By Richard Tosanwumi
Serious politicians inÂ our country know that it takes about 18 months for intending contestants to prepare for a presidential election, and 12 months for a governorship election. In case of totally fresh aspirants for both positions, it will certainly take as much longer period because of their inexperience in the politicking process.
What this translates to is that, with the 2011 general elections less than two years away, the incumbent President, first term governors, and previously defeated aspirants and candidates for these offices, who wish to contest again should now energise their political machinery in order to prepare for the 2011 presidential and governor-ship elections. It may be too late for fresh aspirants to enter the race unless they possess extra-ordinary electoral qualities.
Surprisingly the nationâ€™s political landscape is still very quiet in anticipation of these two elections, and this makes political analysts to wonder whether the 2011 general elections will not be a repeat of the trappings of the 2007.
Why have aspirants to these offices not started to put their acts together for electoral battle? Are the 54 Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC)-registered political parties not aware of the enormity of the preparations needed to win at the 2011 general elections?
On the other hand, preparations for elections by INEC do not seem to have taken off, leaving the expected electoral combatants in the darkness about the plans for the 2011 general elections. This occurrence indicates that INEC under Prof. Maurice Iwuâ€™s chairmanship has not learnt any lessons from the catalogue of flaws that characterised the run-up to and conduct of the 2007 general elections. Will INEC wait until time becomes a limiting factor before embarking on the process for 2011 elections? What is the Commission waiting for as the umpire for the elections in 2011?
Although the inactivity of the political parties with regards to preparations for the 2011 general elections can be partly blamed on INEC, the parties themselves, except those in power usually in our country, allowing INEC to dictate the tempo of political activities as it chooses. Little or nothing has been heard about the up-dating of voters’ register, a crucial requirement for the conduct of free and fair elections. We do not know whether it will be produced manually or electronically.
A point to note is that the Nigerian electorates usually sleep over their civic rights and responsibilities, out of sync with democratic ideals. This malady is repeating itself again as 2011 elections approach. Why are Nigerian voters not asking INEC to earnestly begin the voters registration exercise now? Do they not realise from past experiences that their voters will not count and elections will be rigged again in 2011 without proper voters registers? Why are the INEC registered political parties mute over this critical issue?
It will amount to living in a foolâ€™s paradise for the opposition political parties to expect that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) will not exploit its current dominant position to prevent any electoral reforms that will deny it a landslide victory in 2011, and possibly turn the country into a one-party state. This perhaps is why President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, a PDP product is playing games with the report of the Uwais’ panel on electoral reforms submitted to him seven months ago. Obviously, the PDP-dominated National Assembly will see nothing wrong in collaborating with the President on this matter.
These lines of action negate our quest for an improved electoral process in 2011, and may lead to unpleasant consequence for the country. Another matter for concern is the recent request by PDP senators to be given automatic tickets for the 2011 general election. Are they truely democrats? Do they not know that intra-party democracy demands primaries to choose candidates as entrenched in the PDPâ€™s constitution?
Everywhere in the world, democracy starts with the determination of the rules and regulations that characterise the desired variant. First, the countryâ€™s constitution spells out the broad outline of how it should be governed. In it, the structure and functions of the national and other electoral bodies are laid out indicating their powers and limitations. Additionally, the National Assembly states, through the Electoral Act, how the electoral body should carry out its duties in more details.
The issue that troubles the mind of most Nigerians is the reluctance of President Yarâ€™Adua and the National Assembly to pursue electoral reforms, against the background of what happened in 2007.
WHAT is holding them back? Do they want INEC to rush up things again and end up with other disastrous general elections in 2011? What is their game plan? The impression being given is that Nigerians should once again fold their sleeves and wait for other rofo rofo elections in 2011.
Because democracy is not solely founded on the legal process, but free expression of choice at election times by the citizens as to who should govern them, the Nigerian practice of depending on the law courts to determine winners and losers of elections is an aberration that must be corrected, particularly at the 2011 general elections. The only way to achieve this is for our electoral process to be reformed, so that the results of our elections will be acceptable to the people.
Unfortunately, this highly desired goal seems not to be the intention of President Yarâ€™Adua and the PDP-controlled National Assembly. INEC also toes the same line, acting as a PDP parastatal.
As the 2011 general elections approach, many Nigerians see ominous signs in the horizon, indicated by the non-challant attitude of the incumbent power mongers towards free, fair and acceptable election sin 2011. Ultimately, the status-quo might be maintained as the country will descend into another political brouhaha thereafter.
An intriguing observation highlighted at the beginning of this piece is the absence of serious preparation for the 2011 election by the presidential and governorship aspirants. Where are the presidential and governorship aspirants? Is it not getting late for them to declare their intention to contest those elections?
If the current trend continues, Nigerians should not expect anything drastically different from what happened in 2007 at the 2011 general elections, because the presidential and governorship aspirants are waiting for the Godfathers within the political parties to anoint and install them at election time. Of course PDP will hold sway again by this process.
When will Nigerians be able to freely choose those who govern them, using a truly democratic process? Painfully, I do not see this happening in 2011.
Dr.Tosanwumi, a commentator on national issues, writes from Warri, Delta State.