IN SEARCH OF ELECTORAL INTEGRITY
The next stage was the inauguration of the Justice Uwais Panel that submitted a report full of recommendations. This is where problem started. The Federal Government, led then by Yar'Adua examined the recommendations and took what it felt was practicable and drafted a bill to reform the electoral process via those accepted recommendations. Some Nigerians said no, that the FG must rather adopt the report line, hook and sinker. By that argument, the panel must be regarded as the wisest set of people and supreme to any other authority. Some have tried to explain that since it was the FG that set up the panel, the onus to accept its recommendations or not lies on the FG, but this has bounced off the hallow way.
This was the state of affairs when Yar'Adua took ill and later died. The period of inaction (about six months) has rather caused a lull in the race to a new electoral package. Goodluck Jonathan took over and obviously has little time. What Nigerians are sure of is his avowed 'determination' to conduct a credible election next year, but reforms and other issues are untouched. He is appointing the INEC boss, and he may be contesting. This is generating debates , but we must take a second look at the fundamental issues at stake.
Can a sitting president appoint INEC boss and still conduct a credible election while contesting ? Yes it is possible. It has happened in nearby Ghana.
Few points in the recommendation stand out and have caused rancor in a country where a consensus is hardly achievable. The loudest issue was however not in the report, the demand for the sack of Maurice Iwu, ex-chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This went on and even reached international dimensions and many wondered if Iwu had an ally in Aso Rock.
The much-maligned ex-INEC boss was later seen off few weeks to the end of his tenure. Many realized that Iwu was a major beneficiary of the PDP government and a major gainer in flawed elections. A man who knew too much and who must not be shoved too hard. With Iwu gone, attention returned to other aspects of the reform package with heated arguments on who should appoint future INEC chairmen. Before then, we must take a brief look at other rancorous issues including the ideal number of parties, independent candidacy, and funding of political parties.
Moderate voices have wondered why there is a huge clamour mostly by the opposition for numerous political parties. In a country where one man (the late Bola Ige) wrote the constitutions of all the major political parties that vied for power in the first term of the Fourth Republic, one wonders what makes one political party different from the other in Nigeria.
All the parties that managed to win states (PDP, ANPP, AC, etc) seem to rule the same way. Good or bad. Their tax policies are the same, their economic policies (if any) seem alike, and their stand on security, human rights, education etc is the same. All states including those which shouted the loudest against discrimination shut out non-indigenes and run conservative citizenship policies. In such a country, it beats anyone's imagination what numerous political parties stand to contribute to the polity other than creating new platforms for persons to vie for power to suck the nation dry.
To make matters worse, some are clamouring for independent candidates along with hundreds of political parties. What this means is that someone whose beliefs (if he had any) do not match those of the 57 or more political parties can stand election as an independent candidate. In the first place, what is it that would make a man unable to find a political agreement with any party within a whole gamut of 57 or more political parties?
Some analysts argue that the opposition may be playing into the hands of the ruling party by insisting on unlimited number of political parties.
The point they make is that the more fragmentation of parties, the stronger the PDP. At the end, most of the parties would go behind to curry support for the major party, thereby becoming off-shoots of the same party they claimed to hate so much. But, two or three parties would create strong parties that can compete well and be a threat to each other. Many still point to the NRC/SDP era as the best in Nigeria's political party history. Was it not that era that produced the so-called best election in Nigeria, where a presidential loser immediately congratulated the presumed winner, though enemies of democracy turned round to kill the beauty.
The other point is the demand for the return of Option A-4. That option produced good results then but it was crude. It called for orderliness and security on the lines, else, the lines would be disrupted and voting would come to an end or false figures would be transmitted. If this is the Option A-4 mechanism, can we imagine how it would work these days in places such as Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Rivers State, Akwa Ibom, etc. Before now, the authorities had only electoral violence to contend with, but in these days of massive 'human trading' called hostage-taking or kidnapping, how would anyone expect people to line up for long in certain kidnap zones of Nigeria? People can afford to sneak out, cast their votes and hurry away, but to wait, line up and stand for hours waiting for counting to start would amount to a display of human cargo for kidnappers.
But the way people are rooting for option A-4, they make it look like it is a magic wand. No, not at all. The problem is in our attitude and what we do through violence these days in Nigeria. We can make a mess of even the best methods in the world.
Now, the issue of who appoints an INEC chairman has rather become the reform itself. Many want the Chief Justice to appoint the INEC boss. First, this seems to trample on several fundamentals. First, what makes INEC independent is not about who appoints it , but about the independence of its funding and tenure security. Also, the principle of separation of powers allows the executive to appoint and execute programmes based on laws made by the legislature but the actions would be subject to judicial review in times of dispute. Now, if the judiciary appoints an electoral umpire, who would judge the judiciary if their appointee does wrong?
With the clamouring for the chief justice to appoint the INEC boss, some make it look like the chief justice is infallible yet, evidence abounds to the contrary. We know about chief justices who are believed to have sought and got numerous favours from a president, thereby showing that they too can be compromised and can trade horses.
Many also forget that the principle of modern government does not intend to create multiple sovereigns in one sovereign entity. While powers should be separated at the bottom and the middle levels, political designers of nation-states and statecraft do not envisage a situation where the buck no longer stops at one table but two or three. If the judiciary takes over such an executive function like appointments into non-judicial offices, who would call the judiciary to order, and who takes the blame for failure in the elections? Of a truth, power at the top is vested in one person in any sovereign entity.
There are certain decisions that only the chief executive of a state can take. Though many officers will make inputs in declaring war, it is the chief executive alone that can declare war. The Bay of Pigs has proved that when the chips are down, all those who make it look like they share equal power with the president would get to a level and drop out.
To press the button and destroy the world or start a 3rd world war, J.F Kennedy was the loneliest man on earth. All others: Chief Justice of the Federation, Senate President, Chief of Army, etc every one made input but left the man and the box alone to decide the fate of humanity. At that point, all powers fused into one ball and that ball was in the palms of one man, and that man was (and still is) the president of any nation that finds itself in such a situation.
This is apart from the point that the president appoints the chief justice of the federation and the chief justice can never appoint the president. This automatically overrides whatever reason the chief justice can be seen to be a God-sent. Besides, if the chief justice appoints the INEC boss, would he also appoint the 36 state INEC bosses or would the state chief judges do the appointing?