By Monday Ubani
The furore in the national assembly over the recent amendment of the electoral bill has not escaped the attention of millions of Nigerians who have been following the said exercise with religious interest.
The process of recruitment of leadership in Nigeria has been a big problem with the country having a fair share of misgovernance as an unintended consequence flowing from the unfair electoral process over the years. You cannot plant maize and reap mango says, an African proverb.
The affliction of bad leadership stems from defective electoral process that is devoid of any iota of fairness. We are besotted with electoral manipulations, ballot snatching, result-falsifications and all manner of electoral frauds from desperate politicians and their thugs who pervert the process to ascend to power.
The consequence is that those who emerge and occupy political positions in Nigeria do so fraudulently without any mandate fairly donated by the people, thereby breaching the fundamental term of the famed social contract theory propounded by early philosophers that led to formation of modern society.
For us as a nation, life just like in the beginning, has remained short, nasty and brutish despite being on the historical side of modernity. Is any one in doubt in Nigeria that our leadership has deliberately kept the country retarded, visionless and crisis-riden since independence? Why, you may ask.
The answer is not far-fetched, you cannot give what you do not have. Leaders who know nothing about governance and the attendant responsibilities attached to it, unfortunately find themselves in corridors of power and have not failed to dish out mediocrity as their valuable asset.
All critical infrastructures are in total decay while our Institutional services are non-existent.
While pursuing my first degree in University of Nigeria, Nsukka I saw British, Americans and some African brothers in my respected Alma Mata either for their first degrees or pursuing their post graduate studies.
As at today, you will not see any of our African brothers or sisters in our universities let alone other students from other continents. Again the reasons are not far-fetched and does not require any elaboration.
The truth remains that we have had enough share of misgovernance, lack of development or progress due to inept leadership and the recruitment process is clearly implicated.
Stakeholders and patriots have diagnosed Nigeria’s sad historical trajectory and agreed amongst other solutions that we need to holistically tinker with our electoral legal framework which needs realignment with modern realities and international best practices.
One of these desired broad electoral reforms involves the deployment of technology in our electoral process.
It is shameful that Nigeria with her size, resources and sophistication are even starting late on this, because other nations smaller in size, resource, sophistication have deployed this system years ago and here we are in the year 2021 debating whether we should deploy technology in the transmission of our electoral results.
I feel humiliated by such scenario playing out in the hallowed Chambers of our National Assembly. Who does that, if I may ask?
The macabre dance over this started in the National Assembly with confirmed allegation that the Bill which passed third reading under the chairmanship of Senator Kabiru Gaya of INEC Committee has been altered to block electronic transfer of election results.
The Senate President called Nigerians every printable names for daring to challenge the alleged alterations. They had to restore the electronic transfer clause, and I am sure, it was done grudgingly. During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, their treachery could not be hidden any longer as one Senator Sabi Abdullahi, Deputy Senate Whip proposed that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the National Assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results.
This was promptly countered by Albert Bassey, Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East who insisted that the initial proposal which provides in Section 50(3) that:
“The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable” should stay.
After division of the whole house in plenary, the result was 52 in favour of subjecting INEC to undue interference in the performance of their mandatory duty of organising elections in Nigerian by Nigerian Communication and the National Assembly contrary to the express provision of the constitution, while 28 Senators voted for the retention of the original clause that gives INEC discretionary power in carrying out its constitutional responsibility in transmission of results.
The situation in the House of Representatives was not different but more dramatic as the man who presided over the plenary did not hide his disdain to observance of the very rules that guide proceedings in the House. The Deputy Speaker, Hon Ahmed Wase to say the least is a big minus to democracy who does not believe in adherence to rules and procedures of the House. He and his majority leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa are in the world of their own. By their attitude they own Nigeria, House of Representatives and everything in it, to say the least.
Why this amendment should not see the light of the day.
What the National Assembly members did by passing a bill that clearly violates the constitution they swore to uphold is the biggest embarrassment of the century. It is more shocking and depressing to see those who claim to be lawyers amongst them running around all over the place to defend the absurd illegality. Who did this to us as a nation?
How did we get here, many are asking.
A cursory look at the provisions of the constitution will give each observer a clearer view of the sordid absurdity in the passage of the bill by the National Assembly on the 16th of July, 2021.
Section 78 of the 1999 constitution as Amended provides:-
“The registration of voters and conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of independent national electoral commision, (INEC).
The same constitution in the Third Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15 provides that: “INEC has power to organize, undertake, and supervise all elections”. The constitution further provides that in carrying out the aforementioned responsibilities, “INEC operations SHALL not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority”.
The question then, is the so called affirmation of network coverage and its security by NCC and approval of the National Assembly (a party to an election) not an undue interference to INEC’s power to transmit the result of an election which falls squarely under their constitutional power?
How did the members of the National Assembly see their role in approving the issue of network coverage as proper under our constitutional democracy when the role assigned by the constitution to them is legislation and not execution of the laws they enact?
I shudder to think that our legislators who are law makers have turned themselves into law breakers.
Prior to now, INEC without any legislative backing have successfully conducted elections with card readers and have transmitted results electronically in several constituencies in Nigeria without any of these “alarmist drawbacks” being trumpeted by these backward-thinking legislators that voted for that provocative amendment. Why are these set of legislators in the 9th Assembly trying to set the hand of our clock backwards? What have come over them?
Nigerians insist and I join them in insisting that INEC be given a fair and less restrictive legal framework to carry out their constitutional duties of organising, undertaking and supervising elections in Nigeria. The present manipulative treachery to keep us stranded as a nation in our electoral improvements will be resisted with our last strength and we have the final hope placed on the third arm of the government (the judiciary) should these set of legislators persist in their doomed journey of interfering on our progressive electoral journey as a nation.
Nigeria has two years to ensure 100 per cent network coverage in the whole country, after all, the Nation is alleged to have voted over 4 billion naira recently to monitor Nigerians on social media platforms. I see no reason why we cannot vote more billions of naira for development of our key tele-comunication infrastructure that will restore our dignity as the biggest country in African continent. #SayNoToLegislativeRascality.
Dr Ubani is the chairman, NBA-Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL).