In every election year in Nigeria, there is always the suspicion that the ruling party in a particular area be it at the state or federal level would be finalising plans to rig or abort the will of the electorate.
Sometimes, these suspicions might be unfounded but the antics of the ruling party might give credence to this notion. Recently, the controversy over the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari as the Chairperson, Advisory Committee and the presidential election collation centre is being criticised by the opposition parties and other stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
According to sources, Mrs Zakari is supposed to have completed her tenure as an INEC commissioner since August of 2018. Apart from that, she is said to be a niece to the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.
The fear is that as a blood relation to the president, she might use that connection to subvert the vote counting exercise. Another area of grouse by the opposition parties has to do with the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, who is supposed to have retired from the service since January 3.
The Inspector-General has served the mandatory 35 years and his continual stay in office, according to them is illegal as the constitution bars him from being retained or reappointed as he is no longer a serving officer.
According to them, the president should do the needful by appointing a new IGP otherwise, retaining him means that Mr Idris will not be answerable for his actions but will only do the biddings of his master.
Although these claims cannot be dismissed outright the action of the president vis-a-vis the ruling party in disobeying court orders and breaching the constitution leave much to be desired.
The concern raised by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) is not just a propaganda tool or false alarm but should be seen as a patriotic act as the country should tell its leaders that we are under a democratic rule and not dictatorship in any guise.
If a serving officer has reached the mandatory retirement age or has served for the stipulated 35 years, he or she should honourably vacate such office. But where the services of such persons are still needed, then the necessary due process should be followed to avoid the situation where eye brows would be raised.
However, the recent pronouncements by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that it is now set to conduct a free, fair and credible election by presenting copies of the voters register to the political parties is highly appreciated. This is because with the register, political parties now can monitor and scrutinise the number of eligible voters, monitor the voting process and also ensure that the number of votes cast during next month’s elections reflect with what is in the register.
Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmmod Yakubu, has said that a total of 84 million Nigerians registered to vote, that the register was up to date and that as part of the measure put in place, smart card readers would be used for the exercise. He also said the use of the separate incident form had been abolished and called on the political parties to submit a list of their agents to INEC, not later than 14 days to the election.
The implication of these pronoucements is that the political parties will no longer give excuses that the electoral body is not prepared for the elections. From observations so far, INEC has shown that it has put in place all necessary facilities for now and what remains is the conduct of the election proper.
For the political parties, the issue of having centres should be seen as a serious task. This is because from past experience, some party agents did not even show up at the polling centres and how are we sure that this time would be different with the number of parties hovering over 70 and with 97, 119,973 polling units that will be manned.
Hopefully for the candidates some of the smaller parties which would not be able to afford the services of volunteers may have to rely on agents of the major political parties especially in the rural areas. And if that is not possible, they should strive to have agents at least in the 8,809 collation centres at the ward level.
With the large number of poltical parties, the logistics will be enormous and following the confidence expressed by INEC for the task ahead, all the political parties should go into the field and start canvassing for the people’s mandate. This time around, no excuses would be accepted as what we want are zero tolerance to rigging, vote buying, violence and indolence. Serious candidates especially those vying for the state houses of assembly seats should not tie their future to that of the governorship candidate. Now is the time to tell Nigerians why they should be voted for. Since this exercise comes every four years, adequate preparations should be made by the political parties to support their candidates in next month’s elections.
The police hierarchy on its part has assured that it would not be partisan likewise that of the armed forces. But with the current tensed security situation, the fear is still there that the ruling party could probably use the situation to its advantage especially at the presidential election.
Today, the world is watching the political trend in Nigeria, the situation is still tense but not as that of 2015 where there were fears that the election would end up causing civil unrest in the country. The two major actors are all from one geogaphical region, same religion and culture, so the presidential election now has nothing to do with differences of faith.
This time around, it is less complicated and the main issues are “development and quality service delivery”.
The election should be tension-free as we are not at war. From 1999 to 2018, the security agencies including the armed forces were allowed to play roles which constitutionally they were not permitted. Nigeria should do away with the curfew tradion on election days. 2019 elections should be an improvement on that of 2015 ditto the security situations.
Why is it that Nigeria is the only, country in Africa where on election days. everywhere is blocked, the streets empty with gun-totting policemen and members of the armed forces patrolling the major highways?
Let us learn to do things differently. In neighbouring West African countries, the situation is quite not the same. Let our politicians strive to improve on the electoral process especially by allowing the free movement of people on election days. Elections can even be conducted in a way that movement can not be restricted, afterall it is not everybody that will vote on election day.
Also modalities could be put in place to make it less stressful whereby a potential voter can just walk in and cast his or her ballot.
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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