THE article represented below is an anticipation of what is playing out today between the National Assembly and the Presidency on the simple task of further purifying the electoral system by passing an amended electoral bill that makes the people, more and more, the determinant of who govern them. When those who govern do not owe their position to the consent of the governed, the disasters to be managed, which may even lead to the end of the nation, cannot always be equated to the amount, however huge, needed to ensure “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” As the National Assembly and the Presidency continue to play ping-pong with the bill, we refresh our memory with the article titled “Perfecting The Electoral System.”
Democracy is not just about elections. However, elections are not only the high points of the democratic process but its mainstay. Whereas, a confirmed free and fair election does not guarantee full delivery of the dividends of democracy, a fraud-ridden election guarantees that there will be little or no dividends at all, except a harvest of woes. That is how key election is, to democracy and if perfection can hardly be attained on earth, every electoral management system must strive towards excellence – to achieve credible elections.
It is widely acknowledged that credible elections are characterised by inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and competiveness. Between Nigeria’s Independence in 1960 and the April 21, 2007 election that declared Umaru Musa Yar’Adua President of Nigeria, almost all elections across board lacked those ingredients, with the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections, won by MKO Abiola but annulled by Gen, Ibrahim Babangida and company, being the only excusable exception. Yar’Adua had to admit the utter crookedness of the election that made him president and sincerely inaugurated the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Panel, hoping that with the implementation of the panel’s report, better days for credible elections in Nigeria will be guaranteed.
We have come a long way from the wetie election characteristics of the 1960s, which were provocative ingredients for coup d’états and civil wars, to the characteristics of the March 2015 election that made displacement of an incumbent president by an opposition candidate possible. Yet, we have a long way to go in order to purify the electoral processes to an acceptable level of credibility. The big worry today is the inertia, if not resentment, of the biggest beneficiaries of the current level of purification achieved through hard struggles – the ruling party.
The short-lived Yar’Adua administration demonstrated sincerity and commitment to implementing almost all the recommendations of the 297-page report but the Jonathan administration was not that generous and we went into the March 2015 general elections with only as many changes as it could simply not stall or sabotage due to popular pressure. The clear beneficiaries are the ones we are contending with today – the National Assembly and the Presidency.
We are at a time when election credibility has the capacity to simplify some of the bedevilling issues on the national front burner, if not fundamentally or fully resolve them. A bill for advancing the electoral reform is before the foot-dragging senate, awaiting transmission to the unenthusiastic presidency. How passing the bill and assenting to it with all speed has now become rocket science is hard to understand, with major elections ahead in the first months of 2022, and insecurity and nationalities agitation baggage to carry along.
Election is not a few days’ event; it is a lasting process from one election cycle to another. The rules to govern the entire process need continuous perfection based on the level of civility and technological advance attained by society. Where we are today gives assurance of an infrastructure base and general citizen awareness that can sustain a credible election modus driven by technology, for substantial credibility. When it is clear that based on strict and open adherence to pre-stated rules the winner is the winner and the loser is the loser, the steam to heat the national polity is taken away from political manipulators of primordial, ethnic and religious sentiments.
All required now is the political will and demonstrated sense of responsibility (or lack of it) by the political elite, for which they will be cheered or jeered; and the sense of duty of the people to make timely and informed demands without giving a quarter, knowing that they will be the inevitable recipients of the consequences of actions and inactions of state actors at the end of the day.