As far back as 1934, democracy had been identified as an intricate art and vehicle for civil democratic governance. Democracy, says Lord Stanley Baldwin, is a most difficult form of government – difficult, because it requires for its perfect functioning, the participation of all the people in the country It cannot function well unless everyone, men and women alike, feel their responsibility to their State, do their own duty, and try and choose the men who will do theirs. It is not a matter of party: it is common to all of us, because Democracy wants constant guarding. Baldwin was as far back as 1937 regarded as the most powerful man in British politics, who was Britains Chancellor of the Exchequer; later Prime Minister three times. Baldwin largely dominated the government in Britain between the world wars. So, Baldwin spoke as an authority.
There are several theorists who proffer solutions to problems of political governance by words of mouth. It is very easy to conduct governance in both the public and private sectors by mere suggestions; a feature that is legitimate in the eyes of the Law, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic. But the practical aspects are most times more difficult to implement as a result of several factors. And that is why a social critic might fail as an administrator; but succeed in cynicism and criticisms. Many people love the glamour of political offices and are accordingly attracted into politics without the proper understanding of the requirements for success in political governance. The staging of successive elections in the country has provoked agitations for electoral reforms in the country. Perhaps no issue has been touchier than that of the electoral process, which many participants have condemned on account of the allegation of brazen disregard for the basic rules and transparency.
ELECTORAL REFORM COMMITTEES: Two Committees have in the last ten years been mandated to make appropriate recommendations for adoption and amendment of the constitution. The Muhammadu Lawal Uwais body submitted its Report on Reforms of the Electoral Process in December, 2008. The Senator Ken Nnammani-led Constitutional and Electoral Reform Committee also turned in its Report in 2017. There are recommendations submitted by the two committees with convergence of opinions. The following will be highlighted in this piece for the purpose of public enlightenment. The Reports that we have critically gone through indicate very clearly that all of us Nigerians need to be reformed in one way or the other. Some of the highlights of the two Reports are as follows:
Strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),
Independent Candidacy: The participation of independent candidates in elections. It is believed that this would at least allow for emergence of credible candidates who truly wish to serve the people
Establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission to eliminate incidents of electoral violence in the country.
The use of technology in the electoral process, starting from the collation of voters register to minimize the human elements in electoral process as it relates to manipulation of elections.
The use of technology for the transmission of results of elections other than the use of the manual way of transmitting results.to reduce the human elements of manipulation.
Draft bills to augment provisions of the Electoral Act, establishment of political parties, Electoral offences Commission and establishment of Constituency Delimitation centre
The two committees under reference, deserve accolades for the patriotism exhibited by their members. While the 23-member Muhammadu Lawal Uwais Committee conducted its proceedings locally in Nigeria and refused to travel abroad to gather materials, the Ken Nnamani Committee of 24 people carried out its assignment without waiting for any financial backing from the Federal Government, as Members completed their assignments, utilizing their personal resources; but later requested for the payment of sitting allowances after the conclusion of the assignment. The core areas examined include: sanctions for electoral offenses, specific legal provisions impacting on the electoral process as well as issues affecting the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs). Other commendations are: use of technology in election, diaspora voting, and special access for persons with disabilities. Drafts bills were submitted along with the Reports to accelerate the processes of amending the relevant provisions of the Constitution. The Uwais Committee submitted three Draft Bills while the Nnamani Committee submitted four.
THE WAY FORWARD TOLERANCE & SPIRIT OF SPORTSMANSHIP
& CALLS FOR THE PRACTICE OF TRUE FEDERALISM
The first step towards entrenching an enduring democratic culture and federalism would be a review of the constitution to take into account the peculiar differences and realities of the polity. Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United States, Dr. George Obiozor, in his reflections said Nigerian politicians needed to learn from the American experience. He said Nigerian politicians must be mindful of the transient nature of politics. We should give expression to politics without bitterness. It must not be do or die affair. The nation must be committed to staging free and fair electoral contests. The performances of the current institution charged with conducting elections at the federal level may be considered encouraging given the conduct of former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega whose name has entered the positive pages of history. What next? Attaining the objectives of positioning Nigeria for overall development has over the years tasked the ingenuity, foresight, skill and endurance of successive administrations that have piloted the ship of this State. It is axiomatic that Nigeria must search for self-reliance and economic recovery, if the nation is to weather what looks like hazardous storms that may emerge on the political scene next year.
THE WAY FORWARD
There are Recommendations submitted by the two committees under reference, with convergence of opinions. The following will be highlighted in this piece for the purpose of public enlightenment. The Reports that I have gone through indicate very clearly that all of us Nigerians and democratic institutions indeed need to be reformed in one way or the other.
POLITICAL AND CIVIC EDUCATION
Changing the Election Mindset of Nigerians
One of the areas highlighted as demanding a critical appraisal as contained in the Report submitted by the Muhammadu Lawal Uwais Committee. It noted in part that: In Nigeria today, election mindsets are not only largely negative; they are also largely irrational. Without changing these mindsets, we cannot limit violence and rigging in elections; we cannot stop political assassinations before, during and after elections; we cannot move to a form of politics that places the interests of the country above those of the individual; we cannot build lasting political institutions that will promote peaceful change and democratic governance and a nation that has one destiny.
Without changing election mindsets, politics would not only continue to be business as usual, it will ultimately undermine the very foundations of the Nigerian State. There is therefore a sense of urgency about the need to change the mindset of Nigerians. The change should be comprehensive in scope. It should target the mindsets of the electorate, the politicians, the managers of the Nigerian State, the judiciary, the security services, the media, civil society and of course, officials of INEC. The process will require self-enlightened action on the part of members of the ruling class. It will require courage on the part of INEC. It will require hard work on the part of all those involved. But the benefits will be more than just reward for hard work. Democracy will not only be saved in Nigeria; the Nigerian State itself will be saved.
(a) There is need for all stakeholders to see elections as only a part of a process and not a terminal point in the
development of politics. Citizens need to be assured that Term Limits will always be respected as a means of building confidence. Certainty and predictability have to be introduced into the system, that is, the belief that if we lose, we can try again. In this way, both the winners and the losers can become learners in the game of imbibing political culture. This will make politics a game to be enjoyed, not a war to be fought.
INFLUENCE OF MONEYBAGS: (b) Money bags and godfathers thrive where the State and its influence are absent. Government should therefore take seriously a broad policy of service delivery to prevent desperate politicians from exploiting the prospects of these services to intimidate and blackmail our people into submission.
SANCTIONS FOR MISCONDUCTS: (c) There is the need for serious sanctions and punishment for electoral malfeasance. Political parties that show a proclivity to violence or intolerance in ideology, policy or the kind of candidates they field should be sanctioned.
(d) RULE OF LAW: There is the need to ensure that the laws guiding the electoral body and political parties are in conformity with the fundamental laws of the land, capable of promoting justice It is true that societies that have attained greatness passed through the nation’s kind experience at one stage or the other in their development process.
TERRIFIC HEADLINES submits that it is the collective duty of all Nigerians to seek greatness and work towards the attainment of lofty goals. Nigeria requires Nigerians with strong spirit of dedication, commitment, hard work, patriotism and sacrifice to be able to occupy the front row in the comity of nations. Without any doubt, the resources – human and material – to attain enviable heights are available in the country. Lastly, there is a compelling need for the people to re-examine contributions to societal development through the performance of their civic obligations; and also review past collective efforts with a view to charting a proper course for the future development of the polity. May God help Nigerians.