THE IMPERATIVENESS OF RECONSIDERING THE REJECTED ELECTORAL BILL AND THE NEED FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION TO REDUCE CORRUPTION IN THE AGENDA OF POLITICAL PARTIES: A CASE FOR DIRECT PRIMARY AND ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS IN THE NEW ELECTORAL LAW.
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
THE IMPERATIVENESS OF RECONSIDERING THE REJECTED ELECTORAL BILL AND THE NEED FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION TO REDUCE CORRUPTION IN THE AGENDA OF POLITICAL PARTIES: A CASE FOR DIRECT PRIMARY AND ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS IN THE NEW ELECTORAL LAW.
Gentlemen of the Press, you’re welcome to today’s Press briefing.
It is no longer news that the President has refused accents to the amended electoral bill that was passed by the national assembly since November 9, 2021. It is unfathomable that the presidents knowing that he is not likely to assent to the bill delayed it for that length of time without giving a hint that he was not likely to assent to the bill. He didn’t need to wait for that length of time before letting the public know that the bill will not be assented to by him. If he had given a hint, a lot of consultations and further clarifications would have been made to him by the sponsors of the bill and concerned public during the grace period that he had to assent to the passed bill unfortunately he didn’t do that and that is not a good democratic practice.
We are all aware of what led to the need to amend the existing electoral law. Several shortcomings have been identified, the most prominent ones are the issues of modes of how party primaries should be held and transmission of electoral results these two items have generated a lot of debate. Not many people gave consideration to the security implication that the president cited as one of the reasons he didn’t assent to the bill. Those who raised the question of funding were convinced that the proponents of direct primary system that each party should have perfected his own strategy to carry out that exercise while the INEC have assured Nigerian public of its readiness to ensure that electronic transmission of electoral results works effectively. We believe that the president ought not to take the words off those who are directly concerned about the issues arising on those plans. He would have left the parties to determine how they hold their own direct primary elections because every member is expected to be as important as the other. We don’t believe that hand-picked delegates should impose their will on the generality of membership of a political party. That the principle of equality of membership should hold sway at the level of political parties.
It is unnecessary for the president to take it upon himself to canvass on behalf of smaller parties knowing fully well that by virtue of the law that guides formation and registration of political parties in Nigeria, no political party is expected to be small as far as the existing law is concerned.
As far as human beings and political party structures exist in all parts of Nigeria and the elections have been holding at different times during the same period when the security challenges were identified, it should not be the sole concerned of the President to act on behalf of the legislators who are direct representatives of people of those regions. If the legislators of people of those regions deem it fit that direct primary will hold then it is not for the president to take over the function of the House of Representative members that represents the federal constituencies in those areas and the Senator who is representing the senatorial district of those areas. They ought to have brought it up if it was a serious concern during the debate on the bill and trashed it out before they agreed to pass the bill. So it is out of place for the president to begin to canvass on that premise. We believe the President could have been differently convinced by opponents of the bill to withhold his assent and it is our hope that the national assembly will take the alternative option of getting the bill passed whether the President like it or not.
Notwithstanding the above, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership had been nursing its own misgivings about the bill when it was being processed, we knew that our views were not being properly represented in the bill, but we believe that half loaf is better than none at all, that as long as the bill was passed inclusive of the issue of direct primary and electronic transmission of electoral results we could raise other arguments for the further amendment of the bill in its future. Ordinarily, CACOL would have canvased that the bill should not be passed as it was, this is because of some of the ingredients of true democracy that we observed are lacking in the Act as it were:
1.) Is lack of political ideological direction by virtually all the political parties that have been registered.
2.) is the bogus requirements by the INEC that all registrable political parties should have offices in all parts of the country
3.) Lack of anti-corruption agenda in virtually all aspects of the manifestos that have been presented by all the registered political parties.
4.) Inadequate and nebulous social inclusion agenda in virtually all the political parties.
5.) This is apart from the generally accepted weakness of sanctions for those who violate electoral law. We also know that the electoral law provided upper ceiling for how much individual contestants and their political parties can spend on their campaigns but there is no serious monitoring mechanism, sanctions and machinery for imposing the sanctions contained in the existing electoral law.
Some of these inadequacies will be further addressed in this briefing.
Ideological leanings: Part of the gaps is that the new law as passed by the national assembly does not make ideological leanings compulsory for all political parties. That means setting up and registration of political parties are amorphous without any concrete bases upon which the citizenry would pitch their interest vis-a-vis their hope for a better country.
There ought to be ideological leanings for all political parties so that whoever is voting knows the kind of government that will be formed at the end of the election. So we are thinking about if it is going to be left leaning, it should be fully left leaning, if it is going to be socialist it should be socialist, if it’s going to be welfarist it should be clearly spelt out how things will be done. If it’s going to be fully capitalist, it should be fully capitalist. People should not be left groping in the dark.
We know the principle of socialism where everybody contributes to the pool according to his ability and everybody draws from the pool according to his needs. If it is going to be welfarist it should be clearly spelt out that the welfare of the citizenry would be paramount in the minds of whichever government is formed after the election and that nobody will be left without basic needs including jobs, education, health care, accommodation, etc and the capacity to engage in trade or any form of business and establishment of business outlet should not be in doubt. If it’s going to be capitalist, let us know the extent of capitalism that the party wants to practice. Are they going to liberalize the supply of oil? Are they going to commercialize energy, power, water and other amenities like this? If at all they will commercialize, they should let us know to whom? Is it to the private sector or to individuals? Are they going to leave the oil rigs in the hands of well-connected individuals and companies? What will be the policies on local content of everything that is being done in the economy? Are we going to keep importing all our needs without manufacturing anything locally? Are we going to be a raw material producing country forever?
The amended bill does not make any provision for anti-corruption safeguards and social inclusion. What we expected is that the new amended law would include safeguards that will make it compulsory for political parties to ensure that anti-corruption agenda will be prioritized. An anti-corruption policy has to be clearly stated on how the party feel that anti-corruption war should be fought and if they form government how they are going to wage the war against corruption, for example, the fight against corruption should not be a fire brigade approach, political parties should have pre-stated it that if we win election, anybody found guilty of corruption crime that is up to a particular amount of money, this is the kind of recommendation that will be made to the judiciary. If it’s going to be life imprisonment or death penalty or total suspension from participating in politics or holding political office, it should be clearly stated, so that anybody that is voting for that political party knows how good they are going to deal with the issues of corruption once they are voted into power.
Then there should be a policy on religion, parties should be allowed to state clearly if they are religious party or ethnic party so there should be policies on religion, ethnicity and the likes. But if a party is neutral then religious consideration should not be brought into it and whenever they want to state their manifesto they should make it clear that religious and ethnic leanings will not be given any pride of place. And the case that we don’t want Christian/Christian, Muslim/Muslim ticket will not arise in any political party. We believe that merit should be the target, there are several States where you have Muslim/Muslim ticket even when they have other religions and they are still surviving so why won’t they allow that to happen at the national level.
We believe that political parties that have similar ideological and political leanings should be made to pull together and all political parties don’t have to have what they call national outlook. If a political party decides that it has only the capacity to operate in just one local government, they should allow him register to run in the local government. If it is a state, he should be allowed to run in the state, if it is in just a region or a section of the country it should be allowed to run in that region or section of the country without any harassment and they should make it clear in their manifestos and programs. During campaigns, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to monitor their campaign and campaign materials so that it will not go out of what is contain in their manifestos. Whatever they say should be in accordance with what has been documented in their manifestos that will be submitted to INEC. And necessarily there should be a law that will make it compulsory that they should stay within the limits of the ideologies they have avouched so that people will not be disappointed at the end of the day.
We also expected that every political party should state clearly its policies on power, technology, trade and commerce, economy, military, police, foreign policy, education, food, work, and all other aspects of our national life. Their monetary/financial policies should state clearly if individuals will be allowed to accumulate as much material wealth that are possible without control or if there will be certain level of control or upper ceiling for how much material wealth individuals can accumulate for himself. The same should apply to corporate entities. Then how they are going to implement the existing laws on money laundering, currency trafficking, human trafficking, drug trafficking, etc. all these should be clearly stated.
The cost of politicking should also be clearly stated. The law should develop a scheme by which political spending will be monitored and anybody that violates the laws and regulations should be sanctioned accordingly. If it has been stated that the president should not spend more than 20 billion naira for his campaign a machinery should be set in motion to monitor his spending anytime he crosses the bar somebody will raise a red flag and that will count against the candidate or the party at the end of the day where the party may lose nomination or election.
The monetization of the polity should also be given prominent place by the new electoral law anybody that is found to be bribing voters and officials either before, during or after elections would be sanctioned in a particular way so that at the end of the day we will know that there is full level playing ground.
The law should also be realistic about whatever is specified as minimum spending for political parties and candidates during election giving consideration to the size and population of Nigeria and if need be campaign should be restricted to news media – print and electronics and maybe social media but if physical campaign should be launched it should also be specified that it may not be outside the state capital so that smaller parties should be able to have their way wherever they have the capacity.
Nigeria as a country should develop its own national ideological leaning that will put upper ceiling on how much an individual can accumulate. Once it is streamlined, then the propensity to commit electoral fraud or corruption will be reduced to the barest minimum and getting to office at all cost will also be reduced since every citizen will have upper ceiling of how much they can accumulate which would have been prestated.
Any political party that is coming into office should determine how it is going to do it and as soon as a new government is formed it will be based on the ideological learning of the political party.
We have observed that in recent time, the idea of political party’s candidate selection process enjoys unrivalled eminence in political discourses and analyses in Nigeria. However, party primaries and conventions are mere platforms of voice affirmation of elite’s consensus, which most times renders candidate selection process less credible. The process through which candidates emerge is often fraught with controversies, which often lead to violence and litigations. In fact, a greater percentage of those that emerge from party primaries are products of imposition, consensus and compromise. Emerging through consensus is not an aberration neither is it undemocratic but it becomes a problem when it is orchestrated by the party’s godfathers who see themselves as the owners of the party. We believe that experience is the best teacher and that godfathers should only play advisory roles and not lord it over when it comes to the modus operandi of the elected office holders.
Another issue that has attracted our attention is the one that has to do with social inclusion in our democratic processes. Social inclusion is the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society—improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity.
For example, on the issue of gender balancing in the democratic space in Nigeria, the trend in the political parties paints a gloomy picture. For example, only one position, that is, that of the Woman Leader out of the twelve positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) of a party is usually occupied by a woman, the rest are male-dominated. Even at that, in some Muslim-dominated Northern states, between 2007 and 2015, for example, the Woman Leader positions were given to men. Similarly, the youth is still viewed as a boy/girl child to be fed, clothed, housed and tended to by their parents. For most political gladiators, a 30 year old person is still a child and is not capable of being assigned any position of responsibility in government. The common verdict in this regard is, leadership is not for boys and girls.
Same could be said about the persons with disability. This underrepresented group is politically reduced to an insignificant actor whose only democratic value is the voting card. None of the foremost parties in Nigeria has any semblance of disability policy either in their constitution or in their manifestos. Unlike the youth and the women that are represented at the National Working Committee (NWC) of the parties through their leaders, the disabled persons do not have such official portfolios designated to them. Apart from not having their own in the NWC, Board of Trustees (BoT), National Executive Committee (NEC) of these parties, the disabled persons experience a total black out in the affairs of these parties at all levels. Nobody is willing to lend them any support, apart from assisting them to vote during elections. This segment of the society remains the most politically marginalised and democratically suffocated.
The question we may want to ask is why are women not in top positions in the party structure and in elective positions? The answers are not far-fetched. In Nigeria, party structures are typically male-dominated. Another significant constraint to women’s political participation is the lack of material resources available to women. Politics in Nigeria is about money and elections cannot be won without adequate funding. The Nigerian economic environment, like the political environment is also clearly dominated by men. It therefore, follows that the Nigerian woman is marginalized, politically and economically.
Just like the women, Nigerian youth are also under-represented within their respective parties. A close scrutiny of the parties’ constitutions will expose the huge gap that defines the dismal place all parties in Nigeria place on the position of youth in party operations. In the Nigerian context, following the African Union (AU) categorization, the youth represents a group of people within the ages of 18 and 35. However, most of our political parties as presently constituted have their youth leaders that are above 40 years.
Moreover, apart from the position of the party youth leader, no youth is in the other organs of the party. Nigerian youth are not adequately incorporated into the various committees and sub-committees of these platforms.
What we expected is that the new amended law would specify affirmative actions that would ensure social inclusion not just by mere words but there ought to be concrete figures that every political party that worth its onions will work with. For example, if affirmative action for female folk is 35% and that of disabled is 5% that of youth, actually the youth should cut across all facets, so we expect any aspect of it to contain at least 35% of youth. So if 35% are women, female should form 35% of that 35% the same thing for the disabled. If the disabled should form 5% then disabled female should form minimum of 35% of that initial 5%. These figures should be the minimum, it may be higher than what is proposed here. And the law ought to make it compulsory for political parties to adhere strictly and implement it in their respective parties.
Clearly, one of the main challenges political parties in Nigeria face is that of internal party democracy. The most noticeable trend that runs through all narratives is the culture of exclusion and underrepresentation of some segments of the society. Political parties in Nigeria, overtly or covertly, fail to accord the underrepresented groups such as women, youth and the disabled a place within the democratic space. Party constitutions relegate these groups to the background in the affairs of the parties. Party structures are equally not accommodating to these groups. In Nigeria, more women are likely to vote than men yet women are underrepresented in the leadership of their parties and elective positions in the country. Many factors are responsible for these challenges and they are worth summarising here.
As explained earlier, the cost of politics in Nigeria serves as a hindrance for the marginalised groups because politics is oiled through monetary values that are beyond the capacity of the underrepresented groups. In Nigeria, party financiers or godfathers typically exert their influence in deciding who eventually picks the party’s flag. State governors particularly wield enormous power within their respective parties. The governors, being the main financiers of the party, especially at state levels, believe that they have the ‘right’ to impose candidates on the party. In most instances, such undue influence leads to internal wrangling because a level playing field is lost in the process that produces the candidates. This explains why most election-related legal tussles are cases that mostly originate from pre-election activities of political parties. Political parties have become clearing houses for political patronage by godfathers who satisfy the material needs of their clients along the primordially segregated lines of ethnic and sectional agenda. In line with this, party primaries, conventions and congresses have been turned into platforms of producing godsons as candidates for elections. Another related issue is the delegate method. This method of candidate selection is open to fraught, manipulations and abuse by the godfathers who hijack the delegates by buying their votes and subsequently imposing their candidates and surrogates.
Another factor responsible for the underrepresentation of certain segments of the society in the political parties is the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society. In most African countries in general, and Nigeria in particular, patriarchy is centrally embedded in all structures and institutions of society. As a result of the patriarchal nature and character of the Nigerian society and democratic practices in Nigeria, party structures, organs and elective positions are male-dominated, giving rise to the gender insensitivity that has become a feature of the political parties.
Recently, the media reported that there were sharp disagreements among senators during the consideration of a bill seeking to promote women empowerment and gender equality.
The bill, which was eventually stepped down, is designed to create equal opportunities for both the male and female gender in the country.
It was obvious that religion, ethnic affiliation and section 42 of the Constitution as amended, led to the split that reared its head at the Hallowed Chamber.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ekiti South, is titled “A bill for an Act to make provisions for the empowerment of women and gender equality and to establish a legislative framework for the empowerment of women”
The document was presented for second reading, but after much heated debate, the sponsor was forced to withdraw it after some senators who kicked against it, cited “socio-cultural and Islamic concerns.”
According to the sponsor, the bill is designed to align all aspects and implementation of laws relating to women empowerment as well as address issues relating to appointments and representation of women in decision making, positions and structures.
Gender equality in political parties also has crucial implications for democratic legitimacy and resilience. On a basic level, a democracy without the participation of half a country’s population is not a democracy. Women and men are entitled to equal civil and political rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international commitments. Furthermore, a growing body of evidence indicates that women’s political participation can lead to tangible democratic gains, including greater policy responsiveness to diverse citizen needs, reduced risk of conflict recurrence, and higher levels of political stability. Parties that take women’s participation seriously can also benefit electorally by accessing new groups of voters and signaling their commitment to social change.
We believe that social inclusion can serve as a veritable tool in engendering anti-corruption stance within the political parties.
DIRECT PRIMARY ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN THE NEW ELECTORAL BILL.
On the new electoral bill that was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly which made direct primary mandatory for all political parties for the emergence of their candidates for general elections, we want to throw our weight behind the bill and we believe that its high time we fine-tuned the principles of democracy we operate in this country, so as to meet the best practices in other advanced democratic climes.
We have looked critically at all the shades of opinions about direct primaries and we noticed that the direct primary system will guarantee returning power to the people where this government of the people, by the people for the people would be seen operating fully for the benefit of the people. That was why the two chambers accepted for the benefits of direct primaries outweigh that of indirect primaries. Therefore we stood fairly and still standing for direct primaries.
We also believe that the amendment constituted a right in itself to voters’ fundamental human right of having their votes count. Therefore, we believe the president had the duty to protect their rights by signing the bill. President Buhari should show high sense of responsibility by signing the bill. Not only to sign the bill, he should do so in good time. This is to forestall unnecessary apprehension because delay in doing so may raise tension and create agitation among Nigerians.
The direct primaries model will curb impunity in the electoral process and would force politicians to go back to the grassroots. They will no more distance themselves from the electorate. It is now that relevance in politics will count as against vote-buying and imposition of candidates by the powers-that-be during primaries using the indirect method.
Based on the fore goings, we want to recommend as follows:
1. There is need for increase sensitization on Anti-Corruption and Accountability in Elections at the grassroots level.
2. The anti-graft body EFCC should be involved in electoral process for screening of candidates who want to contest for an electoral office to ensure his integrity and incorruptibility.
3. The Media need to increase their reportage and investigations on Corruption and Accountability issues before, during and after Elections period to enhance political parties and their candidate to incorporate Anti-Corruption and Accountability issues in their Manifestos and Agenda.
4. Civil society groups should embark on massive civic awareness of the electorates on the dangers of corruption in electoral process and its impacts on their future;
5. There is an urgent need for anti-corruption campaigns to percolate down to the grassroots and even to the level of primary and tertiary institutions to stem the tide of rising cyber-crimes (A.K.A Yahoo Yahoo) among our youths.
6. Political Parties must be engaged to mainstream Anti-Corruption and Accountability into their manifestos and Activities.
7. There is an urgent need to amplify the voices of the people at the grassroots because most of them do not even have access to their elected representatives once they are sworn in.
8. We would like to use this medium to call on all the political parties to redress this anomaly and try as much as possible to incorporate these marginalized sets of people into the scheme of things in their various political parties.
9. Finally, we urge Mr. President to assent to the new electoral reform bill which consists of the e-transmission of results and direct primary. We are afraid that the controversy and cacophony of voices over direct primary may wittingly or unwittingly scuttle the entire Electoral Bill, and thus throw away the baby with the bath water.
Thank you for listening.