Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the Electoral Act Amendment Bill now in progress is a testament to the current administration’s commitment towards improving Nigeria’s electoral system.
Osinbajo stated this on Tuesday at the 53rd Conference of the National Association of Law Teachers, held at Bayero University, Kano (BUK), with the theme: “Law, Democracy and the Electoral Process.”
According to him, “The bill itself has been the subject of robust engagement between the government and civil society. While some have expressed reservations about the time it is taking to enact the new law, we should remember that a truly inclusive democratic, deliberative process often takes time.
“I am confident that the legislation that emerges will be one that reflects a broad consensus between all the stakeholders,” he said.
The vice president added that “while INEC continues to improve its capacity to conduct credible elections, particularly through the deployment of technology; we recognize that democracy is about much more than voting. It is also about constitutionalism, rule of law and respect for civil liberties. We must diligently work to uphold these principles.
“Our progress as a democracy must therefore also be prosecuted in terms of the struggle to reduce the basic problems of ill-health, malnutrition, illiteracy, and famine which afflict our people. Where social and economic rights are unsecured, people are unable to fully maximize their civil and political rights.”
While declaring the conference opened earlier, Osinbajo noted that democracy and social justice are closely linked, adding that the cornerstone of democracy is the insistence that “our society must be governed by the rule of law and not the whim of man.”
“As law teachers and legal practitioners, we are custodians of this truth. However, democracy cannot endure without social justice,” he said, noting that “the pursuit of justice lies at the heart of the quest for the good of society.”
He continued, “This makes the legal profession one of the cardinal vocations upon which civilization rests. Indeed, law is an instrument of pacific social engineering, the end of which is justice. When it is rooted in this postulate, it follows that the law and therefore democracy, are meant to serve beneficial social ends.”
Also speaking on the essence of democracy and the need to preserve democratic institutions in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, the Vice President noted that even as Nigeria has enjoyed 22 years of unbroken democracy, the country is still a young democracy.
“We have witnessed a series of peaceful transitions of power. This is a huge credit to the democratic sensibilities of our people. Along the way, we are learning valuable lessons that can only make us better practitioners of liberty.
“Many of our institutions are still in their infancy, and we must carefully guide them into maturity. We recognize that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Prof. Osinbajo observed