The groups said Mr. Obasanjo should not be allowed to lead such important missions.
Some civil society groups in West Africa have condemned the ‘undemocratic conducts” and “utterances’ of former President Olusegun Obasanjo during election monitoring assignments in the sub-region. They have asked the sub-regional political organisation, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to axe the former President from subsequent assignments.
In an open letter to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) said it is “[deeply] concerned” by the “utterances, positions, recommendations and past records of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while on Elections Observation duty in several countries across the West African region.”
The Forum said every involvement of Mr. Obasanjo has resulted in controversies. They say the past president’s conduct during the violently contested election in Togo in 2005 led to the attack on some ECOWAS monitors.
The association also argued that Mr. Obasanjo’s recommendation, as the leader of an ECOWAS mission, for a two-year tenure elongation for former Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, was “unconstitutional and undemocratic” and was criticised both locally and internationally.
Further, the groups said Mr. Obasanjo, as the leader of the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS missions in the just concluded Ghanaian elections, “unilaterally smuggled a repressive and undemocratic anti-freedom of information recommendation into the preliminary declaration, and openly canvass for the strict regulation of press freedom during the ECOWAS/AU press briefing.”
The civil society association said Mr. Obasanjo’s conducts puts the name of the organisation to disrepute and rubbishes the obligation of neutrality by member states during election monitoring.
They also said that Mr. Obasanjo lacks the moral legitimacy to lead an election monitoring delegation, for overseeing what was believed to be the one the worst elections in the history of the continent.
“We wish to recall that President Obasanjo conducted what was widely described as the most undemocratic elections in the history of his country, Nigeria. The elections of 2003 and 2007 superintended by President Obasanjo brought international opprobrium on the country. This is a fact that has been registered in several quarters on the global scene,” the groups said.
The Forum, therefore, advised ECOWAS to develop minimum benchmark that its head of Election Observation and Mediation Mission has to meet. They emphasised that past leaders with “unenviable records and undemocratic antecedence [should not] be honoured with the task of supervising a democratic process.”
The association said the ECOWAS should educate its Heads of Mission on the code of conduct that election observers should adhere to.
The former Nigerian President had decried the freedom giving to the media in Ghana to report live results of elections at polling booths. The ECOWAS mission, headed by Mr. Obasanjo, among other recommendations, called for a media framework to “curtail” excesses of the media in election reporting.