TIME TO STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
A Press Release
On the 9th of November 2021, the House of Representatives and the Senate – the two federal legislative chambers passed into law the amendments to the Electoral Act. The most topical items of amendment included the adoption of direct primaries for internal political parties’ contestations. The other was the accommodation of the use of technology in the conduct of general elections in Nigeria and the expansion of the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to develop guidelines as it deems fit to guide the deployment of technology during elections in Nigeria.
Majority of Nigerians have described the 2021 amendments of the Electoral Act as one of the most progressive enactments that Nigeria has had in a long time. This is also the view of the Nigeria Labour Congress. The leadership of the Congress commends the House of Representatives and the Senate particularly the leadership of the National Assembly who stood rock solid behind the proposal for direct primaries for all political parties and rallied their colleagues in the House and the Senate to pass the bill into law. This is the proof of committed leadership and true statesmanship.
The Congress must, however, caution that the passage of the 2021 amendment to the Electoral Act is only a journey and not a destination. A lot more certainly needs to be done in order to fully sanitize Nigeria’s challenged electioneering system especially building on the 2007-2011 electoral reforms which the NLC actively participated in. First is to tackle the menace of godfatherism, ‘godmotherism’ and money politics which were the major concerns that necessitated the new law on direct primaries for all political parties. Due diligence and oversight must be applied to ensure that unscrupulous politicians who have been accultured to vote buying, monetization of Nigeria’s electoral process are not allowed to extend their habitual criminal subversion of our democracy to political party members during political party primary elections.
In order to further safeguard the right of Nigerians to freely choose their leaders at both political party level and during general elections without being subjected to the obscene pressure of financial lure, we recommend that the National Assembly should expeditiously consider developing a bill for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission to expedite the prosecution of politicians and their agents who indulge in vote for cash, election rigging and violence.
On the full mainstreaming of the use of technology in our electoral law, we urge all stakeholders especially INEC to continue to constructively engage with the Nigerian people to ensure that the lessons from recent and remote deployment of technology during elections are not lost. Particularly, we call for confidence building measures by the INEC particularly through voter education and sensitization. It is also important that the security of the software and hardware components of technology to be deployed for elections should be well scrutinized and reviewed by all stakeholders. This is to guard against significant failures and to facilitate public ownership.
It was President Abraham Lincoln, a former President of the United States, who defined democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people. By returning internal party democracy to the people through direct primaries, it appears that democracy in Nigeria is about to live up to its fullest and truest meaning.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
29th November 2021