By Ebuka Onyeji
An official of the Independent National Electoral Commission ((INEC) at an event on Wednesday in Abuja rebuked a former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana, for flouting electoral laws on timing of political campaigns.
Mr Gana had boasted that his party will give the ‘best health programmes’ to Nigerians if elected into office in 2019 while addressing participants at the event.
He said this at the Wednesday town hall meeting on politics and healthcare delivery organised by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to kick start its 58th Annual Delegates Meeting and Scientific Conference.
He was the chairman of the occasion.
Mr Gana, who dumped the People’s Democratic Party, PDP to join the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) few months ago, said his new party has a robust plan on health in its manifesto that will give, “other political parties a run for their money”.
“We have a robust agenda on health. In writing our manifesto, we consulted vital organs in the health sector and with this plan we have on health, we shall give the other political parties a run for their money.
“A government is not paying attention to health matters is already failing,” he said in obvious reference to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
Mr Gana also commended the passing into law of the National Health Act in 2014 but decried that it is yet to be implemented four years after.
“If by the grace of God, the SDP is given the privilege to preside over the affairs of this country, you can be rest assured that this health act will be implemented in full,” he said.
He also highlighted several challenges in the health sector noting that his party is battle ready to change the story.
However, in what seems a direct response to Mr Gana’s comments, a representative of the INEC, Mustapha Lekki. decried “how politicians flout electoral laws with impunity”.
“The INEC has set a timetable since January this year and the timetable contains when political party campaign should start and when it should end. For the record, no campaign can start before December 18.
“But now we come to forums like this and people make speeches that amounts to party campaign. This is breaking the rules, but we’ll hold them to account?
“It is gross impunity! We just set the rule but we don’t follow them. INEC has set a timetable and people disregard it and there no consequences,” Mr Lekki said.
Section 99 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), states, “For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”
The INEC rep also listed some challenges the electoral body is facing ahead of 2019.
He said ‘trust deficit’ is one of the issues.
“We don’t trust ourselves and it has severe implications. We have spent a lot in election technology since 2011 all to have a fair election all because of lack of trust.
“In some countries, things we call sensitive materials are freely giving out on the streets by political parties but I’ve been in elections in this country where we have gunboats escorting election materials and you can imagine the cost,” Mr Lekki said.
Also reacting, Ezenwa Nwagwu, an civil society advocate, while speaking on the buildup to the 2019 general election described as shameful how politicians jump from party to another particularly towards an election year.
“The movement of politicians from one party to another is even more shamefully on the rise. There is lack of discipline and party ideology. you can’t event differentiate one party from another.
“Mr Gana was part of the people who wrote the manifesto of the PDP and he is just writing another one for another party and that shows you that in the real sense of it, if you check the manifesto of these political parties, you will not see any significant difference. It’s not even about manifesto writing, its about the implementing the plans,” an amused Mr. Nwagwu said.