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Viability, sustainability of electoral party in Nigeria and Africa

By John Amoda
IN last Tuesday’s column I argued that any evaluation of multi-party electoral governance in Nigeria must situate such assessments in the history and within the context of the contestation for power between the military and private sector civilian electoral parties.

The military was in office in the following periods, 1966-1979 (13 years), 1983-1999(16 years), total of 29 years and the civilian parties beginning with the Independence first post-colonial electoral parties have been in office 1960-1966, 1979-1983, 1991-2011, a total of 22 years.

Prior to 1999, civilian rule had been terminated within the second term; however, since 1999 civilian-to-civilian transition has been effected twice, from Obasanjo to Yar’Adua-Goodluck, and from Yar’Adua to Goodluck through the electoral process no matter how characterized by observers, national and international. Thus, it may be hoped that finally civilian rule has come to stay.

However, the statement of the army general quoted in the July 31, 2010 Vanguard suggest that any hope concerning the institutionalization of electoral party democracy must be hinged on the subordination of the Armed and Security Forces to the command and control of civilian political parties.

In this piece, I approach this appraisal of the prospects of electoral multi-party governance and democracy from another perspective, while assuming the stable support of the Armed and Security Forces for civilian governmental authority. I ask the question, given an assumed support of the Armed and Security Forces for civilian electoral rule, what kind of contestations are these parties seeking to resolve through the means of election? In so doing, we begin by an appreciation of the 1959 election through which the transition to Independence was effected.

Through such appraisal we seek to show that elections do not perform the same functions in Nigeria as they do, for example, in the United States or the United Kingdom. We therefore seek to go beyond nominal equation in terminology of elections in Nigeria with elections in the United States, to define by contrast the functions that elections perform in both societies.

This is the first task. The second stemming from the first; given differences in functions and purposes served by elections in different societies, we seek to clarify what it is that Nigerian political parties are struggling to effect through elections, purposes which seem indeed to be generic to all Africa’s post colonial electoral parties.

This exercise provides another context for the appraisal of the future of political parties and democracy in Nigeria. In this piece, I therefore interrogate the proposition that conducting fair, free, and transparent elections guarantees the general acceptability of election results.

The June 12, 1993 and the recently concluded  2011 May /June elections suggest we go deeper in search for answers to questions of effective management of conflicts over power and authority in Nigeria.

How do we know this? Because of June 12, 1993 election. In that election, when the populace was given the choice, they chose a process of free, fair and transparent elections.

The outcome of this election was, however, rejected by the dominant, albeit faceless, cabal of the political class. In rejecting the results of that election, this cabal also rejected the process of fair, free and transparent elections. In so doing those who caused the annulment of June 12 election underscored the fact that the June 12 Elections had not resolved for them their conflicts over power. Where rigging and other electoral malpractices were drastically reduced, why were the results not accepted?

This is thus the issue that the June 12, 1993 presidential election brings to the fore, calling for explanation that go beyond procedural accounts. The electoral process that led to the election of Abiola and Kingibe was deemed free and fair but its result was not acceptable to the “annullers”, the political sovereigns. The will of the sovereign and not those of the voters prevailed in the annulment of the June 12 election.

The obvious inference from the rejection of the results of the June 12 election is that the conflicts supposedly to be resolved by the procedure of a fair, and transparent election were not resolved. From this postulation a general question can be asked because the June 12 “Annulment” is replicated in the nearly universal tendency of African losers of elections to reject the electoral process.

We may hypothesize as follows, that African elections do not address the conflicts that they are supposed to address in NATO liberal democracies. How are we therefore to understand Africa’s endorsement of Liberal democratic elections as conflict resolution procedures?

My suggestion is that we see the choice by Nigerian politicians of elections as deliberate policy of converting their differences over who rules Nigeria into differences over who governs Nigeria. Who rules issues are issues of proprietary sovereignty, issues of exclusive ownership; Who governs issues are policy issues on the administration of the authority of instituted governments; who rules politics is therefore different from those of who governs.

The Colonial British administration inaugurated this effort at converting who rules politics into who governs or who administers politics. Dr. Abel I. Guobadia in his Reflections of a Nigerian Electoral Umpire highlighted this British innovation, in its decision to effect the transition of Nigeria from colonial to self rule through the medium of elections. We quote him: “I was a civil servant, an education officer, in the service of Western Nigeria Regional Government at the time of the December 1959 Federal elections.

Though we had self rule in the three regions which then made up the country we were still a British colony governed under the parliamentary system. The elections were for the purpose of electing a Federal Government to whom the colonial government would hand over power on October 1, 1960 in an independent Nigerian nation.

At stake were the seats in the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate. The Leader of the political party with the highest number of Representatives was invited to form the government.


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