By John Amoda

TRANSITIONAL  elections are thus only one of several ways of effecting reform of the political order. Separatist movements are another way of achieving the same result. Revolutions are another way of effecting change of political order.

The validators of the scheme of colonial Transitional Elections were the Imperial Colonial Governments, not the electorates constituted of the colonial parties and colonial subjects. For it is the imperial colonial government that owned, structured and ruled the colony as parts of the Empire.

It is the Imperial Government that agreed to cede sovereign control of the state in the colony of Nigeria to the parties the imperial government recognised as the “winners” amongst the parties contesting the elections. More than voting for office holding are involved in Transitional Elections whether these be effecting transition from colonial rule to post colonial rule or from transition from civil war partion of societies to post civil war unification of societies and post civil war constitutional rule. Ownership of government and society, sovereign control of the state are at stake in Colonial Transitional Elections. An understanding of the colonial order is an imperative in recognising what was on offer in colonial transitional elections.

Mahmood Mamdani in his classic study of Politics and Class Formation in Uganda (1976 Monthly Review Press) describes what was effected in Africa as colonialism and what the cession of colonial sovereignty to Transitional Election Parties implied. According to Mamdani:

“Colonialism is the implementation of a state apparatus in the conquered territory. The colonial state was a geographical extension of the metropolitan state; it was directly subordinate to the latter. Empirically, this appeared as the subordination of the Colonial Governor to the Colonial Secretary, and of the colonial bureaucracy to the Colonial Office. Simply put, the colonial state represented an absentee ruling class, the metropolitan bourgeoisie, and it performed the functions of both state and ruling class in an ‘independent’ nation” (page 142).

What in effect was agreed to and executed as the December 1959 Federal Elections in colonial Nigeria was the reform of the Metropolitan State of Imperial England so as to institute the ownership of the Nigerian Elected Parties over the colonial state in Nigeria. The colonial government performed and was so instituted to perform the functions of both state and ruling class in an “independence” nation. Ceding sovereign control of the colonial government to the elected parties, was empowering the parties to use the control of the colonial government to constitute themselves into the post-colonial ruling class through their control of the state in the colony. This was what was at stake in the December 1959 elections. It was not individuals that were contesting those elections; it was parties; parties that would own the post- colony, rule it without the control of the “people”.

It was the post- colonial rule by the parties that were declared winners by the British Colonial Office umpire of those elections that was the prize being contested for. The British and their Nigeria colonial successors participating in the Transitional or Exit Elections could not establish the process of change of the rulership of the First Generation Transitional Parties through elections, because sovereigns are not established by elections but by state power.

Incumbency was therefore structurally despotic and dictatorship of the “winning parties” in the Federal and Regional governments was implicit in the Transitional Elections agreement between the Colonial Office and the Colonial Administration in Nigeria.

Thus the emergence of the problems of the post-colonial Nigeria, namely:

“How to effect internal democracy within the ruling parties;

“How to share power with new parties not represented in the first only Transitional Elections from colonial to post colonial rule;

“How to constitutionalise and democratise election party competitions over control of governments;

“How to constitutionalise party control over the apparatus of the colonial state, control over which was transferred to them by the Colonial Office;

“How to reform the colonial government for post-colonial rule, post-colonial legitimacy, internal and international;
“How to transform colonial subjects into democratic republican citizenry;

“How to transform the colonial economy into nation-building economy;

“How to institute nationalist patriotic political class.

These eight issues and the conflicts arising out of efforts to resolve them short of recourse to civil war, inform all elections in post colony Africa. These are the issues that any reform of elections address whether explicitly or through the contexts and constraints within which Election Umpiring take place. They provide a perspective for addressing the expectation of such friendly concerns as those expressed by the Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson.

They are the referents for critical appreciation of the Justice Uwais Report and prescription for reform that can be derived for its implementation. Elections Reform anticipatory of 2011 must therefore address some of the issues raised in this analysis of Nigeria’s December 1959 elections, for Nigeria is only an example of the politics of election in Africa.

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