Even if the 2018 amendments to the Electoral Acts stand, nothing says a fresh amendment initiative cannot commence a year after.
Someday, sooner or later, the 2018 amendment of the Electoral Act will pass the full hurdle and become law. That is the hope. For now, that proposed body of amendments to the Electoral Act as passed by the National Assembly remains in limbo, caught up in the web of Executive-Legislature supremacy tango.
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With 145 days before the 2019 General Elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not, of course, have the luxury of waiting for whatever becomes of the proposed new electoral law. It has therefore moved on with preparations for the polls ahead, standing on existing protocols, to use that phrase Nigerians love.
Interestingly, even before the 2018 proposed amendments to the Electoral Act materialize as law, certain situations have developed in the political system which make further review and amendment of the yet to be signed amended electoral law a legislative imperative. That is how dynamic the society is. That also is a reflection of how challenging it is managing behaviours on the electoral front. The situation equally amplifies the call INEC usually makes for reviews and amendment of the electoral law to be carried out long before election fever sets in. Why this hardly happens is a matter for another day.
But for the factor of time there is nothing out of the ordinary per se with perennial proposals for alteration of the electoral law or any other law of the land, if necessary. Even if the 2018 amendments to the Electoral Acts stand therefore, nothing says a fresh amendment initiative cannot commence a year after. It is exactly for such purpose that the legislature exists. And Government too. Or is there any bigger raison d’être for any purposeful government than to maintain order in the society through reining in tendencies and behaviours that challenge balance, justice and peace in the land? And such tendencies are menacingly afloat in the current political process.
A revisit to the Electoral Laws by the National Assembly immediately after the 2019 elections may not be out of place if there is true and selfless commitment by lawmakers to instituting a stable political system for the country. Unfortunately, the period immediately after general elections is not known for having legislators in the proper mood for serious business. With some licking their wounds and others still floating on the air, it is not always easy to get lawmakers to focus on such serious selfless engagement as the amendment of critical portions of the electoral law. Alas three years flies by so fast and uncertain prospects of primaries and elections have a way of suddenly looming before folks.
One of the areas that must as of necessity be revisited as soon as possible in the provisions of the Electoral Act is that on mode of political party primaries and the basic cost [or curse] to individuals for expressing interest to contest for office on the platform of chosen political parties.
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The provision in Part 5 Section 87 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 [As Amended] that “the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political party for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries” was obviously well intended and designed to give each political party the leeway to choose what is in the best interest of its members, ensuring in the process that fairness and justice prevailed for the majority.
It is doubtful at the moment if that common ground of fairness and justice to majority of party faithful obtains. It may be necessary now for this provision of the Electoral Act to be revisited with a view to having a definite mode of primaries that will defend the will of the greater number as against that which confers heavy advantage to a few, no matter how they are weighted. It is true that the Electoral Act 2010 [As Amended] clearly stipulates the route a party should follow if it elects to go the way of indirect primaries. From all indications, that provision does not seem enough now. Watching the leadership of the major political parties locked in gritty battle with behemoths within their fold who insist on having it their way or nothing, it is obvious that the law needs to go further and be definite on a better accommodating way to go on this matter. Provisions of our Laws cannot pretend to be oblivious of who we are and where we are. Leave grandstanding aside; party leaders are substantially helpless at the moment when confronted by the behemoths within their fold. Of course, the ways of these
party behemoths and those of the majority others can never converge. As it were, the relationship between the two sides can only be that of Jonah and the Fish. One party is destined to be in the belly of the other, willy-nilly.
Unfortunately again, there is no comfort in the provision of the current Electoral Act, Section 87 (9) to wit; “Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State or FCT, for redress”. Excuse Me! That exactly is the corner the behemoths always like to push their less fortunate neighbours to.
It is not as if there is anything intrinsically wrong with indirect primaries. Not really. That mode of primaries can be straightened out up front, with a level playing ground instituted early in the day so that every party faithful knows what game he was headed into. Handing over the machinery of selecting delegates for an entire state or zone to one man and then telling all others who ab initio have been emasculated be of good cheer and file out in a contest with the behemoth or his minion is glaringly a mockery of democracy. It is absurd. The unrelenting desire at all critical junctures by the powerful few in the political parties to subjugate the majority others to take what they are offered or leave it remains a tendency capable of undermining representative democracy in Nigeria. A new electoral law simply needs to take another look at this perilous arrangement with the party. The rule for the game can be made a little bit more just.