Electoral Reforms (1) – To be or not to be! ~ Nasir El-Rufai

Published:14 Sep, 2012

The legitimacy of any government can only be derived from the will of the people as expressed in credible, free and fair elections held at regular intervals on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage; which explains why the critical importance of free and fair elections along with credible electoral process in any modern nation cannot be overemphasised.

This is underscored in one of the most important books I have read in recent times: Why Nations Fail – The origins of power, prosperity and poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson; where the authors quoted Mohammed ElBaradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency as having written that: “In Tunisia, repression + absence of social justice + denial of channels for peaceful change = a ticking time bomb”. Clearly, Nigeria can be substituted for Tunisia and the truism of the equation would remain just as valid!

Elections in Nigeria began from the colonial era with the Legislative Council elections in Lagos and Calabar in 1923. Other elections also took place between 1951 and 1959. During the military interregnums, three elections took place; 1979 with the Murtala-Obasanjo regime, the 1992-1993 elections under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and the 1999 elections conducted by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.

According to an analysis of these elections by the EU Election Monitoring Group in its 2003 Report, the elections of 1959, 1979, 1993 and 1999 were the most free and fair while those of 1964 and 1983 were adjudged to be the most violent and chaotic. The reasons are obvious and not farfetched: the former were ‘transition’ elections to hand over power to civilian governments by the military with minimal vested interests while the latter were ‘succession’ elections laden with enormous political interests.

It is trite to state that all elections conducted in Nigeria have been characterised by malpractices to various degrees. Since the current republic began in 1999, every election seems to be worse than the one before it. In 2003, the elections led to a loss of about 100 lives with many more injured. The 2007 elections were characterised by massive rigging and violence with results being declared in many states before the arrival of ballot papers.

They were bad enough for the main beneficiary – late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to publicly acknowledge as such in his inaugural speech shortly after being sworn into office; along with a solemn promise to the nation that rigorous electoral reforms would be embarked upon to address the patent malpractices. To this effect and credit of Yar’Adua, an electoral reform committee with respected former chief justice Muhammed Uwais as chair was charged with the task.

That the Uwais committee did a commendable job is self-evident in the 319 pages long main report that was submitted to the Federal Government in December 2008. The introduction section of the report, inter alia states that: “Nigeria’s experience with democratic elections since independence has been rather mixed. Although the country has managed to transit from one administration to another, hardly any election conducted in the country has been completely free of charges of irregularities, electoral malpractices, violence and various degrees of disruptions.

The factors responsible for this state of affairs include, among others, the character of the Nigerian State as the arena for electoral contests; the existence of weak democratic institutions and processes; negative political culture; weak legal/constitutional framework; and lack of independence and capacity of the Election Management Bodies.”

The report’s main recommendations include:

The constitution should be amended to guarantee the independence and autonomy of INEC
In filling the position of INEC Chairman, the National Judicial Council (NJC) should advertise to the public, spelling out the required qualifications, receive the applications, shortlist three persons and send the nominations to the National Council of State to select one person and then forward to the Senate for confirmation
INEC should be unbundled into four units;
Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission whose duties are to register political parties and monitor their activities.
Electoral Offences Commission which is to investigate electoral frauds and other related acts. It is also to co-ordinate, enforce and prosecute all electoral offenders.
Constituency Delimitation Commission
Centre for Democratic Studies.
Funding
INEC should be removed from the list of Federal Executive Bodies
The Chairman and Board members of INEC may be removed by the Senate on the recommendation of the NJC by two-thirds majority of the Senate which shall include at least 10 members of the minority parties in the Senate.
Associations seeking registration as political parties must have functioning offices in at least two-thirds of the states of the Federation. These associations must also have 20% women membership in their governing bodies.
Political parties should not be allowed to receive funds from abroad.
Number of voters per polling station as well as layout of the stations should be specified. Each polling station should not have more than 500 voters.
Disqualification period of candidates engaged in corrupt practices should be increased to 10 years.
Post-election petition periods should take a total of six months.
No elected person shall assume office until their case in the tribunal is disposed of.
The police should be trained specially for elections.
INEC should be composed of a board which formulates electoral policy and a professional/technical election management team to manage elections.
State Independent Electoral Commissions should be organised in the same way as INEC.
Elections for President and Governors should be held at least six months before the expiration of their terms.
It is regrettable that almost four years after the submission of the foregoing excellent recommendations, not much has changed in our polity. But please do not take my words for this. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index measures the state of democracy in 167 countries throughout the world.

The Index was first produced in 2006 and it ranked countries on a scale between zero and 10, based on 60 indicators that were grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.

According to the latest issue of the Index for 2011, whereas in 1945 the world only boasted of 12 democracies, it now boasts of 115 in three different classes of 25 full democracies, 53 flawed democracies and 37 hybrid regimes; with the remaining 52 countries being in the bottom of the pit class of authoritarian regimes as to be expected.

In the class of full democracies, it ranks Norway first with a total score of 9.80, keeping its position from 2010, when it replaced Sweden as the highest ranked country; whilst North Korea scored the lowest with 1.08, remaining at the bottom in 167th place, as in 2010.

Back home, in spite of the self-acclaimed “free and fair elections” that the Jonathan administration conducted in 2011, it did not come as a surprise that Nigeria is in the authoritarian regime class with a score of 3.83 and a ranking of 119; just behind Russia with 3.92 and 117 respectively. Meanwhile, Ghana is justifiably ranked way ahead of us at 78, in the class of flawed democracy with a score of 6.02!

What constitutes a free and fair election? According to Commonboarders.org, a ‘free’ electoral process is one where fundamental human rights and freedoms are respected, including:

freedom of speech and expression by electors, parties, candidates and the media;
freedom of association; that is, freedom to form organisations such as political parties and NGOs;
freedom of assembly, to hold political rallies and to campaign;
freedom of access to and by electors to transmit and receive political and electoral information messages;
freedom to register as an elector, a party or a candidate;
freedom from violence, intimidation or coercion;
freedom of access to the polls by electors, party agents and accredited observers;
freedom to exercise the franchise in secret, and
freedom to question, challenge and register complaints or objections without negative repercussions.
And a ‘fair’ electoral process is one where the ‘playing field’ is reasonably level and accessible to all electorate, parties and candidates, and includes:

an independent, non-partisan electoral organisation to administer the process;
guaranteed rights and protection through the constitution and electoral legislation and regulations;
equitable representation of electors provided through the legislation;
clearly defined universal suffrage and secrecy of the vote;
equitable and balanced reporting by the media;
equitable access to financial and material resources for party and candidate campaigning;
equitable opportunities for the electorate to receive political and voter information;
accessible polling places;
equitable treatment of electors, candidates and parties by elections officials, the government, the police, the military and the judiciary;
an open and transparent ballot counting process, and
election process not disrupted by violence, intimidation or coercion.
The flaws in the electoral system are known to almost every politically conscious Nigerian. Massive bribing and rigging, thuggery, insecurity during elections and the incompetence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in delivering its mandate are some of these problems.

If there is going to be any change in our nation for the better, it has to begin now! The first step will be a re-orientation of the populace. People have to believe that they have the power to decide who their leaders are irrespective of the flaws of the electoral system. They need to get more involved in the electoral process instead of sitting back and complaining.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

EFCC rearraigns Dasuki, five others for diversion of funds.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday re-arraigned, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser (NSA) and five others, for alleged diversion, and criminal breach of trust at an FCT High Court. The others were Bashir Yuguda, Shuaibu Salisu, a former Director of Finance, Office of the NSA, Dalhatu Investment Ltd., Sagir Attahiru and Attahiru Bafarawa, a former governor of Sokoto State. They were re-arraigned on a 22-count charge before Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, and they pleaded not guilty...

FG to investigate why production of Big Brother Nigeria is in South Africa.

The federal government has directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the reported shooting in South Africa of the ongoing Big Brother Nigeria reality show.   Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has asked the NBC to determine whether Multi-Choice has breached the Nigerian Broadcasting Code in any way, by shooting the show in South Africa, as well as the issue of possible deceit, since the viewing public was never told that the event would...

Bill Gates could become the world’s first trillionaire

In our lifetimes, we could see the first trillionaire. And, most likely, that first trillionaire would be Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates . That's according to research by Oxfam, an international network of organizations collectively working to alleviate global poverty. Its recently published report finds that eight billionaires from around the globe have as much money as the 3.6 billion people who make up the...

Yahya Jammeh will be ‘allowed to keep’ luxury car collection – Barrow

Gambian ex-president Yahya Jammeh will be allowed to keep his collection of 13 luxury cars and fly them out to his exiled home in Equatorial Guinea, a spokesman for new president Adama Barrow said Tuesday.Barrow’s spokesman confirmed to AFP an agreement had been struck to facilitate Jammeh’s exit on Saturday in order to end a weeks-long impasse caused by the ex-leader’s refusal to recognise Barrow’s election victory.   “What is very clear is that arrangements were made and the...

Death toll in Italy’s avalanche disaster climbs to 14

The death toll in Italy’s avalanche disaster rose to 14 Tuesday as rescuers extracted the bodies of two women from a devastated hotel and continued their search for 15 people still missing, local authorities said. Six other bodies were found between Monday afternoon and the early hours of Tuesday, the sixth day of what increasingly appears to be a forlorn search through the snow-covered wreckage of the Hotel Rigopiano. Eleven staff and guests survived the disaster, two men who were outside...

Lagos records 115 tanker accidents in 2016 – Official

The Lagos State Fire Service recorded 115 petroleum tanker accidents in 2016, Nwanovim George, the former Chief Fire Officer in the state has disclosed. Mr. George made the disclosure on Tuesday in Lagos at the ongoing national training for tanker drivers organised by Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, branch of NUPENG. Mr. George, who is currently the Personal Assistant to the Director, Lagos State Fire Service on Training Matters, said the service has already recorded six tanker in January 2017. He urged tanker...

Premium Times: How SSS lied against EFCC boss, Magu.

On Thursday, the Nigerian Senate declined to confirm the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chair of the country’s premier anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The upper legislative chamber claimed it could not approve the presidency’s request to confirm Mr. Magu based on a security report forwarded to it by the State Security Service. “The Senate wishes to inform the public that based on available security report, the Senate cannot proceed with the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu...

British PM must get parliament approval to trigger Brexit – Supreme Court

The UK Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May must get parliament’s approval before she begins Britain’s formal exit from the European Union, EU.   The UK’s highest judicial body dismissed the government’s argument that Ms. May could simply use executive powers known as “royal prerogative” to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and begin two years of divorce talks.   However, the court rejected arguments that the UK’s devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales should...

NYSC orientation back in Adamawa after 3-year break

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has resumed orientation of corp members in Adamawa state, after a three-year suspension caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.   The last orientation was held in Adamawa in March 2013.   Speaking to Tuesday in Yola, Mohammed Abubakar, state coordinator of NYSC, said 2, 500 corps members were deployed to the state.   “Registration of corp members started this Tuesday morning by 7 am and you can see they are trooping in; we are expecting 2, 500 corp members,”...

“Quit whining, no one owes you anything”, Fayemi tell Nigerian graduates.

Kayode Fayemi, minister of solid minerals development, has admonished Nigerian graduates to quit complaining and stop waiting for the government to solve their problems. He said this on Monday while delivering the 49th convocation lecture of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka. Fayemi urged the undergraduates to work hard to achieve their dreams and stop waiting for handouts. “Quit whining, no one owes you anything. The earlier we realise that no one owes us anything, the better for us and the more...

President Buhari rejects senate’s recommendation for SGF’s sacking

President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected the recommendation of the senate for the sack of Babachir Lawal as secretary to the government of the federation (SGF).   Buhari said his decision was informed by the failure of the senate ad hoc committee on humanitarian crisis in the northeast to give Lawal a fair hearing. ? He conveyed his decision in a letter read by Senate President Bukola Saraki on Tuesday.   In December 2016, the senate recommended the sack of Lawal for alleged corruption.   In its report,...

JUST IN: Again, CBN MPC retains interest rate at record high.

For the second time in four months, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided on Tuesday to hold benchmark interest rates at record high of 14 percent.   Godwin Emefiele, governor of the bank, announced that the committee also decided to keep cash reserve ratio (CRR) and liquidity ratio at 22.5 percent and 30 percent respectively.   He said the 10 members present at the meeting decided unanimously to keep the asymmetric corridor at +200 and +500 basis points.   The...

SON confisticates 1,000 bags of underweighed rice in Osogbo

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in Osun says it confiscated more than 1,000 underweighed bags of rice in Osogbo markets on Monday. Mr Sunday Badewole, the SON State Coordinator, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Osogbo on Tuesday. Badewole said the agency made the confiscation during the enforcement operation where more than 1,000 bags of 5kg, 10kg and 25kg of bags of rice were confiscated. He said many of the rice sellers had...

Sambisa, The Forest of Learning – By Buki Ponle

By now, it is crystal clear to the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), or any other groups and individuals with similar perception, that government is not toying with the safety, lives and property of Nigerians. This is clearly evident in the latest search conducted for the missing Chibok school girls in the notorious forest called Sambisa. Few days ago, the Federal Government, represented by the Minister of Information and Culture and that of Defence, arranged to join the Nigerian troops...

No Parliamentary Approval, No Brexit- Supreme Court Rules

It was a massive victory for Gina Miller as the Supreme Court has given a ruling giving the Parliament the right to approve the start of Brexit. Addressing journalists outside court after the judgment, Gina Miller thanked her supporters for the steadfastness. “In Britain, we are lucky – we are fortunate to have the ability to voice legitimate concerns and views as part of a shared society” she said. “I have therefore been shocked at the levels of personal abuse that I...

Court Orders Release of Ex-NSA Dasuki Again

An Abuja High Court has again reaffirmed the bail granted former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and five others in the arm deal trial involving $2.1 billion. Justice Baba Yusuf reaffirmed the bail on Mr. Dasuki on the ground that he was entitled to it and having been admitted to same since 2015 when the federal government brought criminal charges against him. Mr. Dasuki and five others were re-arraigned before Justice Baba Yusuf on the criminal charges that were transferred...

China urged to strengthen its nuclear arsenal to “force the US to respect it”

China must strengthen its nuclear arsenal to “force the US to respect it” in response to the stance of new US President Donald Trump, a leading newspaper said Tuesday. The comments in the Global Times, a popular paper known for its inflammatory rhetoric and hawkish views, came just days after President Xi Jinping called for the eventual global elimination of atomic weapons. In recent days, Chinese social media has carried pictures purporting to show an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile system deployed...

Yaya Toure explains why he’s not keen on playing in China

Yaya Toure says he wants to remain at Manchester City and is not interested in moving to China, amid reports of a big-money offer from the Chinese Super League.   Reports last week said Toure, 33, had rejected an approach from a Chinese club that would have seen him paid around £430,000 ($536,000, 499,000 euros) a week.   With his contract up at the end of the season, the former Ivory Coast midfielder faces an uncertain future, but he says he has no...

Kenya Conducts Mass Killings Of Dogs

Yesterday, January 23, 2017, Kenya Veterinary officers killed 82 dogs, 2 cats and a honey badger after rabies had been detected among some animals in Yatta, Machakos, LIB reports. According to the authorities, the animals were killed following the threat of rabies which is a deadly viral disease that could affect the local community.    

RCCG sends message to all senior pastors over MMM, other schemes

The Redeemed Christian Church of GOD (RCCG) has said that the doctrine of the mission does not support get rich quick schemes. This was made known in a memo addressed to pastors in charge of regions and provinces, by the General Secretary of the church, Pastor Johnson Odesola, on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. Pastor Odesola stated in the memo that some pastors and staff of the mission are getting themselves involved in all manner of money-making schemes, to the extent...

How Auchi Poly student duped white woman of $267,000 via dating

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Monday arraigned one Akintunde Vincent Abiodun begore at a Lagos State High court sitting in Ikeja for alleged love scam. The accused, a student of the Federal Polytechnic Auchi, Edo state was said to have defrauded his victim, D. Bonnici of $267,000 online by claiming to be Christopher Williams from the United Kingdom. According to the complainant, she met the 37-year-old man on a dating site on the internet and allegedly fell in love...