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General Election: Does it matter who enters exam hall first?

By News Express on 23/05/2018

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Nigerian politicians have never disappointed the reading public with their proliferation of political gimmicks and unbelievable stunts. There are, indeed, some actions that take place within the political horizon of Nigeria that are so difficult to accurately appreciate from the positive point-of-view, while other tendencies that spring up among Nigerian politicians beggars belief. There are certain operational styles that politicians use that are so complex for the majority of observers to interpret with reasonable accuracy. 

 One of such intriguing developments is the ongoing debate on the recently amended Electoral Act, with specific reference to the changes that were effected on the sequence of elections in the next electoral calendar in 2019. The focus of the debate is not even on whether the legislators have the power to so re-order the sequence of elections, but the emphasis has shifted to the mundane matter of what impacts the decision could have in determining the sets of outcomes of the initial stages of the electoral processes. 

 This confirms the apprehension among some observers that Nigeria is seriously bereft of statesmen. On the contrary, what we have are politicians whose only focus is on winning the next election. The independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has even stepped into the fray by stating that it can only work with the sequence of elections, only, if the amendments are signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. 

 INEC had hitherto hinted that it may use legal application in a court of law to seek the demolition of that extensive scale of change to the sequence of election. INEC must be reminded that it is not their duty to pick and choose when to implement any amendments made to relevant laws that relates to the election calendar so long as the process of such legislative amendments meets the best global practices and follows legal precepts enunciated by extant provisions of the law. The position as voiced out by INEC’s chairman: that it will only comply with the changes to the sequence of election only if the amendments are signed into law by the president. 

 This position of the INEC is a red herring, since the National Assembly may decide to wield its veto power to override the decision of the president not to endorse the amendments put forward by it. The electoral commission must avoid dabbling into matters that could undermine the confidence and trust that Nigerians are expected to have in INEC. The moment the credibility of INEC comes into grave doubts, the integrity of the election is already compromised and jeopardised. The bone of contention should, indeed, be around the question of the steps taken by the legislators to reach such a determination. Does the National Assembly have the constitutional powers to so determine how elections are held in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act? Surely, he who has the power to make the Electoral Act surely has powers to revisit or amend any relevant section of such laws, it created ab initio

 The National Assembly is no doubt empowered to improve on extant laws and legislations for the overall benefit of the democratisation processes. NASS’s most fundamental duty is the power to make or alter provisions of extant laws and statutes governing the well-being of Nigerians. So, the two chambers of the National Assembly decided in their considered wisdom to effect far-reaching changes to the Electoral Act, and made the specific change that brings forward the presidential election to take place first, before other elections. 

 Since this innocuous change was made, the political environment of Nigeria has become charged, even as there is an ongoing perception being planted that these steps taken to change the sequence of election were targeted at the president, who has through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) indicated his readiness to run for a second term come next year. This conclusion isn’t just illogical but laughable. 

 Tried, as I could, to understand why it matters which election comes first and why the supporters of the incumbent president are selling this unproductive and imbecilic dummy that the re-ordering of the sequence of the election calendar was targeted at the president. My fertile imagination finds it unable to articulate and understand this strange mode of reasoning. This is preposterous. Understandably, a senator from Plateau State accused the so-called pro-Buhari senators of collecting bribes to cause commotion. This is, perhaps, the only best way to analyse the underlying reason behind the clamour by some of these fringe thinkers that the re-sequencing of the election dates was made to undermine the success of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). 

 How on earth will some members of the red chamber stage a walk-out in protest against the adoption of the report by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on the amendment to the Electoral Act. According to the protesting senator’s, despite the adoption of the report by the Senate, they would insist on its reversal. Why do you think you want to achieve by reversing through unconstitutional means the amendments that followed due process? Senator Useni from Plateau State couldn't be more pungent when he stated that the alterations are already a concluded and democratically decided, making it impossible to over-turn. The protesting lawmakers also made a very wild and unsubstantiated allegation, that the amendment was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari. That, indeed, is carrying the joke too far.

 How is the re-ordering of sequence of election meant to harm the electoral fortunes of the president? Why does it matter who enters the examination hall first? How does it mean that he who goes for election first will surely fail to carry the day? These political confusionists have so far failed to adduce convincing evidence to show that the re-ordering of the election sequence is adversarial to the president. 

 As chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Suleiman Nazif, had  presented the report at the plenary, the less than one dozen senators that reportedly walked out and threatened to over-turn the decision of the majority in a democracy, even when the primary principle of democracy is that the opinion of the majority carries the day, and the minority will inevitably have their say. 

It is so clear that the leadership of the Senate complied with global best practices, because the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had after receiving the report, put the adoption to voice vote. Saraki said there was no need for debate on it as it was from a conference committee, which had harmonised the versions of the two chambers. After the vote, the ‘ayes’ had it; and Saraki ruled on it: a development that generated an uproar in the chamber. The Senate president also ruled against three senators who raised points of order to protest against the adoption.

 Reactions trailing this amendment could be attributed to the expression of fear by those who have seen that the party holding sway as the national ruling party has failed to deliver the promises it made to the electorate which swayed the votes in its favour. A student who has prepared adequately for an examination shouldn't be seen arguing about the sequence of the papers he is expected to write. By the way, it is better for a well-grounded student to be examined first and foremost before all others if, indeed, that student is worth his/her onions. 

 My candid take is that President Buhari should be ready to abide by the due-process of the law, and shouldn’t be seen crying over which election comes up first. Because, it doesn't really matter whether the presidential election comes up first or the other sets of election. What should preoccupy the mind of anyone who wants to run for office for a second term is to answer the simple interrogation: Have I performed creditably? 

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 23/05/2018 11:07:28 AM

 

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