The Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, is sad at the latest development in the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, where its chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, has forced operatives of the commission to take oath of secrecy to prevent Nigerians from having access to information on the operations of this all-important body.
This is following on the heels of president Umaru Yar’Adua, who, after the media scrutiny of his disappearance from the country for several days, last year, forced officials of the presidency to swear to the same Okija-like oath of secrecy. It is amazing that, in the age of information superhighways, where openness and transparency have become the order of the day; when the world is moving towards the democratization of information, our own rulers and the man in charge of the process of the emergence of rulers are pushing us back into the dark ages of ignorance and secrecy.
The latest gambit of Professor Iwu may not be unconnected with the intriguing searchlight being beamed on the activities of the electoral body, especially as it concerns allegations of bribery. We seriously condemn this oath of secrecy, which Professor Iwu is administering on officials of INEC nationwide. It is retrogressive, backward and a negation of the open society. Having denied Nigerians the right to freely elect those who would govern them in the various elections or selections he has organized, including RE-RUNS that he has turned to RE-RIG, Professor Iwu is now trying to take away the right of Nigerians to know what goes on in those dark recesses.
We ask for the immediate revocation of this barbaric and illegal oath. Perhaps, the time has come for Professor Iwu to move on. It may be time for him to leave INEC and move to one of the grooves of the secret societies in the country as a chief priest, if that is his latest fancy. But, more importantly, we call on the National Assembly to, as a matter of expediency, pass the Freedom of Information, FOI, Bill, which has for a long time been gathering dust on their shelves. It is a shame that the country that is celebrating ten years of a so-called democracy would not allow freedom of information. So, what is the content of that democracy? For these people to continue to shut down the basic ingredients of democracy while celebrating “democracy” will only make Nigerians to be having the feeling an old woman had few years to Nigeria’s independence and asked her son: “when will this independence end”?