NATIONAL SECURITY AND ELECTORAL LAWS
In Monday's outing on the topic above, more emphasis was laid on the security aspect than the hopes expressed about reviewing, to some extent, the Electoral Act 2006.
The whole purpose, as indicated, was to examine the errors and weaknesses as well as the rules flouted by the political gladiators and their lieutenants, especially during the controversial 2007 Elections.
One had a simple reason for embarking on this rear-view exercise: Only self-criticism and adequate awareness of shortcomings in practically every enterprise – electioneering in this case – can arm those concerned against repetitions of in glorious or unwholesome practices in the future.
Even where what was done could be scored as good, there is hardly any earthly reason not to look forward to a better result during a subsequent repeat exercise, as would hopefully be the case in the 2011 General Elections.
It is on record that the late President Umaru Yar' Adua did not think those elections conducted in the year 2007 were anywhere near good in execution, hence the concern of the current Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan's Administration to right the wrongs of the past by putting a new man – Prof. Attahiru Jega of the Academic Staff Union of (Nigeria's) Universities fame – in charge of the forthcoming electoral operations as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
His predecessor, Prof. Maurice Iwu, did what he considered his best and might still be wondering what he did wrong to merit replacement as the INEC chief executive, but that is neither here nor there,as no opinion poll conducted by an impartial Nigerian could have gone in favour of Prof. Iwu, anyway. The revelations made at the various post-elections tribunals and appeal sessions since 2007 provide copious evidence and justification for the judicial awards of gubernatorial seats to those denied their seats, with Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, being the latest example of the Judiciary's indispensable role in the delivery of justice and democratic sanity in this part of the world.
It is in fact unfortunate that unlike in Ekiti State, the panel of judges handling the last leg of the appeal on the election imbroglio in Oshun State has had to defer ruling on the Oyinlola – Aregbesola election indefinitely. Some of us are hoping that the verdict will not be delivered on Monday, May 30, 2011, or perhaps on Friday, September 30, 2011,depending on when and how the current speculations on the May 29 and October 1, as the correct date for democratic transitions in the country, are eventually terminated.
It is already well known, however, that the National Assembly has voted in favour of holding the next set of general elections in April, 2011, so we can at least expect the verdict of their lordships on the Oshun governorship race, sometime before April. As the country focuses attention on the registration of voters expected to begin next January, it is perhaps pertinent to take a look at Part III of the Electoral Act 2006, which deals with that subject in section 10(1-6).
Although section 10(1) provides that 'The commission shall compile, maintain and update on a continuous basis, a National register of voters, in this Act referred to as the Register of Voters which shall include the names of all persons entitled to vote in any Federal, State or Local Government/Area Council Elections,' it is no longer news that there was hardly anything worthy to boast about when all the facts and figures from petitioners at the tribunals and appeal court levels since 2007 are taken into account. It is on tape that even on a polling day in 2007, the former Senate president, Dr. Ken Nnamani, had to ask why the then INEC Chairman's father was looking for where to vote (in Enugu I think), while complaining that he and many other person had encountered the same problem.
Section 11 (1)(b) of the Act also concisely stipulates that 'The Commission shall within sixty days after each year make available to every political party, the names and address of each person registered during that year…'. It is an open secret that the INEC headed by Prof. Iwu did not publicize such an interactions with any of the political parties until his tenure was popularly terminated.
One can only now wonder why some people feel comfortable with any situation in which the laws are left unimplemented by those whose responsibility it is to take the expected steps. So much has been said on air and written in the print media about the failure to ensure adequate law-enforcement in the country by those employed to do so; the grievances over the 2007 elections largely arose because some of those seemingly simple actions on keeping and updating a national register of voters and voters' registration, were ignored, unfortunately.
Section 32 (1-3) which provided guidelines on the 'submission of list of candidates and their affidavits by political parties,' was another much faulted aspect of the Electoral Act 2006 . Although it stated in section 32(1) that 'every political party shall not later than 120 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provision of this Act, submit to the commission in the prescribed forms the list of the candidates the party purposes to sponsor at the elections…'
The pathetic situations and attendant electoral miscarriages in Imo and Rivers States in the 2007 elections there (and other places which you may well recall), confirm the extent to which the politicians concerned went to disregard the law in this respect. This also applies to Section 34, where the issue of political parties changing candidates was considered, and it stated that 'A political party intending to change any of its candidates for any election shall inform the commission of such change in writing not later than 60 days to the election….'
The confusion that ensued in the states already mentioned did not confirm that the party leaders concerned read that aspect of the Act at all. In fact, that is too charitable…. It is doubtful if some of our politicians have ever seen the provisions of the 1999 constitution and the contents of the Electoral Act 2006. Now that the world is talking about and looking forward to a certified true copy of the Electoral Act 2010, one can only hope the leaders will turn new leaves because it is such negative attitudes to and deliberate ignoring of the laws that precipitate much of the political instability in the Third World, including Nigeria, rather sadly.
These and other shortcomings indicate a basic absence of the values and attitudes which militate against healthy democratic features of any truly re-branded democratic society.