Continued from last week
IN all the circumstances, the best that can be said for the Nigerian Bench is that some sections of the Judiciary, possibly unknown to them, have been used as stalking horses in an electoral adventure which has received widespread and unmitigated condemnation, both at home and abroad. The electioneering campaigns are over.
But the political race – with all its contests and contentions – continues. If we may press the analogy a little further, an electioneering campaign may be likened to the last lap in a marathon race when the winning post is in sight. In this continuous race, there can, for us of the UPN, be no question of going to sleep; or relaxing or relenting in our efforts to be ahead of all other competitors when the first quadrennial bell rings in 1983. In this connection, we must bear in mind, closely watch, and do certain things.
From what I had said earlier on, and from all that has so far been written on the subject by many other people, it is clear that the NPN has acceded to power by fouling the electoral process. We have seen that, in fouling the process, the NPN was not alone – indeed by itself alone there was very little the NPN could do which would have made any noticeable impact. But the FEDECO and practically all the organs of government were involved in the foul game. It stands to reason that, having fouled the game once to advantage and with impunity, the NPN will want to try it again to perpetuate itself in office as its National Chairman has recently given the whole world to understand.
In this respect, it must be remembered that some of those who played a prominent role in the blatant, colossal and widespread rigging of election in 1965 are today among those who are equally prominent in the leadership of the NPN, and in the rigging of the last elections. We are all witnesses to the dire and tragic consequences of the fraudulent acts of 1965 including the long, painful and distressing abeyance of democracy and the rule of law.
I am sure that we of the UPN and all the progressive elements in the country are determined that, from henceforth, the practice and all the processes of democracy shall prevail in our fatherland, and that no political party shall ever again accede to power in this dear land of ours, except through the votes of our people truly and freely given to such party.
It is not enough to desire free and fair election; it is not enough to talk about it; nor is it even enough to adopt just those methods which are acclaimed because they have been attested to ensure free and fair election in other Democracies. We need to evolve some new methods which, while they are in accord with the norms of free and fair election, can cope with the known peculiar circumstances of Nigeria. Indeed, we need to evolve such methods as will make it very, very difficult for the FEDECO with its officials or the party in power or both of them to tamper with, let alone foul, the electoral process to the prejudice of the other contending party or parties.
It is imperative that we should tackle and evolve solutions for the problems of rigging now, because the continuing marathon political race will not be worth anybody’s effort unless there are detailed provisions in our electoral law which are seen to be capable of guaranteeing a truly free and fair election when the time comes in 1983.
New Electoral Proposals
It is my submission that provisions on the lines of the proposals which I now proceed to itemise will go a long way if not the whole way to cure the kind of electoral mischiefs and frauds which we witnessed in the last elections.
- Nomination of candidates shall be done by the submission, in writing, by the President or Secretary of the Party concerned, to the Electoral Commission, of the names, addresses, symbols, and other requisite information of his Party’s candidates for elections. The application shall be supported by a receipt or receipts for nomination fees paid by or on behalf of the candidates. The names of the candidates shall be published in the Gazette by the Electoral Commission within a stipulated period of time. The nomination of every candidate shall be regarded as valid on the receipt by the Electoral Commission of the list supplied by the Party concerned in the manner aforesaid. Once nominated, it shall be unlawful for a candidate to withdraw his candidature.
- Polling Agents (who may not be registered voters) shall be issued with identification cards supplied by the Electoral Commission. That is to say, on the receipt for nomination the Electoral Commission shall direct that the appropriate Electoral Official shall supply each candidate with a sufficient number of identification cards for two polling agents per polling station.
Each candidate shall identify his polling agents to the Presiding Officer by signing the identification cards issued by FEDECO.
- Voting shall, from its actual commencement, be continuous for eleven hours. In other words, if for any reason, poll begins late, then voting shall continue unbroken for eleven hours from its commencement. Those who are already on the queue, at the time the poll is scheduled to close, shall be allowed to cast their votes and the closing time shall be extended accordingly.
- Where, for any reason, voting is delayed for three hours in a rural area, and for five hours in an urban area the poll shall be postponed to commence at the statutory time of 7 o’clock the following morning.
- Instructions to election and polling officials or any other official connected directly or indirectly with the conduct and supervision of an election shall be laid, for at least three months before the election, on the tables of the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly, otherwise they shall be of no effect.
- Alternatively, instructions to electoral and polling officials or any other persons connected directly or indirectly with the conduct and supervision of the election may take the form of Regulations which must be approved by the National Assembly.
To be continued