CONTEMPT for the Code of Conduct which the political parties were supposed to sign, began with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, releasing the document so late that it is irrelevant to the elections.
Issues that the document was meant to tackle, especially the conduct of the parties, and their relationship with each other, are too late in the day, if the document that INEC released last week was to manage them.
How would the code be effective if it is not compulsory? What is the purpose of the code? Since issues the code addresses are the same as the concerns of the Electoral Act why should the parties have the option of signing or not. If a party refuses to sign the code, is it saying provisions of the Electoral Act will not be binding on it? Without answers to these questions, INEC would have failed again to put the process on a firm path.
The refusal of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to sign is difficult to understand. As the dominant party in the country and one its leaders preach commitment to free and fair elections, PDP should sign the code. Its defence that it wanted to study the code is lame. There is no provision of the code that is outside the laws for the elections.
All the provisions are excerpts from the Electoral Act that have been emphasised for their considered importance to the success of the elections. There is nothing new in them, except that all the parties that have a chance act in defiance of the Electoral Act. The code has been available since 2006 with a few reviews.
Why would all parties not sign? Does INEC understand the Electoral Act covers all the issues the code addresses?
Some provisions of the code are, “Political parties and their agents shall not engage in any of the following corrupt practices- forcible occupation or invasion of a polling station, collation centre and INEC office.
“No political party or candidate shall use its power of incumbency to prevent other parties or candidates from pasting their posters or distributing their leaflets, handbills and other publicity materials in public places.
“All parties shall separate party business from government business. As such, parties shall not utilise public resources for party activities and shall not permit any of its sponsored candidates holding public office to use public resources for the purpose of political campaigning in elections.”
INEC chairman Professor Attahiru Jega sounds off thus, “When we hear certain governors are banning other political parties from campaigning in their States, this calls for serious concern and does not augur well for the success of our democracy. We have also read of reports of some media not giving coverage to campaign of opposition parties.”
Is INEC only noticing these defects? Are there no provisions to punish them? When will INEC start using the Electoral Act to maintain the sanity it wants for the electoral process?
Noble as the code is, INEC mismanaged it by introducing it late in the race.