Ten Years of Democracy: A Review of the Electoral Process

Paper Presented by Mr. Ide Owodiong-Idemeko at The Feast of Barracuda Event hosted by the National Association of Seadogs, Netherlands Chapter, Saturday July 4, 2009, Gaasperplas Public Park, Amsterdam Zuidoost

Introduction
I would like to start this discussion by commending the Netherlands Chapter of the National Association of Seadogs for choosing to set its radar on 10 Years of Democracy in Nigeria with special focus on her electoral process. One school of thought is of the opinion that talking of Nigeria’s democracy is an exercise in haste as the country is still far away from exhibiting those attributes of true democracy. Another school of thought believes that Nigeria’s transition to true democracy is just beginning and that the 10 years since the last military regime has been no more than civilianization of governance. Yet another school of thought makes boastful noise that Nigerian democracy has been firmly planted and growing from strength to strength. I am one of those who hold the view that Nigeria is in transition and largely still in a state of hangover from the militarization of her political processes.

Democracy is not all about elections and the electoral process but then, we cannot deny the fact, that an excellent electoral process defines true democracy. That is one of the defining hallmarks of democracy, the opportunity it provides inhabitants of a geo-political space to periodically refresh its governance system with new operators and ideas. Elections make it possible for the electorate to choose between alternative ideologies, political parties and candidates in a way and manner that gives the majority its way but also guarantees that the minority have their say. It imposes accountability on the elected officials because they know that if they fail to keep their electoral promises on which basis they were voted into power, they risk losing the vote at the next elections.


Nigeria’s Electoral Antecedents
All the beautiful attributes of what the electoral process should mean for a democratic society cannot be associated with Nigeria. Nigerian electoral history has not been a pleasant one. Nigerians have participated in many elections, beginning with the colonial era when the concept of elections was first introduced. The electorate has also grown from about 5,000 adults with 100 pounds sterling income per annum as qualification to be eligible to vote, to over 70 million voters of 18 years of age and above. Elective posts have also increased tremendously and electoral referees have also changed from being members of the colonial service whose electoral duties were part time assignments to being members of an independent electoral commission on full time employment. Yet, since its attainment of independence in 1960, Nigeria has been bedeviled by political instability fueled largely by an electoral process in crisis. The country and her leaders have refused to learn from history and avoid the pitfalls of past mistakes in order to pave the pathway for a secure political future. Rather, they have continued to perpetuate the worst forms of our political processes characterized by ugly incidents of political thuggery and violence, electoral malpractices both at political party level and general elections, unending law suits, crisis of legitimacy, instability and chaos.

Over the period of Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation-state, all these negative attributes of her political processes have often provided compelling reasons for military adventurists to seize power from its civilian collaborators. Without any fear of contradiction, the problems associated with the first post independence national election of 1964 and the 1965 Western Region election culminated in the January 15, 1966 coup. The former was characterized by wide spread rigging, intimidation and chaos that some of the major political parties decided to boycott the election, creating in its aftermath serious constitutional dilemma.  The latter election of the Western Region was also marred by the problem of massive rigging and other irregularities plus wide spread violence, giving the impetus for the first military coup in Nigeria and the culture of instability that was to beset the country for over three decades.   

Other elections that have taken place in Nigeria after the 1964 and 1965 elections have not fared better. The 1979 elections that saw the emergence of Mallam Shehu Shagari as Civilian president was criticized by international observers as having been massively rigged.  The 1983 election, four years later was even worse, marred by corruption, political violence and polling irregularities; it provided another set of military adventurers the impetus to seize power on December 31, 1983, citing electoral malpractices as one of its reasons for overthrowing the civilian government.  The 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections, three elections conducted during this period of ten years of Nigeria’s democracy have been lampooned by many critics as far from free and fair. Infact, the last general election of April 2007, conducted by the existing current electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been described as the worst election ever held in this country as a result of indescribable irregularities which marred the elections.

Perhaps the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria was the June 12, 1993 election that was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, erstwhile self styled military President of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the country was deprived of the opportunity of taking advantage of this successful achievement to launch itself on the road to true democracy by a greedy and rabid political and military class interested in perpetuating itself in power. The vital lesson though from this experience, is that a sound electoral process is dependent on having a solid democratic infrastructure in place and vice versa.    

I have provided this brief historical background to demonstrate the urgency required to undertake extensive and true socio – political reforms in Nigeria to ensure the “sustenance of true  democratic principles rooted in the rule of law and justice for all”.  


Recent Efforts at Electoral Reform
During the General Ibrahim Babangida’s wasteful transition to democracy program, government identified the problems of the electoral process in Nigeria as a major setback for enthroning a viable and functional democracy. The government, as part of efforts to improve the conduct of elections during the transition, based on a proper understanding of the dynamics of the electoral process in the country, established the Political Bureau in 1986 to collate information from Nigerians on the ways and means of finding solutions to our myriad of political problems. After canvassing for information throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria, the Political Bureau listed four basic conditions for the conduct of free and fair elections as follows:
a)    An honest, competent, non-partisan administration to run elections;

b)    A general acceptance throughout the political community of certain rather vague rules of the game which limit the struggle for power because of some unspoken sentiment that if the rules are not observed more or less faithfully the game itself will disappear amid the wreckage of the whole system;

c)    A developed system of political parties, traditions and teams of candidates before the electors as alternatives between (which) to choose; and

d)    An independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws.

The first condition saw to the establishment of the National Electoral Commission in August 1987. The present Independent National Electoral Commission is a successor to this electoral body. For the second condition, the Directorate of Social Mobilisation (MAMSER) was inaugurated in 1987 to undertake among others, the task of bringing about a cultural revolution through political education and public enlightenment in which the second condition would be achieved. The third condition informed the Political Bureau’s recommendation of a two-party system and ultimately helped the military junta under General Babangida to decree by military fiat the birth of the Social Democratic Party and National Republican Convention. The fourth condition led to the establishment of the Transition to Civil Rule Tribunal to adjudicate cases arising from the various elections. Unfortunately, all these efforts came to naught as the entire Transition to Civil Rule Program hit a brick wall and the country had to start afresh.

The Abdul Salam Military regime that midwifed the Transition Program to the third republic that ushered in the present democracy did not deem it proper to start off from where the former transition program had left off or even to learn a few lessons from that program; rather, it hurriedly put together a new constitution, defined a new electoral process for the country and inserted the word “Independent” into the name of the electoral body and renamed it Independent National Electoral Commission, granting the Commission powers to register political parties and conduct elections. The rest they say is history as the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission has shown that it is everything but independent. Electoral mayhem, violence, polling irregularities and various forms of inconsistencies have again brought pressure on the Nigerian government and its political class to offer remedial action to our electoral problems.

After his election, President Umaru Yar’Adua succumbed to popular pressure and “conceded that a robbery had indeed taken place” with the elections that brought him to power. In a recent commentary on the Niger Delta situation titled “Between Amnesia and Amnesty,” Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate and one of the seven founding fathers of the Pyrates Confraternity which metamorphosed into the National Association of Seadogs, describes the electoral process which brought President Yar’Adua to power as “gba’ju e tactics of the last incumbent,” a Yoruba word depicting fraudulent circumstances. To help reconcile himself to the people, whose political will he had stolen, President Umaru Yar’Adua promised electoral reform during his inaugural address and on August 28, 2007, inaugurated a 22-member Electoral Reform Committee, headed by Honorable Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais GCON, former Chief Justice of the Federation.  Top on the President’s laundry list to the Committee was his desire to undertake the reform of Nigeria's electoral process with a view to raising the standard and quality of general elections to acceptable international standards.


Justice Uwais Committee Report
In December 2008, the National Electoral Reform Committee (NERC) headed by Justice Uwais submitted its report to President Umaru Yar’Adua after a year and a-half of work which included receiving and reviewing various inputs from civil society and the Nigerian people. The NERC made the following ground breaking recommendations:
•    Independent Candidacy;
•    No carpet-crossing under any circumstances;
•    No elected official whose election is being disputed before the court of law will be allowed to assume office until the disputes on his or her election is dispensed with
•    Biased media reporting to attract fine of N1,000,000.00;
•    Provide additional 108 seats for House of Reps;
•    Retain Open Secret Ballot;
•    Reduce number of political parties drastically;
•    Abolish State Independent Electoral commissions (SIECs);
•    Unbundle INEC - Electoral Offences Commission, Constituency Delimitation Commission and Political Parties, etc Registration and Regulatory Commission to relieve INEC of some duties
•    Provide for Electronic voting;
•    INEC Chairman and Deputy to be of different gender;
•    INEC positions to be advertised;
•    No office-holder in the party should hold any position in government;
•    Establish ceiling on Individual donations:
•    President = N20 million;
•    Governor = N15 million;
•    Senate = N10 million;
•    House of Reps = N5 million;
•    State Houses = N2.5 million
•    Chairmanship of local government = N3 million;
•    Councillorship = N500, 000.00.

In response to the NERC’s report the government released a White Paper on March 11, 2009 indicating its readiness to implement some, not all of the recommendations. A thorough look at the 7 bills submitted by the President on April 30, 2009 to the National Assembly related to electoral reforms indicates that the government has accepted 73 out of the 83 recommendations made by the NERC. Some of the key ones include the proposal to remove INEC’s control over the party registration process and its supervisory power over parties with the creation of a Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission (PPRRC) to assume these powers. Government also agreed to establish the Electoral Offences Commission.

One major recommendation which the President reacted negatively is the recommendation that the power to appoint the Chairman of INEC be taken away from the President. On May 12, 2009 he reiterated his strong objection to the recommendation and argued that transferring this power to the judicial arm of government would violate the principles of separation of powers. Similar views were earlier expressed by Professor Maurice Iwu, INEC Chairman who praised the Justice Uwais Committee Report but stated his support for “the power of the president to appoint the Chairman of INEC.”


NAS and the Subject of Electoral Reform
It is important to point out here, that the National Association of Seadogs as a responsible corporate citizen of Nigeria and the World, committed to the attainment of a Nigerian nation-state that is truly democratic and egalitarian did make a formal submission to the Justice Uwais Panel which was also published in The Nation, a national newspaper. It is not the first time that NAS would make her views known on how Nigeria can put in place an electoral system that would enable the country achieve her democratic objectives.  In 2006, NAS made a similar submission to the National Political Reforms Commission on many topical issues of national concern including the subject of Electoral Reforms and the conduct of Elections in Nigeria. It is perhaps instructive to state that most of the recommendations of the Justice Uwais Committee mirrors the submission made by NAS which to my mind, the organization and its members should be proud of. I will discuss these recommendations in light of the input made by NAS to the debate on electoral reform in Nigeria.

A. Political Parties and Candidates
In the submission by NAS, the subject of Independent Candidacy was given prominence as a way of allowing “other persons whose qualifications and motivations are more altruistic and who may be acceptable to the electorate if allowed to stand for election” to have access to the electoral process as against regular party candidates “whose only qualification is their personal relationship with the party machinery or the ability to oil the same machinery”.    It was therefore recommended that the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act be amended to allow independent candidacy.  It is good to see that the Justice Uwais Committee accepted this recommendation. However, NAS added a qualified proviso to preclude abuses and mass proliferation of candidates by recommending that the opportunity for Independent Candidacy may require a candidate’s nomination by a substantial portion of the registered voters within the constituency in lieu of a political party framework.

The Committee Report also agrees with the recommendation by NAS that “the number of political parties should be streamlined to a manageable proportion.”  Personally, I am in favor of a Nigerian political system with two strong political parties that are ideologically based and cut through the ethno, religious and regional divides that the political class uses to manipulate the electorate and take their minds off issues centered politics. In addition to this recommendation, I strongly urge in the context of the NAS recommendation to the Justice Uwais Committee, that “the abuse of the power of incumbency in the use of state resources to garner undue advantage in the electoral process should be addressed.”   

Regarding placing a ceiling on individual donation to Political Parties, NAS is in agreement with the Justice Uwais Committee that funding of political parties be more transparent. In its own recommendation to the Committee NAS had noted the worrisome dimension of unrestrained donations to political parties as constituting a danger to the electoral process. The lingering Anambra State crisis of leadership between the Ubas and former Governor Ngige and now, between the Ubas and the sitting Governor Peter Obi highlights the “possibility that a party, process, candidate and, even a constituency can be hijacked by the highest financier.” In addition to placing a ceiling, political parties should publish donations exceeding these limits.

B.  Independent National Electoral Commission
I agree with the report of the Electoral Reform Committee that INEC should be unbundled. The fear however, is that this recommendation does not result in the creation of several layers of bureaucracy which become a burden rather than a relief to the electoral process. Albeit, the critical challenge is how to ensure the independence of INEC as an unbiased umpire of future elections in Nigeria.

In its recommendation to the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, NAS identified two issues that are germane to the independence of INEC.  These are the manner of appointment of members of the Commission and the source of funding to ensure its independence. It is a welcome development that the recommendation by NAS on how members of the Commission should be appointed is in agreement with the recommendations of Justice Uwais Committee. NAS recommendation is that “nomination to [INEC] should be taken away from the Presidency, the onus being placed upon a non-political body such as the one that nominates Supreme Court Judges.” It was also recommended that “the Commission should … come under the supervision of the Judiciary since the Executive or the Legislature should not be saddled with the responsibility of guiding and regulating the process that ushers them into power.” The same should be applicable to the various State Electoral Commissions.

Other measures recommended by NAS to preserve the Electoral Commissioners from partisan politics and bias include ensuring that members of the commission should not be card carrying members of any political party and ten (10) years preceding their appointment should not have been involved in active partisan politics. Members should also be “disqualified from seeking elective public offices or accepting political appointment within eight (8) years after their tenure.” NAS recommendations also agree with the Justice Uwais Committee report that “all electoral management officials at each level of the electoral administration should be recruited transparently through public job vacancy advertisements free from political interference.” I had earlier noted the negative reaction of the President to this piece of recommendation.

A key recommendation of the Justice Uwais Committee report is that funding of INEC should be a first charge to the Federation Account. NAS in its submission to the Electoral Reform Committee had canvassed for an independent source of funding to ensure the independence of INEC.  It had recommended that the “federal government should swiftly establish a fund of sufficient size to ensure INEC’s financial independence or amend the Electoral Act to allow the Commission’s budget be drawn directly from the Federation Account.” However, NAS had also advocated that an effective financial management and controls system be put in place with a request that “INEC’s financial accounts should be thoroughly audited by a private audit firm to deter and detect financial misconduct.”

Additional recommendations by NAS to achieving the operational efficiency of INEC as manager of the electoral process include the following:
•    INEC’s use of its Electoral Institute to ensure that it has a permanent pool of well trained, patriotic and qualified people that will execute their jobs in the spirit devoid of favoritism or partisanship;
•    Maintaining an open and transparent process by allowing INEC meetings to be open to political parties and accredited observers and making sure that agendas, minutes of meetings and decisions are published on its website in a timely manner;
•    Holding regular consultative meetings at national, state and local level with political parties and civil society organizations and will include participation of security agencies.
•    Introducing the use of information technology in voters' registration process with clear rules for identification of registered voters at the polls to ensure transparency, effective registration and verification at the polls while preventing fraud;
•    Implementation of the national identity card as a means of verifying and processing qualified voters;
•    Amendment of the Electoral Act to provide more detailed and standard guidelines for voting, counting, collation, enumeration, authentication and announcement of the electoral results in line with acceptable international and regional conventions and standards; etc.

It is our strong belief that “these requirements would help an independent audit to be undertaken if necessary to trace polling station result from the polling station level through to the final aggregated results.”

C. Electorate and Civil Society
Many have argued that no change or reform can succeed when those to whom the reforms are meant for are ignorant of it. This is what the General Ibrahim Babangida transition willy-nilly sought to achieve with MAMSER but the insincerity of his government led to the failure of this political education process. In its recommendations to the Electoral Reform Committee, NAS noted the need for better participation and collaboration “between the electorate and civil societies” through “public enlightenment to reduce voter apathy” and reinforcement of “the actual monitoring of voting so that persons that INEC declare as winners are a true reflection of the wishes of that constituency as voted.” NAS had also recommended that to strengthen voting and monitoring of elections by domestic observers “the statutory class of petitioners be broadened” to allow groups and individual within civil society to challenge election results.   

A total and complete re-education of the Nigerian citizenry is advocated through an elaborate campaign to be undertaken jointly by INEC and the Center for Democratic Studies to re-orientate Nigerians to their civic responsibilities and on how the electoral process works. In addition, the Social Studies curriculum for primary and secondary schools should be updated to focus on this critical aspect of our democratic growth. Nigerians should be taught early on their voting rights, constitution and constitutional rights, human an environmental rights etc. All these exposure would help to build a new generation of political actors to run the electoral and democratic system in the future.
NAS had also called for “a system [to] be put in place to enable Nigerians in Diaspora participate in the electoral process including voting at elections.”   

D. Legal Framework
Legislation has remained the primary way for providing the framework under which elections are conducted. In Nigeria’s recent history, especially in the 10 years of democratic practice under review several electoral laws have been enacted to guide the conduct of elections. These include the Electoral Decree of 1998 under which the1999 elections were conducted; the 2003 Electoral Act which was trailed by controversy and condemned in the court of public opinion as being ill conceived, grossly inadequate and below international best practice; and the 2006 Electoral Act which included amendments to the 2003 Act but made no difference to the conduct of the 2007 elections and prompted the President to inaugurate this reform process

It is therefore imperative that any legislation regarding the electoral process must give consideration to ensuring full adherence to the principles of political rights and freedoms that govern the conduct of elections and are contained in declarations, conventions, protocols and other instruments adopted by the UN, AU, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth to which Nigeria is a party to. Such legislation must also guarantee effective mechanisms that ensure compliance with and enforcement of these laws, and capable of bringing to an end the continuing atmosphere of impunity that prevails within the Nigerian electoral process regarding election offences and their perpetrators offences, including those of a criminal nature.

It is also important to ensure that the legislation provides for safeguards that will ensure that the authorities do not interfere in the judicial process and that INEC is subject to the rule of law and therefore bound by court orders.

E. Electoral System
NAS in its submission to the Electoral Reforms Committee has called for the overhaul of the existing electoral system in a number of ways, including constituency delineation, candidate registration procedures, voter registration and voting procedures. A number of the detailed requirements regarding the call for a system overhaul are contained in the official memorandum submitted by NAS to the Committee. However, some key recommendations are provided as follows:
•    Review of the option A4, popularized by Nwosu (NEC chairman) in 1993 that provided for open ballot system for possible adoption and modification to ensure secrecy of the vote for tendered ballots. Good to note that the Reform Committee has opted for an open secret ballot but government has indicated its preference for secret ballot.
•    Create a forum to enable non-partisan international independent observers to monitor elections and give their feed backs promptly.
•    Amend the Electoral Act to include more detailed regulations prohibiting the abuse of state resources during an election period as well as provide effective measures to monitor abuse of state resources and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
•    Retain 30% appointive offices for women.
•    Provide controls against the sponsorship or promotion of any religious course by Government with people’s funds.

F. The Role of the Media
The Electoral Reform Committee has provided a sanction of N1, 000,000 for biased reporting by media organizations. While the sanction is a step in the right direction the amount it proposes is sheer tokenism. I would propose higher penalty and stiffer sanction, in the region of N50, 000,000 to dissuade media organizations from willfully violating the proposed law on unbiased media coverage.
Now, let’s consider some key views canvassed by NAS position on this aspect of the electoral process.
i)    NAS is of the view that in compliance with the provisions set out in the Nigerian Broadcasting Code appropriate “regulations should be developed by the legislature to provide proportional access to radio and television for political parties and candidates competing in elections, not only stipulating fair and equitable coverage, but also providing a framework where these provisions are guaranteed. In cases where candidates and parties purchase airtime for their advertisements and coverage of their rallies these programmes should be clearly signposted as such.” Similarly, broadcast media should provide fair and impartial coverage of all political parties and candidates during the campaign period without discrimination against any political party or candidate;
ii)    The structure of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should be modified in order to foster its institutional, functional and financial independence. NBC should have sufficient resources to be able to guarantee that the media cover elections according to the principles of fairness, balance and impartiality;
iii)    The NBC should ensure publicly funded media distribute an equal allocation of free airtime to political parties and candidates competing in an election in order to ensure equity of coverage for all;
iv)    The NBC should have a more formal transparent mechanism for dealing with complaints about media violations during elections. The records of political content that the broadcasters are obliged to maintain during the campaign period pursuant to 5.2.7 of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code should be made available to the public and candidates for inspection;
v)    State-owned media should be given greater editorial independence. This could be facilitated through the concept of public service broadcasting, the introduction of which is strongly recommended to guarantee principles of public interest and editorial integrity. At minimum, the appointment of managerial staff at federal and state broadcasters should be reviewed so as to create independence from the government in power;
vi)    State interference in media activities impeding the freedom of expression during the campaign period should cease;
vii)    The Freedom of Information Bill should be adopted and duly implemented to provide a higher degree of transparency and accountability of public sector;


Conclusion
African literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe, on his historic return to the country after 19 years of self-exile, expressed his disappointment with the electoral system in Africa. In a remark made in the presence of the Chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, Achebe said “I must confess very profound disappointment with what is happening on the African continent….The idea of a civilised society is one where power is transferred willingly because the law is there but somehow in Africa we still have not learnt that simple but profoundly important fact; that unless you have a process that makes succession easy, even friendly that even opponents can smile, unless we get there, we still have a very long way to go. Politics is not warfare.”

Achebe’s remarks echoes the inner fears of many Nigerians who remain skeptical about the sincerity of President Umaru Yar’Adua and his PDP government to true electoral reforms in Nigeria; and their skepticism is not without reason. President Yar’Adua in his response during the submission of the NERC report to him said his government would do everything within its powers to ensure that the recommendations are fully implemented in order to usher in a credible electoral process in the country. However, recent events have created serious doubts in the minds of observers of Nigerian political process of where exactly the government is headed.

One of such recent events is the President’s feeble response to the botched Ekiti re-run election which was trailed by controversy and intrigues. The election itself was delayed by INEC due to security concerns over gang-related violence believed to be sponsored by some of the political parties. Then the Residential Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, resigned her commission over an unwillingness to participate in a process that went “against her conscience,” but suddenly returned to her seat again after conferring with the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). After the election, INEC delayed release of the results for several days before declaring the PDP candidate the winner. But the story does not end here. John Onaji, the presiding officer at the elections in Ido Osi, where the fraudulent electoral votes of 15,939 tilted the election in favor of the PDP candidate , turned into a whistle blower when another INEC official allegedly failed to share N250 million (US$1.7 million) received from one of the political parties to rig the elections. Although 31 INEC officials are being interrogated on their involvement in the bribery scandal, the belated response of the President is seen by many as a ruse, all sound with no fury.

If the story narrated above does not provide enough reason to doubt Yar’Adua’s reform credentials what do we make of the situation where the NERC’s report which is a product of wide consultation with individuals, institutions, state and local governments across Nigeria and which received 1,466 memoranda in addition to public hearings in 12 selected states and the FCT is subjected to further review by a panel set up by the Federal Executive Council to study the report of the draft NERC report and develop the white paper. In a scathing criticism of the President’s sincerity, Professor Wole Soyinka questions, “… what steps has the beneficiary of this generosity [electoral fraud] taken to ensure that we put an end, once for all, to this cycle of electoral impunity that steadily takes its toll on a people’s forbearance? What are the concrete, not rhetorical measures taken? The answer is easily read in the Uwais Panel report on electoral reform. Instead of principled and transparent pro-activity on the document, presidential efforts have been committed to attempting to water down or expunge critical recommendations, so that the commencement of implementation is currently stymied under procedural delays even as the next election looms ever closer. Knowing how pressure of time was deliberately fomented, then exploited, by the Head of INEC – the Institute for National Electoral Chicanery - it surely should be clear to the nation by now that our electoral organizing genius is, without question, being encouraged to utilize the same alibi of ‘decision-making’ to justify what is already looming as another electoral debacle, in which last-minute disorganization will be used to confuse and befuddle the electorate and the electoral process.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the parlous state of 10 years of Nigeria’s democracy and her electoral process for you. The problems are much deeper and just wishing that a reform triggered by the current class of inept and corrupt politicians will solve these problems is wishful thinking. Unless a real attitudinal and value change takes place across the political spectrum our democratic evolution will be at best a pseudo evolution. Nigerians committed to a change in how the electoral process is conducted must bring pressure to bear on President Umaru Yar’Adua and the National Assembly to do what is right; provide an electoral system that conforms to the desire of Nigerians. Labor had set the right tone by conducting peaceful mass rallies across Nigeria requesting the Government to implement the NERC recommendations on electoral reform. However, it should not just end with the rallies. Labor and other civil society organizations and political parties ready to stand for what is right must seize the bull by the horns by taking the battle to the National Assembly where Yar’Adua’s 7 bills on electoral reform are being considered to become law. The National Association of Seadogs must take urgent steps to align with organizations of like minds to provide leadership in this struggle to enthrone good governance in Nigeria. May God help us.
Thank you for listening.

References:


i)    National Association of Seadogs: Memorandum to the National Electoral Reform Committee, 2008
ii)    European Union Recommendations on April 2007 Polls
iii)    National Association of Seadogs: Memorandum to the National Political Reform Conference, 2006
iv)    National Association of Seadogs: Inputs to the PRONACO Conference, 2006
v)    Wole Soyinka: Between Amnesty and Amnesia, 2009
vi)    Chinua Achebe’s remarks captured in ThisDay Newspaper


Paper Presented by Mr. Ide Owodiong-Idemeko at The Feast of Barracuda Event hosted by the National Association of Seadogs, Netherlands Chapter, Saturday July 4, 2009, Gaasperplas Public Park, Amsterdam Zuidoost