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Okwadike Ezeife on the survival of democracy

By Eric Teniola

Dr Chukemeka Ezeife, The Okwadike, (79) was the elected Governor of Anambra state in 1991. Before then he was a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service. On February 6, 2002, Dr. Ezeife presented a seven page paper at a retreat organised by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The paper is hereby republished.


He declared: “INEC makes a mistake if it considers itself a mere umpire. The quality of elections and voting define the democratic credential of a political system. Just as INEC does not attain “independence” by having the word “Independent” in its name (indeed, we should drop the word which sounds puerile), a political system does not become democratic merely by the fact that there are elections and voting. We are familiar with some “great democracies” where the single candidates score upwards of 99.9% of the votes cast.

The point is that if true democracy is to be indigenised in Nigeria, INEC must play interventionist role in party structure and organisation. It must help make our democracy truly democratic. And this should start with the party structure, organisation and internal operation. INEC must impose democratic methods on the political parties. Let the membership of the party, and not party oligarchs, (s)elect the party’s candidates for general elections, through a direct primary system. And the INEC must concern itself with, and should supervise, such direct primary elections. This is returning to the grassroots democratic system of the IBB regime. There should be no apology in doing so. The system progressively reduced election rigging and finally produced the freest and fairest election ever conducted in this country: the June 12 Presidential election of 1993.

Parties  may “register  with” INEC and not INEC to register the parties. But INEC conducts the elections. It must have guidelines for the parties to qualify to appear on its ballot papers. Such  guidelines  may include some constitutional provisions which may be made uniform or identical for all the participating parties – like uniform rules for the selection of candidates. Of course, we know of persons, whose heavy funds control, will push and induce to oppose this democracy development suggestions. They will hide behind a nebulous concept of independence of political parties. The society must care for what the parties do! Parties must not be secret clubs, limited liability companies, the stakes should be fairly equal for members.

I suspect that a new element may introduce more violence on the political system. After a Judge granted an injunction in the course of the PDP Convention in Year 2001, I wondered aloud, in the presence of some leaders of the Judiciary, whether the case involved in the application for injunctions concerning an event which involves massive mobiliszation of the people, could not be heard after the affair, retroactively, and the result of the affair voided if the case has the necessary merit. Where the case turns out not to have merit, of course, this approach saves money, time, emotions and perhaps, lives! The leaders of the Judiciary shocked me when they suggested that the court should not even be interested in such party matters.

The case should thus not have been justiciable to begin with. This view should not be sustained. The courts must play a rote or dogs will roast dogs for dinner! Now, the party has a constitution; it is the contract between members; and it is lodged with INEC as a requirement. What is in it for the member? The consideration is the right of the members to aspire to political offices if they qualify according to the constitution and to be presented and supported by their party. Should this constitution be raped to the detriment of a member, are we saying that the member should use his own devices to confront the rapists? What should he do? Go buy acid? I believe that certain happenings within the party should be justiciable. The party is not a secret society! We encourage violence when we discourage justifiability!

The parties may give unto themselves rules and regulations. The application of, and adherence to, those rules and regulation should be of interest to the larger society which also bears the brunt of eruptions within the party. The eruption in AG in 1962, has kept the Nigerian head still bowed! The reverberations of the crises in AD may go beyond the true weight of the party in the polity. Whether the rules have been applied or not applied must be justiciable. Basic to the violence, thuggrey and all the iniquities in politics, given the natural greed and selfishness of persons which make fairness and justice mean only what favours the person, basic to all these, is a completely wrong conception of politics as a field of activity outside the sphere of morality, religion and God. Here, I quote my New Year message for 2002.

“The ignorant says there is no morality in politics, that politics is the zone of the filthy, where anything goes – the abode of demons! This just cannot be true, Politics is God’s vineyard. Because politics deals with the affairs of men, the highest of God’s creation. None can escape the judgement of God on things done in politics. Therefore, onward Godly soldiers, marching as to war, against the filth of our politics”.

Given the wrong conception of politics as a zone “minus God” there has been nothing Nigerians have not done to be declared winner of elections. In the First Republic, the most important weapon was the “returned unopposed technique”. This is the technic whereby the returning officer shamelessly  dodged the virile and alert candidate from the unfavoured party until the nomination date passes. It led to the boycott of the 1964 election by UPGA. The census controversy, whose roots were in the quest for electoral dominance, the rumblings from the boycotted 1964 election and the “operation wetie” which followed the 1965 Western Region demonicratic (s)elections, ended the first Republic. Of course, the most naked rape was during the Western Regional election of 1965 when the Regional Radio announced results without regard to happenings at the vote collating centres.

The second Republic was ushered in with electoral controversy and psychological electoral violence – which can be more traumatic than physical violence. The Presidential election was allegedly rigged. But the rigging was not even enough. A special Supreme Court judgement – which must not be used as precedence, brought in 122/3 States formulation. The wobbly Republic ended with the grand, election rigging which ignited a conflagration in the West. An ethnic factor – induced by NPN’s deceitful formula, made matters worse. Bola Ige should lose, Ajasin should lose so that NPN West should qualify to produce the NPN Presidential candidate for 1987 election. Jim Nwobodo went celebrating and lost, but Mbakwe applied the principle that the rat does not eat the food of one who is awake and, helped by the good conscience of the critical electoral officer, he held on to his win. NPN should keep their promise to Alex Ekwueme. Mbakwe was not part of the deal.

The most honest thinkers expected another northern president – that time, elected through PRP! The deed was done. Even Yours Sincerely, as then a Civil Servant, and not having seen the worst of military rule, joined in praying that the iniquities should not last. The end came barely three months after the swearing in of those who were declared winners.

The party primaries during IBB transition were weak and their rigging were in parts massive, but it was possible to get to the truth because the NEC, the SSS, the Police, etc had the results from each polling station. For the Presidential election, the system produced the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. The election could not be rigged; it had to be annulled, and so it was! Violence is normally at a minimum in military- conducted elections, even though election rigging may be maximal. The military decides on whom to hand over government – and proceed to do so. They apply the precision of military planning to ensure that the figures come out right!

The lessons of history point to the following, not exhaustive, requirements to reduce violence in elections.

1) Emphasis must not be winner take all. If possible, offices may be designated for candidates for Chief Executive positions who lose but scored a certain minimum percentage of the votes.

2) The party membership, the INEC and the general populace should be in a position to know which candidates will be submitted to INEC for general elections.

3) Clear rules must be made and they must be fully and rigidly applied.

4) Fair Candidate Selection System, like the direct primary of the Grassroots Democratic System, should be uniformly adopted.

5) Anti-rigging devices should be perfected. The control figure of how many people came out and voted at a pooling centre, must be authenticated by the “Jury” at the polling station.

6) Long enough campaign periods should be allowed during which the “signs” prepare candidates for the ultimate result.

7) Early announcement of results at the polling station. The election Jury at each voting centre – made up of the clergy should complete the authentication of the result at each of the polling booths and announce them before the dispersal of voters.

8) Properly authenticated results at the polling booths shall be considered superior to results on forms that are claimed to be the only authentic ones.

9) The Electoral Law should define electoral offences whose punishment should be ban for life from the electoral processes.

10) There should be no rush to announce the final results. Collation and protestation of field reports from all the Agencies: INEC, SSS, Police, Polling Agents should be given adequate time.

11) Of course, there is the proposal for one tenure of 5 or 6 years. This will reduce the incumbency factor.

Those who put democracy in jeopardy must know that Nigeria has never had a focused and development-craving military dictator. That is the real problem. Not many will mind, if a dictator is focused on growth and development and achieves them. Many countries have grown and developed under dictators who had a craving for growth and development and who easily mobilised men and material for the achievement of the goal. Those countries are today democracies. For, it is the case that growth and development end in democracy. Unfortunately, it is not the case that democracy necessarily leads to growth and development! The hen must use kwokom to feed and nurture its young. The kwokom for democracy is truly free and fair, non-violent, non-rigged elections!


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