2023: Let Good Aspirants Prepare For National Assembly By Martins Oloja
Now that the battle for electronic transfer of election results has been fought lost and won, I have a dream that political recruitment process in Nigeria will henceforth produce leaders at most levels that we can monitor and hold to account. I mean that I have a dream that our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari would want to leave at least one legacy: robust and credible electoral system that will earn global respect for our country. That will be the beginning of leadership of the black race and indeed Africa that the iconic Nelson Mandela warned us about – before he flew away in 2013. And here is the thing, our President should not allow lobbyists who don’t want him to leave any legacy for Nigeria to persuade him to withhold assent as he did before the 2019 elections. Now that the storm over how to be re-elected is over, the president should make history and sign that electoral amendment bill into law immediately. That gesture may make us forgive and forget some of his many promises he has failed to fulfill to us.
Lest we forget, I think as the euphoria of the victory over darkness on the electoral process lingers, as we continue to praise the civil society organisations (CSOs) including the media, we should also remember to salute the audacity of the election management agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the way it openly stood up to the powers of darkness over the controversial Electoral Amendment Bill 2021 that will enable us to destroy the monster called voter apathy in the country. Once the people are confident that their votes will count, after all, there will be more interest in the electoral processes.
Specifically, we should be able to sustain a chorus of a ‘redemption song’ for INEC for the way it has deftly collaborated with the civil society and the mainstream media to sell the power of technology in conducting credible elections. Besides, INEC should be recognised to feel good about the way it resourcefully worked hard to restore power of internal democracy to the people within the political parties that have always depended on courts to choose their candidates. Now, the moneybags who have had the powers and war chests to buy a few delegates to be declared candidates may have lost some powers, after all. It is will now be direct primary all the way. The origin:
It is note worthy that on September 26, 2021, INEC), in what is arguably its strongest defence of electronic transmission of election results, said it had developed adequate structures and processes to successfully transmit election results electronically.
INEC reiterated its stance weeks after Nigerian lawmakers refused to give the electoral body the legal permission for electronic transmission of election results.
Largely voting along party lines, the Senate had rejected the electronic transmission of results while the House of Representatives ruled that it should only be done after INEC got the permission of the National Communication Commission and the National Assembly. But INEC didn’t relent efforts at its civic education on readiness for electronic transmission of results despite NCC’s wobbly support for the retrogressive steps.
Even the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the Commission disclosed its stance again in a “Position Paper No.1/2021 Electronic Transmission of Election” released the other day in Abuja – before the National Assembly bowed to the wishes of the people.
The Commission stated that the available national infrastructure, including mobile network coverage were adequate to provide for electronic transmission of election results. In the voluminous paper, INEC expressed its belief that electronic transmission of results would improve the quality of election results management, while its engagement with stakeholders had shown that the Nigerian public supported electronic transmission of election results.
“Consequently, if the choice was up to INEC, the commission prefers to transmit election results electronically once the necessary legal framework is provided,” it said. The objectives of the position paper, according to INEC, was to explain the desirability of electronic transmission of results as an electoral reform issue in Nigeria today, adding that it was also to clarify the position of INEC on some of the central issues around e-transmission of results. This was a bold step by Nigeria’s election management agency, INEC most politicians would prefer to blame for election debacle in Nigeria.
My personal inquiries revealed that INEC could have even been complacent by relying on Section 160 (i) of the Constitution in its choice of mode of elections, but it chose to fight a good fight though the amendment subsidiary bill to get clear powers to do what is acceptable. Section 160 (i) is the Section that the first alteration of the 1999 Constitution actually inserted to empower INEC to do its job seamlessly without having to amend any Electoral Act:
Powers and Procedure (under the executive bodies)
Subject to Subsection 2 of this section, any of the bodies may with the approval of the President by rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions, provided that in the case of Independent National Electoral Commission, its powers to make its own rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure shall not be subject to the approval of the President’.
Elsewhere, this provision inserted through the First Amendment of the 1999 Constitution would have been enough for INEC to use electronic transmission of result devices without any amendment of any subsidiary laws on ‘powers and procedure’ but this is Nigeria where the law hardly rules. It is the rule of man that is recognised and obeyed. Anyway, all that is over now, as we look up to the President for his assent in the next few days. We are talking of our President who signed the Petroleum Industry Bill so fast and proposed necessary amendments barely a month after. Let him sign this Electoral Amendment Bill into law so that we can enroll him into the Hall of Fame as the leader who changed the monster called voter apathy and electoral impurities in Nigeria.
This power-to-the-people law has enabled me to call on all the good people who would like to contest presidential election to look before they leap this time. This is the executive summary of my submission here: let most of the presidential aspirants including governors, ministers, professionals and technocrats who think they are capable of serving Nigeria consider their strategy and platforms for the service of their country that is at the moment in a state of anomie. I would like all the powerful faces being listed by even the media not to be carried away by the prominence they freely get or procure from the media. They should consider first the feasibility and risks of their campaigns. Can those who have the resources or war chest to campaign mobilise enough votes to be president? They should note that oratory nurtured by intellectual power alone cannot give you presidential tickets on the platforms that can win presidential elections here. Let’s not speak in tongues to good people here:
Why can’t Professors Pat Utomi, Kingsley Moghalu, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, Mr. Peter Obi, Mr. Femi Falana, Fela Durotoye, Babagana Kingibe, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Professor Attahiru Jega, Abdullahi Ganduje, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, Dr. Doyin Okupe, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd); Ibrahim Dankwabo, Chief Nyesom Wike, Abubakar Malami, Babatunde Fashola, and a host of other aspirants get set to be in National Assembly?
I think we should not lose these prominent people to the vagaries of presidential election aspiration alone. After all, only one of them will be elected president. Why can’t we take advantage of the new electoral law to serve Nigeria at the powerhouse of democracy? I mean here that the National Assembly is the most critical arm of government. It is the most significant training ground for leadership – just like president Joe Biden. Look at the significant impact of just one Senator from Abia State, Enyinnaya Abaribe whose legislative artistry exposed the shenanigan and peccadillo of the Senators who either voted against electronic transmission of results provisions or were deliberately absent when the vote was taken. The former deputy governor of Abia State has been one-man squad from the time he was elected to the Senate.
If we have at least 40 strong voices such as Abaribe’s at the 109-member Senate, there would have been more robust legislative service and representation at the Senate. In the same vein, if we have even 50 hardworking, resourceful and research-oriented members of the 360-member House of Representatives, there would have been better service delivery even at the executive arm. The National Assembly has enormous powers to check executive excesses, fight corruption, curtail senseless borrowing for consumption if their membership foundation is strong and if they can elect their leaders freely at the inauguration of their session. Look at what the leadership of the current session of our bicameral legislature is delivering. Where in the world would presiding officers of the National Assembly proclaim to the people who elected them that they would accept without question whatever the president brings to them because they would be good for the nation?
My suggestion that most of our significant politicians and leaders who would like to serve the nation should begin from the National Assembly should not be seen an attempt to cast aspersion on their stature and knowledge power. The parliament is a citadel of representative democracy where policies through laws are made to serve common good. It is a place where appropriations or budgetary details are constructed in the language and data of development plans. If any democracy is on the brink as a result of executive excesses or mediocrity, the representatives of the people can rise up to the occasion to call the tyrannical executives to order. The U.S Congress saved their country from threat of tyranny in a bi-partisan mode early this year.
That is why most learned constitutional scholars agree that legislative power is, “the distinctive mark of a country’s sovereignty and the index of its status as an independent state…” And so if significant citizens begin to announce their readiness to get elected to the National Assembly, that will have a positive bandwagon effect as even skilled younger people with some political skills and ambition will begin to follow such footsteps and aspire to serve at State Assemblies and even Local Governments. Why should we continue to allow charlatans and never-do-wells to be in the National and State Assemblies where the majesty of democracy is supposed to be celebrated? Let’s, therefore, call on all who would like to serve the country in any capacity to begin to renew their minds: that you don’t have to be president or governor to serve your country. You can also serve significantly from your State or National Assembly.