Electoral Reforms And Prospects For Unity In Nigeria's Fledgling Democracy

by Adebayo Adejare

The enthusiastic participation of the Northern and Southern Minorities as well as the populous Ibo in the Elections through the Peoples Democratic Party gave a wrong impression that Abubakar Junta’s Constitution was acceptable. That Party had nothing like Sovereign National Conference in its manifesto and programs hence the President never promised it in his campaigns. Since none of the tribe-based parties has flourished under the present dispensation and the leadership of the main opposition All Nigeria People’s Party do not believe in the Sovereign National conference Solution, its protagonists are back to where they were during the Abacha Regime – sponsorship outside the mainstream of the polity i.e. private associations and individuals.

There is no prospect that the Sovereign National Conference Proposal will be acceptable to the members of the National and State Assemblies nor to the entire Nigerian Judiciary whose members now fare better than they did under the regime of the Maximum Dictators.

The sustenance of Democracy and by implication the Nigerian Nation in the nearest future can be hinged on certain crucial factors/imperatives achievable through urgent Constitutional Amendment as well as Legislative and Administrative efforts.

1. The retention of the Centri-petal concept of the Constitution in contrast to Federalism as practiced in U.S.A and Australia which is centri-fugal.
2. The immediate review of the revenge allocation formula to increase the factor of derivation to 50%.
3. The re-constitution of Oputa Human Rights Panel and its re-orientation as a permanent reconciliatory/conflict resolution rather than an accusatory forum in the mold of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
4. Constitutional Amendment to reflect the following:
(a) Emphasis on the secular nature of the Nigerian Polity.
(b) Inclusion of Rotational Presidency.
(c) Constitutional Court.
(d) Abolition of Land Use Decree and NYSC.
(e) Review of Legislative lists.
(f) State Police.

5. Niger Delta Problem.
6. Re-organization and Re-structuring of the Nigerian Military and the police.
7. Sanction of Treasury Looters and Constitution /Human Rights Violators by disqualification from Public Office and recovery of loot.

The proposed electoral reforms must take account of the earlier stated criticisms of Akpata INEC although we must resist the temptation to treat in isolation the issue of periodic free and fair elections as a panacea to Nigeria’s problems. Nevertheless any future election in Nigeria must guarantee the following:
1. Free and Fair election based on Universal Adult Suffrage but in the peculiar Nigerian environment excluding treasury looters and Coup Plotters from contesting but permitting Independent Candidature.
2. Vibrant Political Party System responsible for training, equipping, selecting / screening candidates for government offices while monitoring their performance and conduct after election.
3. Anti-Election rigging devices like the requirement of citizen Registration Cards for eligibility to vote as well as the open ballot system. The perennial malaise of massive election rigging in the North especially under cover of Islamic purdah must be urgently addressed being inimical to goal of restoration of confidence of the entire South in the electoral system.
4. Adequate screening and monitoring of candidates to eliminate laundering of drug and treasury loot for party and individual campaign as well as ensure academic and other qualification of candidates under the relevant statues.
5. Use of unorthodox electoral safeguards e.g. Computers and deployment of judicial officers and University Dons as electoral officers.

Bearing in mind that the Federal Election Crisis of 1964-65 as well as the Western Regional Election Crisis of 1965 provided favorable environment for military intervention in January 15, 1966, the importance of free and fair election to the sustenance of Nigeria’s fragile polity and fledgling democracy cannot be over-emphasized but the influence of the prevailing matrix cannot be discounted.

Any factor in the system that may promote the Centri-fugal forces and opinions thereby making separatism attractive must be addressed while factors and forces that emphasis patriotism unity, co-operation, the Rule of Law, democratic values as well as a healthy national orientation must actively engage the attention of leaders in and out of governance.


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1 comment

Anonymous July 12, 2005 - 12:16 pm

The article is prophetic clear and distinctive to the point.


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