It is trite to state that all elections conducted in Nigeria have been characterized by malpractices to various degrees.
The legitimacy of any government can only be derived from the will of the people as expressed in credible, free and fair elections held at regular intervals on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage; which explains why the critical importance of free and fair elections along with credible electoral process in any modern nation cannot be overemphasized.
This is underscored in one of the most important books I have read in recent times: Why Nations Fail – The origins of power, prosperity and poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson; where the authors quoted Mohammed ElBaradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency as having written that: “In Tunisia, repression + absence of social justice + denial of channels for peaceful change = a ticking time bomb”. Clearly, Nigeria can be substituted for Tunisia and the truism of the equation would remain just as valid!
Elections in Nigeria began from the colonial era with the Legislative Council elections in Lagos and Calabar in 1923. Other elections also took place between 1951 and 1959. During the military interregnums, three elections took place; 1979 with the Murtala-Obasanjo regime, the 1992-1993 elections under General Babangida and the 1999 elections conducted by General Abdusalami Abubakar. According to an analysis of these elections by the EU Election Monitoring Group in its 2003 Report, the elections of 1959, 1979, 1993 and 1999 were the most free and fair while those of 1964 and 1983 were adjudged to be the most violent and chaotic. The reasons are obvious and not farfetched: the former were ‘transition’ elections to hand over power to civilian governments by the military with minimal vested interests, while the latter were ‘succession’ elections laden with enormous political interests.
It is trite to state that all elections conducted in Nigeria have been characterized by malpractices to various degrees. Since the current republic began in 1999, every election seems to be worse than the one before it. In 2003, the elections led to a loss of about 100 lives with many more injured. The 2007 elections were characterized by massive rigging and violence with results being declared in many states before the arrival of ballot papers. They were bad enough for the main beneficiary – late President Umaru Yar’Adua to publicly acknowledge as such in his inaugural speech shortly after being sworn into office; along with a solemn promise to the nation that rigorous electoral reforms would be embarked upon to address the patent malpractices. To this effect and credit of Umaru Yar’Adua, an electoral reform committee, with respected former chief justice Muhammed Uwais as chair, was charged with the task.
That the Uwais Committee did a commendable job is self-evident in the 319 pages long main report that was submitted to the Federal Government in December of 2008. The introduction section of the report, inter alia states that: “Nigeria’s experience with democratic elections since independence has been rather mixed. Although the country has managed to transit from one administration to another, hardly any election conducted in the country has been completely free of charges of irregularities, electoral malpractices, violence and various degrees of disruptions. The factors responsible for this state of affairs include, among others, the character of the Nigerian State as the arena for electoral contests; the existence of weak democratic institutions and processes; negative political culture; weak legal/constitutional framework; and lack of independence and capacity of the Election Management Bodies.”
The report’s main recommendations include:
- The constitution should be amended to guarantee the independence and autonomy of INEC
- In filling the position of INEC Chairman, the National Judicial Council (NJC) should advertise to the public, spelling out the required qualifications, receive the applications, shortlist 3 persons and send the nominations to the National Council of State to select 1 person and then forward to the Senate for confirmation
- INEC should be unbundled into four units;
-Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission whose duties are to register political parties and monitor their activities.
-Electoral Offences Commission which is to investigate electoral frauds and other related acts. It is also to co-ordinate, enforce and prosecute all electoral offenders.
-Constituency Delimitation Commission
-Centre for Democratic Studies.
|2006 Electoral Act Maximum Ceiling for Election Spending||Uwais Report Donation Ceiling|
|House of Representatives||N20million||N5million|