Nigeria's last 'dance' with democratic elections resulted in many a stubbed toe and clear declarations by observers that the electoral process was flawed. In the aftermath of the elections, President Yar'Adua conceded that the process needed reform and created a 22-member committee to "review the electoral process" and "consider possible changes to the Constitution." Unfortunately, recent actions on Yar'Adua's part put his commitment to free democracy under question.
ELECTORAL REFORM COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Led by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais, the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) submitted its final report in December 2008. Among its many recommendations were that independent candidates be allowed to seek office, there be limits on campaign contributions from individuals and the creation of 108 more seats in the House of Representatives.
Speaking about the report at the time, Uwais noted that, "the Independent National Electoral Commission ... lack[ed] the requisite independence" which he also said is a "key deficiency of our electoral process.” Consequently, the Committee recommended that the judiciary, and not the President, pick the chairman and board of commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Yar'Adua's response to the recommendations was to promise that he would focus on the report because "election[s] [are] at the heart of democracy, hence they must not only be fair but must also be seen to be so by our people and the rest of the world." Contrary to his promise, Yar'Adua decided that he would ignore the very logical recommendation to foster true independence for the election regulator, INEC, by retaining control over the Commission. According to the new Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, "the "separation of powers" prevented the executive from relinquishing the power to appoint" the INEC Chairperson.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR 2011?
Given the fact that the Courts have proven capable of non-partiality by reversing the elections of some of the wealthiest and more popular politicians,it is understandable why the ERC suggested that the Judiciary select INEC's Chairperson. Consequently, one wonders if that reality - non-partiality - is a key reason why Yar'Adua chose instead to retain the power to control INEC and, as a consequence, elections. Whatever the reason for the decision, the fact that the President will choose who runs Nigeria's elections is a collosal problem. There is a clear conflict of interest when a President running as an incumbent, or working as the head of his political party, has the power to effectively prevent true elections by controling election results with his pick as the Chairperson of INEC.
Yar'Adua's INEC decision is simply one of many contradictions from the self proclaimed "servant leader". He has always publicly committed himself to a 'Rule of Law' mantra and claimed that he is focused on providing,
"a purposeful and result-oriented administration that will yield tangible and visible benefits for all Nigerians"And yet, when presented the opportunity to make a choice in favor of the Nigerian people and the possibility of enrenching a verifiable election process, Yar'Adua opted to preserve his power and that of his political party.
Effectively, Yar'Adua's decision means that once again, Nigeria's 2011 Presidential elections and every election run by the President's hand picked person, will not be credible. Thus, the right of a people to peacefully and democratically pick who will lead them will again be taken away from the Nigerian people. It is hard to have confidence in a President whose election was not only declared rigged by observers, but was also run by an individual who, according to the constitution, should not have been Chairman in the first place. And now, the people are supposed to trust that this same President will pick the right person to manage their democratic process. The Iwu-problem is yet to be solved and little, if any, comment has been made by the President on that matter. Yar'Adua's commitment to democracy is questionable, and in the run up to Nigeria's next Presidential election, the Nigerian people are being taken for a ride they never signed up for.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Is Iwu The INEC Chairman?
- Yardy To Get A Third Term?
- Nigeria's New Kingmakers
- Nigerian Curiosity of 2008 (Fashola and the 2011 Election)