By KINGSLEY OKOYE
ABUJA- Senate President Ahmad Lawan has expressed optimism that the 2023 general elections would be the best ever in Nigeria.
Lawan expressed the optimism on Tuesday in Abuja when he received a delegation of the European Union election observers and former Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga who paid separate courtesy visits.
Odinga was in Nigeria at the instance of the Management of the Leadership newspapers for its Annual Conference and Awards which held in Abuja on Tuesday.
Lawan said that the National Assembly had worked very hard to provide necessary support to INEC and enacted the needed legislation to guide the electoral environment for the polls.
Receiving the EU delegation led by Thomas Boserup, Deputy Chief Observer, the Senate President said:
“The general elections this year will be probably the best.,this is because we worked so hard in the National Assembly to produce a very good document to guide electoral environment in Nigeria.
“The amendment to the Electoral Act was signed into law by Mr President last year and the INEC has been given ample opportunity and a great deal of latitude to introduce technology in the elections.
“The introduction of BVAS(Bimodal Voter Accreditation System), I think will go a long way in ensuring that election fraud, manipulations are reduced to the bearest minimum.
“We believe that has been one of the serious issue that bedeviled our elections previously.
“The thing that motivates us more is what we have been able to give to INEC. I think INEC is a princely institution. We have always prioritise INEC. We believe that INEC shouldn’t be in want. Where INEC makes a request, we believe we should always give INEC what our country can afford.
“Where we are able to give everything, we should do so. If we have to meet INEC half way, we must have a strong reason to doing so. This is because we don’t want any excuse from INEC.
“We want INEC to perform very well. We want the elections in 2023 to be very credible and very transparent and with the introduction of BVAS, we believe we can achieve that feat.
“Your (EU)statement in 2019 was very helpful. We believe that the stability of Nigeria is the stability of Africa and indeed, the stability of the world. And what you are doing is not only to stabilize our political or electoral process but to ensure that other countries copy from us.”
Also while receiving Kenyan former Prime Minister and his delegation, Lawan re-echoed similar sentiments about the 2023 polls.
Lawan commended Odinga for his roles in ensuring that Kenyan democracy is peaceful and stable.
He said: “Election periods are normally periods that are described as uncertain especially in developing countries and Africa in particular.
“Many things are suspended. Everybody will tell you after the elections are over. Why? Because people fear that elections will bring violence and so much uncertainty.
“I think we need to continue to work to ensure that our elections are peaceful, credible, that the integrity test that we need to push our elections should give us every hope and give our people every hope that their votes count.
“But we have to work hard to ensure that people don’t see election periods as periods of violence.
“I want to commend you and congratulate you for working to ensure the Kenyan democracy is peaceful and stable.
“I must commend you for the stance you took in the recent election outcome in Kenya. You are an African patriot and you are an African democrat and a leader.
“In 2022, the National Assembly passed the Electoral Act(amendment) which Mr President signed and we introduced so many innovations.
“We gave INEC so much powers and for it to introduce technology in the elections so that we reduce subjectivity, possibility of rigging and some unwholesome attitude of some politicians or their agents.
“And we believe that the 2023 elections will have the best and highest quality of election processes than the previous ones.
Our hope is that the outcome will be a reflection of the will of Nigerians.”
Earlier, Odinga said Nigeria and Kenya have maintained a long standing relationship.
He expressed delight on his further knowledge about the uniqueness of the Nigerian National Assembly in relation to the Kenyan parliament.(NAN)