Nigeria has long struggled with getting elections right. Because of this many of our election milestones have come in the last 20 of the country’s 60 year history, including the country’s first civilian to civilian handover between rival parties. But there is a lot that remains to be fixed and the YIAGA’s townhall and virtual symposium to discuss ‘Fixing Nigeria’s Elections,’ was held on the 30th of June with with a number of notable thought leaders present.
The panelists invited to speak ran the spectrum of career politicians to career entertainers. Nollywood was represented by and movie director; Omoni Oboli, the government represented by INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu and the Attorney General of Nigeria; Abubakar Malami; and a host of others.
The virtual symposium covered a range of issues including from the importance of adopting an electronic voting system, to the inclusion and participation of women in politics, to all manner of issues hindering the development of a working electoral system. And in the end, a number of insightful and employable contributions had been made. There were two questions in particular which stood out to us.
Speaking to the Attorney General, the host of the symposium posed the question; “Do you think we have the kind of electoral law that Nigeria deserves?”
The Attorney General responded, stating that; “The major consideration relating to an electoral system is indeed a consideration of where we are as at 1999 and where we are as at today.” He continued affirming that the electoral system has been positively developing and evolving.
Explaining his statement, he alluded to the chaotic and un-predictive nature of the legislative process as at 1999, compared to a more stable and less disruptive one today. But looking at it from the concurrent evolution and development that is beginning to set in, he described that to his understanding, there is need for collective and cooperative action from all three branches of the government.
He gave an instance on the evolution of one of the electoral process he referred to earlier, on the subject of pre-election matter of determination. As at 1999, he narrated that a number of free election matters have spilled past 10 years, in a state of a tenure that is expected to terminate in the space of ten years. Just last year alone, there were still pre-election cases that were pending over 7 years through the process of judicial determination.
He then spoke on how collective and cooperative action has remedied this issue. He said that the legislative came up with a legal frame, by way of constitutional amendment, that sets time in which pre-election matters were expected to be concluded. The cooperative action worked here, because the judiciary kept fair on the stipulated time, agreed upon by the legislature.
“So taking that into consideration, it is indeed apparent that the electoral process is indeed evolving. But that does not mean that there is no room for improvement. And I feel collectively and collaboratively, we are trying as much as possible to enhance on the quality of the system by way of legal frame work, judicial determination or executive intervention.” He concluded.
Next question on the host’s list to the attorney general was: “Is the President and the Buhari Government committed to fixing our elections?”
Responding to the question, the Attorney General affirmed that the major attribute for consideration is the sustenance of the independence of INEC, as an electoral body in terms of the effectively discharging its duties and responsibilities as fair within the context of the electoral process.
He held that for the first time ever, INEC reserves exclusive right to determine constitutional compliance of a political party in terms of choosing a candidate. Same thing applies to the judiciary, who have been accorded the desired independence in terms of judicial determination of cases that are related to political process.
He concluded stating that it is the job of the legislature to create those constitutions that fosters better electoral process, while the office of the executive is responsible for enforcing the bills passed. And to that effect, the Buhari administration has done a good job in playing its own role.