By Godwin Etakibuebu
The 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections have come, but not gone yet, and may refuse to go for a very long time to come.
Yes, it may stay with us; Nigerians, till we are ready to confront the political maladies it came with, and most importantly, respond positively to restructuring the vehicle of voyage of these maladies.
We, the people of this geographical piece of land, named Nigeria by Flora Louise Shaw [December 19, 1852 – January 25, 1929]; that brilliant and romantic British journalist, in 1886, and who later became Lady Frederick Lugard, must of necessity confront this precarious dilemma which the 2019 election has exposed us to.
It is better to start this work by laying out an agenda of operation for the voyage we are about undertaking because it is [not most likely] for sure, going to be a difficult voyage. It is for the fact of difficulties which are expected in this voyage – restructuring our political electioneering cum voting system in Nigeria, that the binoculars of the navigating systems must comply with acceptability of few [Nigerians] that shall be daring in bringing changes about.
Nobody should be deluded in whatever format to believing that what this author wants to do on this page, starting from today, is to submit this election [the one carried out on Saturday, February 23, 2019] into the scrutiny of judgment.
No, far from it, because the bags and baggage of likely confusion that came with this exercise, which the Independent National Electoral Commission maybe dumping at our faces before the end of today [Tuesday, February 26, 2019] may be witnessing a full journey of litigation to the Tribunals to the Supreme Court; a rough and lengthy journey that might not be too palatable for the personae dramatis connected with the exercise. Ditto the Nigerian Nation and all Nigerians which a shoddy electioneering and voting systems, like the case at hand, have compromised.
Yet, it is a necessary trip, though most excruciating, that this Nation must take because we have resolved and chosen to live by the “Due Process of the Rule of Law”. If there is one thing l fear most in my entire career as a journalist, that thing is to be charged with contempt of Court in any form and most importantly on matters that could amount to Sub-judice. As such, l shall not be caught in the web of willingly throwing self into prison on any contemptuous matter.
Instead, what this author is setting out to do is to come out as a pathfinder, galvanising diversified public opinions towards the possible reformation of our electoral systems, and this must be all embracing. In this self-saddled task; expectedly, l would have many patriotic Nigerians to come on board with me in setting a target of accomplishment, in evaluating, very critically, the totality components of the whole electoral machineries as presently operated in the country. This will be the first phase of the assignment.
The second phase will be even more tasking. That will be the stage of collating all facts of maladies against the operating system in electoral and voting pattern, identifying any constitutional instrument of State for remedying the maladies and putting or pushing for reformation in the totality of those identified maladies. Amongst those things we may have to look at as we set to embark on this voyage of discovery, shall be, but not limited to the list below.
How independent is the Independent National Electoral Commission? We must redefine the limit and extent of freedom this Nigerian Electoral Umpire enjoys and how much it is insulated from the influence and control from the instrumentality of appointment. While examining this, we should be able to take a critical look on things like [A] institutions that INEC works with before, during and after every election. We will evaluate the fact that while INEC works with these different institutions, such as the Navy and Air-Force; these help in distributing electoral materials nationwide; institutions it has no control of command over, can we insulate INEC from vicarious liability of failures emanating from malfunctions of these individual institutions? There are many other individuals or institutions that complement [not compliment please] INEC’s functionality, positively or negatively.
For example again, those contractors that print and supply electoral materials to INEC, what happens when these are recommended for engagement by the appointing Authority or by proxy of same – who do we blame if there is dereliction of duty emanating from those contractors? INEC depends on the various Security agencies of government, especially the Nigeria Police Force, to secure materials, human beings, the environment of operation and even [and this is more important] the freedom, sanctity and integrity of the election/vote/results system, and yet these security institutions are far from being under the command and control of INEC. There are many things we can crosscheck while evaluating the real and limit of autonomy that makes this Body “truly independent”.
Do we need an electoral reformation in Nigeria? If yes, how urgent do we need this? Is continued analogue as reflects in a continuous rituals of thumb-printing of ballot papers and dropping same in a so-called ballot boxes; boxes that political thugs can easily hijacked, take away or destroy publicly, preferable to digital and technological systems of voting? We vote for Television Reality Shows [like Big brother Africa], through the usage of a Software Application; with credible and integrity-loaded result, without stepping out of our homes. People [Nigerians] move any amount of money from one account in one bank into another account in another bank, either in Nigeria or outside Nigeria, with the usage of Mobile Applications, without any encumbrances. Why can’t we reform out electoral voting system by moving it from analogue into digital?
Do we really need officially recognized 91 Political Parties [all mushroom properties of some greedy moneybags politicians] and 71 Presidential Candidates in Nigeria for our elections to have validity? If in 2019, we had such numbers of presidential candidates [most of them are not qualified for Councillorship election of Local Government Areas], it means that we should be expecting not less than 200 Presidential Candidates in 2023, if this trend of political absurdity continues. We must review this also.
What about the ritual of sending “our assured future to the abattoir for slaughtering” every other four years, all in the name of ad-hoc workers for INEC? Or don’t we know that the quickest and largest killing ground that is reserved for most serving members of the National Youth Service Corps in present-day Nigeria is laid at the ground of general election? My take is that the time has come when “our future”, which these children represent, must be secured.
These are just few of many other issues we must tackle, through the instrumentality of revolutionizing the total structure of this democratic concept and align it with international best practice, in other to save Nigeria. It is through a reformation like these that we can deepen democracy and reap its benefits.
This shall remain the business of this column, starting from today, into some weeks to come. It is a set task and it must be accomplished to the greatness of Nigerian and beauty of humanity.
Godwin Etakibuebu, a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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