PATH TO NIGERIAN GREATNESS: Under the new dispensation Charter of stability and progress*

Continued from  last week

AT the close of poll, the Presiding Officer shall prepare a ballot paper account setting out details of the ballot papers received, number of ballot papers used, and the number of ballot papers unused, and he shall give to the polling agents of each candidate a copy of the ballot paper account duly signed by him.

  1. It shall be an offence punishable by imprisonment without the option of a fine for a polling official to fail to perform any duty laid on him by the Electoral Act or Regulations or Instructions.
  2. If, as a result of the failure of a polling official to perform his duty, a candidate’s votes are less than those of each of his opponents, or there is a short supply of ballot papers as a result of which registered voters who are present at the polling stations are unable to vote, then in either or both of these cases, another poll shall be held in the polling station in question.
  3. At the conclusion of counting at the Counting Station, the Returning Officer shall publicly announce the results, prepare a certificate of the results, and deliver a copy of the said certificate of results, duly signed by him, to all the candidates or their agents in the constituency under his charge. The certificate thus issued shall be conclusive of the election until such election is set aside by a court of law on an election petition.
  4. It shall also be provided in the electoral law that candidates for the election and their agents shall not be placed under any disability during the period of election; that is to say, if any of them commits an offence he shall immediately be put on bail, pending the election.
  5. Every candidate for election, whether or not he is opposed by another candidate or candidates at such an election shall be voted for, provided that where only one candidate stands, he shall poll not less than 25 % of the total number of registered voters in his constituency.
  6. At least sixty days’ notice shall be given before the day appointed for the holding of election, during which all parties contesting the election and their respective candidates may file or submit all papers and pay all monies required in connection with the election.
  7. Every polling booth shall have at least four compartments instead of two, and the number of polling officials shall be increased pro tanto.
  8. There shall not be more than 500 registered voters to a polling station.
  9. It shall be the duty of FEDECO:

(a) to provide adequate and effective lighting for every polling station and counting station, and

(b) to provide motor vehicles or watercrafts for the collection of ballot boxes from polling stations, and for the transportation of such boxes to the counting stations.

  1. To facilitate the requirement in 16 (2) above, the Federal Government shall construct, where necessary, an all-season motorable road to link every polling station to the counting station.
  2. The FEDECO shall cause to be printed and published a complete list, together with description of locations, of polling stations and counting stations in each State, and shall not later than sixty days before election day make copies of such printed list available free of charge to every registered political party for everyone of the candidates nominated by the party for the election.
  3. Each polling station shall have an Official Number clearly and legibly marked on it and no place than the one so marked shall he used as polling station.
  4. Not later than thirty days before the election takes place FEDECO shall designate the polling stations where collection of ballot boxes shall commence, and shall communicate such designation in writing to all the candidates at the election through their respective political parties.
  5. The polling agents of each of the candidates at the polling station where the collection of ballot boxes begins shall accompany the ballot boxes from the place of first collection, and shall travel in the same vehicle or watercraft which carries the ballot boxes right up to the counting station.
  6. It shall be an offence for any FEDECO official to prevent polling agents from travelling in the motor vehicle or watercraft carrying the ballot boxes.
  7. Each candidate shall be entitled to appoint a maximum of two polling agents for every polling station and a minimum of six counting agents for every counting station, and each such agent shall be entitled to an allowance for food on polling and counting days: such allowance shall be fixed by FEDECO and it shall be paid to each agent by FEDECO and not by the candidate.
  8. The present subvention payable to political parties shall be quadrupled; but payment shall be made to each party after the elections, only in proportion to the votes scored by each party.
  9. All the five elections shall be held on the same day in only one State at a time, every other day. Accordingly, there shall be five polling booths in every polling station.
  10. FEDECO shall cause the Register of Voters to be revised and printed, and shall make one copy available free of charge to each of the candidates contesting the elections not later than thirty days before election day. A candidate who so desires may purchase not more than one copy of the printed register through his political party.

It can be said that these twenty-six proposals speak for themselves. Nevertheless, in order to clear any reasonable doubt, it is necessary to make some comments and observations with specific reference to the kind of mischiefs and frauds which the proposals are designed to combat and cure.

In the first place, the requirement that candidates shall be nominated or sponsored by a number of electors is a relic of British feudalism. Up to 1832, franchise in Britain was restricted to feudal landowners. But by the Reform Act of 1832, franchise was grudgingly extended to the middle classes – that is copyholders, long-lease-holders, householders, and other tenants, excluding the working classes. Even this limited franchise, under which about half of the members of the Commons were landowners and freeholders drawn from less than thirty families only, this limited franchise so outraged the Duke of Wellington, a leading Tory that he predicted that “henceforward no gentleman would be able to take part in public affairs.”

To be continued