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Agenda of electoral reforms 2011 and beyond

By John Moyibi Amoda
THE  elections were not primarily for selection of persons for office in the colonial government but for the transfer of ownership of the British colonial estate from the British Government to Nigerian colonial parties organised to contest the elections.

The value of all subsequent elections was thus determined by this non-repeatable British government 1959 Nigerian elections. Since 1959 elections have been used to effect succession to rights of ownership of the Nigerian society or portion thereof through ownership control of governments, be these national, state or local as in the Nigerian instance.

This is why the value of elections in post-colonial Africa where independence from colonial rule was effected through what we have termed transitional elections are not elections into office but for ownership or proprietary control of governments.

Thus, the politics of elections that give rise to issues addressed by election reforms are the politics of proprietary control of governments. And in post-colonial societies whose independence was effected through transitional elections, ownership of government is identical to ownership of the society.

The European Union or the United Nations or American interest in elections in Africa ought, therefore, to be informed by comparative appreciation of proprietary politics in general and knowledge of their own country experience with proprietary politics.

Elections in Africa are serving many purposes, including the resolution of conflicts over state power. In our times, the politics of proprietary control of governments is structurally similar to regime change wars as instanced in American and NATO engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the aim of regime change wars is to wrest control of societies from the ruling parties.

Regime change wars are thus wars fought to destroy existing sovereigns and to establish new sovereigns in their place. This is how historically ownership of society has been established.

Against this history of sovereignty politics, it can be apprehended why elections in Africa’s post-colonial societies are a variant of sovereignty politics, for the goal of historical and contemporary regime change wars and African elections are identical.

What must therefore be borne in mind in the conduct of African elections as opposed to NATO countries elections is that Africa’s election parties are not the same as NATO countries election parties. In the latter, these parties are organised for control of the administration of government, not the ownership of government.

Western election parties are structurally factions of a ruling class party or a coalition of parties with harmonizable interests in sovereignty. These parties are in agreement about the relevance of the instituted governments for the governance of their societies.

Thus these parties seek office holding in order to establish control of the administration of government, all being members of the class with sovereign power in their societies

African Post Colonial Election Parties on the other hand are each individually parties with interest in sovereignty and organised to institute exclusive sovereign proprietary control over government and society. Elections in Africa therefore are sovereignty politics and are the legitimation of proprietary interests in power. They are as such constitutionalised regime change wars. The wonder therefore in African Elections is the muffled nature of the armed violence of regime change wars.

This deconstruction of African post colonial elections follows from the functions assigned to elections by the international community in Transitional Elections in Africa. The value assigned to elections by-African election parties are values that American or European state power parties sought to realise in their contestations for power. NATO knows the difference between constitutionalist intra ruling class elections and regime change wars as are being waged in Afghanistan.

Such an understanding must be applied to the appreciation of African election-related violence, rigging and other abuses of the rules of election. The reader of this exposition of the logic of African Elections should exercise some diligence in appreciating the distinction being made between elections into office of governments and elections which are only formally elections but serve the functions of state power contestation. Why this is the case is another question to be subsequently addressed as an issue of the resolutions of state power conflicts.

How to constitutionalise and democratise election party competitions (3)

THIS accounts for the salience in Nigeria of the call for renewed federalism
in an attempt at transformating the unitarist structure of government and governance of Nigeria traceable to military rule.

Against the appreciation of the Nigerian political instance of an African governance challenge, the call for the reform of the Iwu INEC is a call for a 2011 transitional election to effect a constitutionalisation of election competition. Laudable as such an aim is, it is important that the context must not be a hypothetical one but of the condition prevailing. A fair and free election means an election where the following is the case:

The elimination of the inequalities between those in power and in office and those aspiring to be in power and in office:
“Contextualizing elections into office in the democratization of control over the state and the economy;

“The transformation of INEC into a body that does more than umpires elections; it must have the power to protect the rules that define elections and that govern electoral activities.

“The parties must constitutionalise their competitions for power.

This last proviso is the kernel of the problem.  President Jonathan has given firm promise about the 2011 elections reforms. To ensure that these elections amount to change of the game elections reform can either be third party instituted or by parties-in-the election competition instituted.

Given the present condition of 2010, a third party instituted change of order elections will heat up the system, for incumbents both of parties in power and individuals in office will see that such elections in the light of their zero-sum consequences; the risk is that all parties and office seekers will then openly abandon the rituals of elections and apply the rules appropriate to struggle for power. Governance under such circumstances is likely to be subordinated to the value of power sharing conducted adhoc.

The violence associated with a free for all recourse to armed control of constituency may under these circumstances threaten the stability of society and government. The consequent disorders can prompt the same international community now calling for free and fair elections to call for praetorian interventions to prevent civil wars and or the anarchy of war lords.


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