A few hours after Pastor Enoch Adeboye spoke at the monthly Holy Ghost service early last Saturday morning, admonishing Nigerians to embrace peaceful conducts, some very disturbing occurrences pertaining to political transition occurred in some parts of the country. As I viewed the video clips, I was amazed and disturbed. Amazed because I never thought gaily dressed people who appeared responsible could engage in the shameful acts that were transmitted on television and other channels of communication. It seemed to me that I was watching a film in which late magician, Prof. Peller featured as the lead actor. I was disappointed because the film of that event would have gone all over the world as dispatch from foreign Missions in Nigeria, aside the damages done by circulation on social media.
I wondered why we have to play politics this way. So many thoughts ran riot in my mind. Is it because of poverty? Is it because of desperation as a result of the privileges accruing to the political class? Would we have performed better in a Parliamentary system that would radically alter the governance structure and prove to be less expensive? I am not a lover of violence by any interpretation; and those who know me closely every so often brand me a feeble-minded person; and I am always quick to agree with them. I always think within me that if only they experience what I witnessed in 1964 and 1965 during the Western Region political crises, they would never pray for peace to be disturbed. I will replay just one of the incidents.
My late father, Hon. S.T. Adelegan, was deputy-speaker, Western-Region Legislature and acted as Speaker for the better part of the post-emergency Western Region. Occasionally, he travelled incognito from Ipetu-Ijesha to Ibadan, so as to avoid the unknown, changing cars for strategic reasons. About 8.00pm one day, about five (5) thugs drove into our premises brandishing dangerous weapons. My mother and siblings were elsewhere because we sometimes never stayed together because of riotous situations. I was the only person with our dad when the thugs arrived. Dad and self were seated in the living room. We had three nightguards who were great hunters. As the thugs jumped down from their vehicle, they started calling themselves: eku (rodent) eiye (bird)) and all sorts of names by which they identified themselves; dead drunk. The hunters confronted them and prevented the thugs from entering the living room where my dad and self were seated. Suddenly, the hunters and the thugs started chanting incantations, with each side stating why something was so at a period in history; and why it was not so at another point in history. Both sides attempted to disprove themselves. At the end, the thugs concurred and admitted the superiority of the three hunters/nightguards.
The thugs pleaded to be allowed in just to see our dad to give them a bottle of hot drink. On seeing our dad, their leader said: You are an extremely humane person who is always helping people. We never meant to come here to do any harm and nobody in this area would ever attack you. They said they were coming from Ile-Oluji, Ondo State, and showed the hunters the head of a human being they had just beheaded! With the request for a bottle of schnapps granted, the thugs requested that the head of the hunters/guards known as Baba Uberu should pour libation and pray for them. May be because of his superior knowledge of incantations. Thereafter, the thugs left. That incident occurred in 1964, shortly before the Federal Elections of December 1964. With this type of experience (and that is just one of the several incidents recorded) who would blame me for detesting violence? And in any case, how would anybody see me and ask me to go and be smashing ballot boxes and shooting at venues of electoral contests because that person wants to govern? I reasoned that this feverish struggle might really be the result of poverty. But does poverty becloud the sense of reasoning of people? How would a contestant be seated in his or her house with his or her family far removed from the scene of disturbances and give me a miserable amount to go and be fighting his or her cause.
THE GLOBAL RULES
Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator, at the Launch of UNDP Report, Humanity Divided: Confronting Inequality in Developing Countries in January 2014, pointed out that: The first few lines of the UN Charter emphasize the determination of the United Nations to reaffirm the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
ELECTORAL REFORMS AS THE RECIPE
In August 2007, ex-president Umaru YarAdua set up a 22-man committee headed by Justice Muhammadu Uwais, GCON (CJN, 1995-2006) to undertake a review of the electoral system and suggest ways of reforming it. It concluded its job in December 2008. In his address while submitting the Committees Report to late President Umaru Musa YarAdua, Uwais stated that one of the Terms of Reference was to ensure that we raise the quality and standard of our general elections and thereby deepen our democracy. Muhammadu Uwais had on his Committee eminent Nigerians like Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, former Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith; former Nigerian Bar Association President, Olisa Agbakoba, former INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah and Prof. Grace Alele Williams. The following form part of the covering letter read by Hon. Justice Uwais at the ceremony:
2.In order to carry out this assignment effectively, the Committee consulted widely with individuals, institutions and governments. The Committee sought for and received a total of 1466 memoranda from the general public. The Committee also held public hearings in two capital cities in each of the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory during which a total of 907 presentations were made. Although the Committee shunned overseas travel as a matter of principle, it benefitted from foreign expertise by inviting for interaction, experts from Botswana, Cameroun, Canada, Cote DIvoire, France, Ghana, India, Lesotho, Mexico, Niger Republic and South Africa. The Committee interacted with former Heads of State and Presidents to benefit from their wealth of experience in election matters. The Committee also consulted other stakeholders including State Governments, Political Parties, National Independent Electoral Commission, State Independent Electoral Commissions, Security Agencies, Civil Society Groups, Women Organisations, the Media and the General Public.
3.Having reviewed Nigerias history with problematic elections along the lines specified in its Terms of Reference, the Committee has established that the lack of independence of the Electoral Commissions at both the Federal and State levels is a key deficiency of our electoral process. Accordingly, the Committee has made appropriate recommendations to address the focal issues of the composition, administrative autonomy and funding of the electoral commissions. The Committee has also made recommendations to improve the performance of various institutions and stakeholders in the electoral process. These include the Legislature, Judiciary, Executive, Political Parties, Security Agencies, Civil Society Organisations, Media and Nigerian citizens. The Committee has found that election mindsets are one of the critical elements that determine the success of electoral practices, and the election mindsets of Nigerians are not only largely negative; they are also largely irrational. Appropriate recommendations have therefore been made to change the election mindsets of Nigerians in order to minimise violence and rigging in elections and build lasting democratic institutions and culture.
4.The Committee has examined the strengths and weaknesses of our present electoral process in relation to electoral best practices in countries similarly placed as Nigeria, and made appropriate recommendations aimed at promoting greater inclusiveness and minimizing both pre- and post-election tension.
In October, 2016, the federal government put together new 24-man committee headed by former Senate President Ken Nnamani, to review the electoral environment, laws, and experiences from recent elections conducted in Nigeria and make recommendations to strengthen and achieve the conduct of free and fair elections The Nation Newspaper, in its edition of October 8, 2016, questioned the need to set up another committee arguing that: Dr Nnamani undoubtedly has the intellect, firmness and integrity to undertake the assignment given him and his committee, especially considering his rich and illustrious legislative background and experience; but Justice Uwais also had a rich and enviable resume to carry out the task assigned him and his equally high-profile committee.
Will the National Assembly be able to consider whichever Report of Electoral Reform that is eventually sent to it before the elections in Ekiti and Osun States coming up soon? Some of the recommendations in the Uwais Report require changes in existing electoral procedures, reallocation of electoral functions or creation of new institutions. Where such changes require new legislation or amendments to existing laws, the Committee has prepared appropriate drafts of the required legislation in order to facilitate and speed up the implementation process.
Draft for a Bill for an Act to Amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Draft for a Bill for an Act to Amend the 2006 Electoral Act.
Draft for a Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Commission
If there is an Electoral Offences Commission in place, people would at least fear to commit electoral offences. But that also depends on the preparedness of law enforcement agents to enforce the Law, no matter whoever is involved. How fast we can move to curtail potentially explosive situations would go a long way in helping our nation to avert any crises. In its edition of October 5, 2016, the Punch Newspaper (Jide Ojo) stated that: In the lead-up to the 2015 general elections, the two chambers of the National Assembly voted billions of naira to carry out a comprehensive constitution amendment exercise. A total of 360 public hearings were held across the federal constituencies while another 109 public hearings were held at all the senatorial districts. Memoranda were submitted by different interest groups and eventually when the amendments were passed in 2015 and sent to Jonathan for assent, he refused to append his signature to the bill because, according to him, it was not passed by at least four-fifths majority of all members of each House of the National Assembly as stipulated in Sections 48 and 49 of the Constitution. The President listed 10 other reasons that made him withhold his assent. That was how the billions spent on the Fourth Amendment of the 1999 Constitution went down the drain.
To drive home my point, part of the ERC recommendations was the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission. The Presidency adopted this and the Federal Executive Council in 2012 or thereabout approved the set-up. Yet, the inauguration of this all-important commission that would have helped to sanitise our electoral process has been kept in abeyance.
The last Presidential election would have gone out of hand but for some people that God used to prepare the grounds for peaceful and amicable actions. In particular, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, GCFR played a noble role in concert with some other people and organizations. They could be implored to once again take on that responsibility, starting with the Ekiti State elections, followed by that of Osun State before the big ones come in 2019. Nigeria can be great again.
PROFESSOR ADEBAYO ADEDEJI