April 07, (THEWILL) – The Calabar Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (Doyen Bar), has charged Nigerians to hold elected officials accountable as the country braces for the 2023 general elections.
The Branch Chairman of the Association and former attorney general of Cross River State, Attah Ochinke, gave the charge in Calabar during the plenary, as part of activities to mark the 2022 Bar Week.
He stressed that it is the duty of the electorate to hold the leaders they elected accountable and that they are not poke-nosing, criticising or meddling with constituted authority when people ask questions about how they are being governed.
In his words, “Before now, each time we have elections as it is in Nigeria today, if you the ordinary citizen make a comment about how the government is being run, it is as if you are poke-nosing, criticising or meddling with constituted authority.
“What they (Nigerians) don’t realise is that, it is actually our right and as citizens we are doing our duty, if we stand up to our duty.
“If there is corruption and we point at the government official involved and say you’re wrong, we are doing the right thing.
“So, we the people must participate in democratic governance by standing up to make our point when the occasion demands.
“Democracy is not self-enforcing, if you don’t enforce it, stand up as a people to guide it, it will derail. Also, the people we elected into government should realise that they do not own the government because we elected them”, he said.
The former Cross River State Attorney General, maintained that they hope to raise the consciousness of Nigerians and make them understand that their votes mean they are hiring people to manage their affairs as well as the consequences of the vote they give to elected officers.
“We hope to raise the consciousness of the people to understand that the vote they are going to cast means they are going to hire people that will conduct their affairs.
“So, when you go to vote, understand the consequences of your vote, which is that you are choosing people who will manage your affairs for the next four years”, the former attorney general said.
He explained that with the theme for this year’s Bar Week, which is “We, the people: Agenda for national consensus”, they hope to “discuss the rights of the people, the position of the people in democratic governance and to what extent the ordinary citizen should be involved in governance.”
On her part, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Chairperson of the organising committee for this year’s bar week, Nella Andem Ewa, said Nigeria’s reality inspired the theme of this year’s event.
She maintained that it is time to interrogate the issues that beset Nigeria as a nation, interrogate our thought process and see if we can identify a consensus for the development of the country.
“Our reality inspired the theme for this year’s Bar Week – what are the most troubling issues that we have and yet no one is acknowledging that we have it.
“We are at that point in our history where we have to interrogate issues. What is that repeated issue we continue to ask even when we debate, even for the man who had never opened the book, it seems to go back to the constitution.
“This goes back to we the people, does it answer the questions we all are asking in terms of our aspirations or is it that it has never been a reflection of what we actually agreed to do together.
“The question now is are we are that stage where we really must interrogate the issues that continue to beset us as people, then we must interrogate our thought process and see if we can identify a consensus”, the senior advocate said.
About 500 lawyers attended this year’s bar week and several presentations were made by resource persons within and outside the country including a keynote address by the founder and president of Belema Oil, Tein T.S. Jack-Rich.