitution in line with the INEC's requirements for party verification.

Present at the event was the ADC National Chairman, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, the party's presidential candidate in the last general election, Dr. Obadia Mailafia, Alhaji Saheed Baba Abdullahi (national secretary), publicity secretary, Mrs. Yemi Kolapo, Barrister Justina Abanide (Legal Adviser), Chief Kelvin Alagoa (National Treasurer), Chief Anayo Arinze (National Coordinator on Electoral Matters & INEC Liaison) and some other National Executive Committee members of the party.