IT was, it is believed in the wake of this extension of franchise, narrow though it was, that the sponsoring of middle class candidates by “gentlemen” came into vogue. This practice, apart from its feudal paternity, is offensive both to common-sense and reason. Furthermore, it has tended to be abused in Nigeria, and positively causes unnecessary inconvenience to candidates. Under the new dispensation, it should be enough if the names of a candidate or candidates for any election are officially submitted to FEDECO by one of the top officials of the party to which the candidate or candidates belong, and if the nomination fees for all the candidates are paid in one lump sum.
If rigging of and malpractices at future elections are to be avoided, certain stages and acts in the electoral process must not be left to the discretion of either FEDECO or any electoral officer or presiding officer. For instance, some voters in the past have been disenfranchised, on polling day, by the deliberate or unavoidable late commencement of poll. Again, deliberate or inadvertent failure on the part of an officer to perform the duties statutorily laid upon him often worked to the prejudice of the elector or candidate or both. One of the scandalous features of the last election was the heavy and disconcerting pressure under which party officials and candidates had to work to meet the deadlines for a number of statutory requirements and FEDECO directives. Furthermore, failure on the part of political parties and candidates to purchase copies of Register of Voters, to remunerate polling and counting agents, and to mobilize sufficient number of motor vehicles and water-crafts made possible, at polling and counting stations and in transit, the replacement of FEDECO ballot boxes with illicit and already stuffed ballot boxes, as well as the falsification of figures for the benefit of candidates favoured by some FEDECO officials.
All these abuses, malpractices, and disabilities must be removed. The rich and the poor parties as well as the affluent and non-affluent candidates must be given equal opportunity to win in future election contests.
It is, I think, important to direct special attention to the proposal for holding all the five elections in one day in only one State at a time. The main advantages of this are:
- FEDECO will be able to deploy to the one State the best electoral, presiding, and other officers it can mobilise from all parts of the country.
- The political parties will be able to bring to bear on that one State the ablest and most vigilant polling and counting agents it can procure from all parts of the country.
- Above all, all the hands of FEDECO and of the registered political parties will be on the electoral deck of that one State. In these circumstances, it will be very difficult for the kind of malpractices which were done at the last elections, and for such other malpractices as evilly-disposed persons and experienced expert riggers might want to contrive for 1983, to take place without immediate detection and frustration.
The only objection which, in my opinion, can be raised to holding all the five elections in one State at a time every other day, is that such an arrangement could create a bandwagon effect in favour of the party which wins the elections in the first two or three States as the case may be. Certainly, the possibility of some measure of bandwagon effect cannot be completely ruled out under this arrangement; though such an effect was not at all in evidence in the last elections which were staggered to cover a period of five weeks – that is 35 days. The arrangement now proposed is not likely to spread over more than 45 days. In any case, such an effect can be reduced almost to nil if a procedure such as I now outline hereunder is adopted.
- The country should be divided into three zones arranged in alphabetical order – this is, East, North, and West.
- All the States in the country should be grouped geographically under each zone, and the States in each zone should also be arranged in alphabetical order, e.g.
(a) EAST: Anambra, Cross River, Imo and Rivers.
(b) NORTH: Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gongola, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, and Sokoto.
(c) WEST: Bendel, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo.
- The first five elections should take place in Anambra, the second in Bauchi, and the third in Bendel; the fourth five elections should be held in Cross River, the fifth in Benue and the sixth in Lagos; and so on and so forth in similar order until the whole thing is over;”
- It will be the turn of the last State in the East zone – that is, Rivers – before elections in Gongola and Ondo States are held. And it will be the turn of Oyo, the last State in the West zone after elections in Kaduna are held. After Kaduna, the elections in Kano, Kwara, Niger, Plateau and Sokoto will have to take place in that order, on five different days.
The periodic holding of competitive elections is only one of the inseparable characteristic features of representative democracy such as we are enjoined to practise under our Constitution.
Competitive election is, therefore, not democracy itself. If we may use the analogy of a motor vehicle, competitive election may be likened to petrol or fuel oil, while democracy may be likened to the engine and the other component parts (like the tyres, the body, etc) of the motor vehicle, which are requisite for the efficient and effective performance of its locomotive functions.
Just as petrol or fuel oil is indispensable to the locomotive functions of the vehicle, so are the engine, tyres, body, and other component parts. And just as the oil must be clean and answer to acceptable standards of quality, so must all the parts of the engine and other components be in good, efficient, and effective working order. If you adulterate the oil, or try to run the vehicle with some liquid other than oil, if you remove or damage any of the vital component parts of the vehicle’s engine and body: in either or both of these cases, the vehicle will be immobile and if forced to function might endanger lives and/ or suffer serious or irreparable breakdown.