Report of Babalakin Commission Of Inquiry Revisited – Isaiah Abraham

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NEW NIGERIAN

Report of Babalakin Commission Of Inquiry Revisited

 

By ISAIAH ABRAHAM
24 – 03 – 2007

When the second republic politics fell on December31st 1983, the federal military government led by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry headed by Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin to among other things determine the cause of the failure of the now defunct Federal Electoral Commission, (FEDECO) the abuses and short comings of the electoral body which characterised the electoral processes in the republic and to identify the persons responsible for them.

The panel which became popular as the Babalakin Commission of Inquiry was also to identify the role of judges and determine in what ways, if any, the improper applications of the rule of law adversely affected the electoral processes among other eight terms of reference. It’s to determine to what extent government funds were diverted to political parties and identify the channels through which such funds were diverted.

The report observed that many of the political parties as well as individual politicians did not have as much faith in FEDECO as was desirable. The Commission found that this was partly because the mode of appointment prescribed was such that it could be argued that appointees were simply persons who enjoyed the president’s favour.

It therefore recommended that in the composition of future electoral body names of five people acceptable to all the political parties be short listed by the governor of each state and sent to security operatives for screening after which the name of the nominee with the highest support among the political party leaders at the state level be brutted to the president to be appointed a commissioner in the electoral body.

In appointing the Chairman for the electoral body the president was required to shortlist the names of five nominees from among the commissioners that were acceptable to party leaders at the national level according to their merit and if they scale the security hurdle the person with the highest support among the political party leaders becomes the chairman.

The commission also recommended that the appointment of members of the electoral commission and its chairman be done at least three years before an election to enable them prepare their reports , retrieve electoral materials and arrange proper storage.

The commission took a critical look at the electoral processes and the problem of electoral malpractices and observed that there was a need to be fully aware of some of the factors in our national setting which influence those involved in abusing the electoral process.

These according to the commission’s report include the winner-take-all syndrome in our politics, and the consequent over-powering desire to win elections; the absence of a well-established political culture which enables even discredited politicians to stay in power; the fact that for many, politics has been an unfailing avenue to wealth; the factor of rural and urban poverty; and the related phenomenon of political thuggery and finally the very low level of political awareness among the bulk of our people.

The commission therefore recommended that these factors should receive the attention of government as part of the fight against election rigging.

It further observed that the Electoral Act, 1982 came into effect on the 5th August 1982, barely twelve months to the first election in 1983, saying this did not leave enough time for adequate preparations which partly accounts for some of the electoral malpractices of 1983.

The commission recommended that the law to govern future elections must be enacted at least three years before elections are due and that the electoral body must similarly be appointed three years before the election.

On the compilation of voters’ register, the commission observed there were compilation of fictitious names, illegal compilation of separate voters’ list and multiple registration of voters during the revision exercise, illegal printing of voters’ card, registration of unqualified persons, illegal possession of ballot boxes, stuffing of ballot boxes with ballot papers falsification of election results, printing of ballot papers, voting by under aged children, printing of EC8 and EC8A, deliberate refusal to supply electoral materials, results announced where there were no elections, unauthorised release of results, harassment of candidates, agents or the electorate, change of list of electoral officers, tampering with figures, switching of votes and box switching and inflation of figures.

The commission held that those primarily responsible for election malpractices were politicians who were the only entities that stood to benefit from the malpractices.

It further observed that whenever elections took place, Nigerians cry about rigging. Yet, it is Nigerians against whom allegations of malpractices were made.

It stated that our whole attitude to the political game is such that when we cry out against rigging, it is because we have been out rigged. In such a setting, the commission considered that it would be unfair to lay the blame for electoral malpractices on a few persons. For everyone whose malpractice was exposed, there were probably hundreds of others who did the same thing but got away with it.

These and many more observations and recommendations were contained in that report submitted to the federal government about 23 years ago. Whether the nation would rise above these problems. In the 2007 general elections or would remain perpetually with these highly primitive political attitudes is another matter.

During the build up towards the 2003 general elections coalition of opposition political parties under the umbrella of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) lost faith in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when it stated ‘ …We must constantly bear in mind that in the history of Nigeria, there has never been a successful election under successive civilian regimes. A repetition of this sad history stares us in the face when it is understood that by any standards …INEC and the current guidelines are simply the worst’…pointing out that INEC must be dissolved and its chairman removed before he plunges Nigeria into the worst electoral blood shedding, social conflagration, economic destabilisation, political instability and disintegration while accusing the electoral body of illegally turning itself into a law making body.

The political associations dragged INEC to court where it was arm twisted to register the associations into political parties.

Despite lack of confidence in INEC, it went into the elections which the opposition dismissed as fraudulent and for about three years after the election, the results became a matter of litigation which the All Nigeria Peoples presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari fought up to the Supreme Court.

As the 2007 general elections draws nearer opposition parties have again held INEC by its actions and pronouncements taken with a pinch of salt as anxiety heightens in various opposition camps that the election would not be free and fair.

 

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