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INEC and Nigerian elite formation electoral politics

By John Amoda
IS’HAQ Modibo Kawu summed up in the following the import of the imminent gubernatorial elections in Edo State in his Vanguard Thursday, July 12, 2012 column.

“How the election plays out will give a broad indication of the progress on the route of democracy consolidation as well as the preparation of the political opposition to provide an alternative platform to the PDP in 2015. The baseline is that the Nigerian nation’s ruling class project has become a danger to the survival of the country itself; unfortunately, not even the political opposition can escape culpability for a significant share of the problems dogging our country.

If the electoral process does not implicitly deepen confidence, that it can be used to remove bad government and reward those working in the interest of the people, even the legitimacy of the entire process will be lost. The alternative of violence killing and de-legitimization of Nigeria will spiral out of control. Edo’s election this weekend concerns all of us”.

All of the above judgments are unified by a theory of liberal democratic constitutionalist electrocracy. The theory is not derived from the interests of political parties engaged in vote collection for office holding. The first fact in support of the above assertion is Nigeria’s opposition-less electoral politics. From the era of Nigeria’s colonial parliamentary politics till date, there has always been one nationally dominant party serving as the convener of a government of national unity.

There has not been oppositional politics, where the opposition organises a national consensus on alternative legislative agenda of government business. Oppositional politics as thus defined is intra-governing elite politics and an expression of factional differences within the governing elite.

Elite factional electoral parties competing for majority control of government contest for support of electorates unified on interests that government should serve and are capable of holding government to account. A responsible electorate able to monitor government’s loyalty to its interest and to punish a disloyal government at the polls is what Modibo Kawu has in mind when he writes as follows:

“If the electoral process does not implicitly deepen confidence, that it can be used to remove bad government and reward those working in the interest of the people, then  the legitimacy of the entire process will be lost”.

Nigerian electoral parties are, however, not elite factional electoral parties. Nigerian electoral parties are elite formation parties. Elections they engage in are processes of contestation for proprietary control of government, which in turn is established for proprietary control of society and its economy. Given the purpose of government and its endowed capability, opposition politics is precluded.

The “political opposition” must in the interlude between elections organise for the takeover of government, a process that threatens “Government”, for the office and the officeholder are treated as one. Monitoring elections of elite factional politics is thus structurally different from monitoring a “take-over-of-governments” elections. Factional electoral politics admit of third parties’ interest in the conduct of parties.

Proprietary electoral parties structures the electorate into “Us” and the ‘Enemies”, into “Friends and Foes”. A constitutionally prescribed INEC must, therefore, improvise its mediatory relevance. The headline of Vanguard Thursday July 12, 2012, is corroborative. In red letters Vanguard describes the election:

Edo Guber Battle

-Deployment of 3,500 soldiers splits Reps.

-Edo gets new Police Boss, Area Commanders, DPOs

-IGP, Jega, warns stakeholders as House reconvenes today

The Vanguard story conveys the frenzy of amoral contestations typical of sectarian ideological wars.

“There was chaos in the House of Representatives, yesterday, as rival party members took strong partisan positions over the deployment of troops ahead of the Edo State gubernatorial election. The uproar ensued as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar vowed at a stakeholders party at Benin that this weekend’s election would be used as a test run of the pledge to ensure free and fair elections in the country… Jega and Abubakar on the occasion addressed serious concerns raised by the leading candidates, Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN and Charles Airhiavbere of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over plans to rig the polls.

Among the observations raised by Oshiomhole were that the PDP was mobilizing fake soldiers and policemen and equally distributing fake voter’s cards for the election… At the end of the meeting as the IGP prepared to board a plane back to Abuja, he directed the Commissioner of Police (Operations), Mr. Femi Adenaike to take over as the new Commissioner of Police for Edo State.

All the Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers, DPOs were also affected. The Police Service Commission, PSC, also yesterday said that it is deploying top officials of the Commission to monitor conduct of policemen during the election.

The Commission has also released telephone numbers through which malfeasances by policemen could be channeled… The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, also warned that any plan to use the security agencies to rig the election would lead to strong reaction from the populace”.

This militaristic security framework of elections is typical and not an exception. It is so because what is at stake is not change of officeholders but something much more- the control; and command of Edo State by an ownership government. Monitoring elections where inclusion and exclusion in elite formation is what is at stake for the next four years is different from monitoring elections where the electorate decide who would be voted for or voted against.

The Edo guber election is not a confidence building event on the effectiveness of elections to remove bad office holders and to reward good officeholders; it is a test of whether governments can be removed by means other than war.

It is evident enough that “the do or die” electoral politics constitute another security threat to the Nigerian society; but it is not the primary threat.

The primary threat to the Nigerian country formation project is the failure of the Nigerian political elite to realise that the spate of insurgencies in the country is reducing government’s span of ownership control of the Nigerian polity. The Edo guber election may unfortunately not teach this much needed lesson.



Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.