How to end electoral fraud, by Falae, others

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GUARDIAN

November 2, 2007

 

How to end electoral fraud, by Falae, others
By Clifford Ndujihe

THE recurring incidence of flawed elections in the country engaged the attention of stakeholders at a one-day conference on electoral reform organised by the Arewa Media Forum at Arewa House, Kaduna.

The stakeholders, who decried the effect of rigged elections in the polity, dissected the causes and how the menace could be curbed to better the polity.

Among those at the event were Chief Olu Falae (former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and presidential candidate), Mr. Emma Ugboaja (co-ordinator, Mobilisation and Advocacy, Alliance for Credible Elections), AIG Bashir Albasu (rtd) and Abubakar Siddique Mohammed of the Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

They all restated the need for ‘independence’ of the electoral commission, stopping the president from appointing the Inspector General of Police and implementing sanctions against electoral offenders as the way forward.

Siddique specifically, canvassed electoral, judicial and political reforms to move the country forward. He wants the judiciary to always ensure justice by sanctioning erring judges. He also politicians and the political parties to pursue politics of ideas. On the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he canvassed independent funding appointment of non-party individuals to head the body.

Falae said the 2007 polls were massively rigged. He said: “I consider as an electoral fraud, anything done or action taken or neglected to be taken by any person or organisation which has the effect of distorting or sabotaging the will of the voters in the election, with the consequence that someone else other than the candidate preferred by the electorate emerges as the successful candidate.

“Examples will include failure or refusal to publish the name and/or photograph of a candidate on the ballot paper as required by law. Exclusion of a candidate’s party logo from the ballot, unlawful seizure of election materials, prevention by subterfuge or violence, of voters from getting to vote, counting or collation centers. Declaration of false results, making ballot papers available to certain candidates to the disadvantage of others, either before or during the election; stuffing of ballot boxes with illegal votes before election takes place in favour of certain candidates. Kidnapping of certain candidates or their agents so as to give others an unchallenged opportunity to rig the election; killing or intimidation of candidates, their agents or election officials; etc.”

Stating that electoral fraud was not new, Falae said that what is perhaps new “is the blatant, shameless, and comprehensive manner in which it is planned and the violent, murderous and mindless way in which it is executed. In the past, rigging was devious and subtle but now it is carried out like an open war.”

Recounting past electoral malpractice in the country, he said: “In the recent past, matters went out of hand precisely for the same reasons as those, which informed the unprecedented rigging of 1965. On the latter occasion, the ruling party, the PDP split into two, with former president, Olusegun Obasanjo leading a faction and the then vice-president Atiku Abubakar leading the other. This is similar to what happened in 1962-1965, when the ruling party in the Western Region, the Action Group broke into two factions, one was led by its leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo while the other was led by Chief S.K. Akintola, the deputy leader. Chief Akintola the deputy leader and head of government in the Western Region between 1962 ad 1966, and was able to use government power and resources to rig the election to the disadvantage of his leader and former party. On the more recent occasion, it was the leader, Obasanjo who was in power and control and who was therefore able to manipulate the system against his vice, party and the rest of Nigeria.

“The lessons to be learnt are clear. In any intra-party contest for power, he who controls the apparatus of government succeeds in rigging the other out, regardless of the latter’s position in the party hierarchy. Secondly, in times of serious intra-party struggle for control, those in power virtually suspend the electoral law and regulations and proceed to make elections a “do or die” affair. Thirdly, intra-party disagreements are often a death struggle with destabilizing effects on the polity. This is one of the most powerful arguments against the one-party state. The point needs to be made that the desire to acquire wealth through the pillaging of the treasury is the driving force behind the desperation for power within or among political parties in our country today.

“Before 1999, it was not unusual for holders of high political office like governors to leave office and still remain men of modest means. Many of the governors of the Second Republic from all the parties are living examples of high office holders in this category. By contrast, those who have just left office cannot be said to be men of modest means. How can we describe anyone who has returned billions of Naira to ICPC or EFCC as a man of modest means? So the desperation for power which propels politicians and their parties to commit monumental fraud at election time has as its motive force the desire to rob the treasury and enrich themselves at the expense of the people.”

Solution

“The first thing that needs to be done is to take money out of politics as much as possible. Before 1966, membership of the various legislatures was part-time. This meant that legislators had, and were expected to have their own professions or independent means of livelihood. All that they received by way of remuneration were the attendance and transportation allowances. At that time, legislators saw themselves and were seen by others as bonafide representatives, making sacrifice in the interests of communities they represented. All that changed when membership of legislatures at virtually all levels became full-time with very attractive salaries and allowances. From that time on, financial reward progressively became the most important consideration in seeking public office. In addition to official remuneration, officials like ministers and heads of parastatals seeking approval for their organization’s budgetary proposals, often offered large sums of money to legislators as an inducement for speedy and favourable consideration. Legislators themselves sought and obtained additional largesse in the form of constituency allowances and funds for the implementation of projects in their constituencies, financial provisions that should be expended by the executive through the capital budget. With as much money to be made by means both fair and foul, it is no surprise that contest for public office has become, to quote former President Obasanjo, a “do-or-die affair.”

“The situation is made worse still by mass unemployment. Many unemployed graduates, especially from our tertiary institutions now go into politics and seek election office as a means of procuring employment and earning a living. The question of implementing party programmes to improve the welfare of the people can hardly be expected to enter the consciousness of these job seekers turned politicians. Given the desperation of these people in seeking public office, they cannot be expected to play by the rule and since their very livelihood is at stake, they have no regard for any law or regulation and will do whatever will make them “win” election, fraud and murder inclusive.

“From the foregoing it is clear that if we do not democratize politics in a decisive manner, fraud and violence are likely to persist. But how do we reduce the role of money in the politics of our country? We have tried both the parliamentary and presidential systems of government, and it should be clear by now, that the presidential system does not only put too much power in the hands of a single person at every level of government, it is in addition far too expensive. We ought to consider going back to the parliamentary system which does not put the same financial pressure on office seekers as the presidential system. As in the past, it should be possible to have part-time legislators who will work for and earn their own living outside politics. This measure if adopted will drive most of the political contractors out of politics, and I am sure the nation will be better for it.

“While demonetisation of politics will re-set the stage for politics, a number of more specific measures have to be taken in order to considerably reduce fraud in Nigerian politics. First among these is the composition, mode of appointment and funding of the electoral body, the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). A body which is referred to as “Independent” but which is filled with card-carrying members of the ruling party, is itself, a fraud. For sanity to prevail, every political party must be allowed to appoint a member into the electoral body. Secondly, it is necessary to simplify the process of nomination and election because the present over-bureaucratized system gives room for electoral gate-keepers to fleece candidates and manipulate the process to favour the candidates of the ruling party.

“We need to return to a more open and transparent system that will eliminate the need to carry ballot boxes to collation centres. Such a system was adopted in the presidential election of 1993. The essence of the system is that voters are accredited for a few hours after which the voting station is closed. Thereafter, voters already accredited lined up and ballot papers are given to them on the queue. Each voter then marks the name or logo of the candidate of his choice and proceeds to drop his ballot into the single box provided in full view of everybody. After every voter has cast his ballot, the votes are counted and announced in the presence of all voters present. The official results are then signed by electoral officials, party agents and representatives of the security agencies present. The press is then free to carry every result so declared. It is the result sheets duly signed by those concerned as described above and not ballot boxes, which are then taken for collation. If this method had been used last April, those brigands and armed thugs who invaded voting centres with arms and did just as they pleased with election materials and results nationwide, would have had to contend with about 500 voters at each centre. This would have been a deterrent to a considerable degree.”

Noting that rigging could still occur in spite of these measures, he however it would be easier to be resolved at the Tribunals. And since the Tribunal process is far too expensive for most candidates who feel cheated at elections, he said that, “the ultimate deterrent to electoral fraud in Nigeria I believe is non-violent but determined and unrelenting resistance by the electorate.”

Ugboaja called for stiff penalties against electoral offenders. He said that certainty of sanctions and punishment would serve as deterrent to politicians and persons, who might want to rig polls in the future.

Assessing the performance of the Civil Society in terms of monitoring the 2007 elections, he said that the NGOs performed poorly in the third and last stage of the monitoring exercise.

He identified the stages as Pre-Election Day, Election Day and Post-Election Day. “Post-election day efforts of Civil Society have not marched their pre and Election Day high marks. The people’s sovereignty has been stolen the Civil Society did not however mobilize the people sufficiently to react against this brazen robbery. What is clear therefore is that the April 2007 elections were a sham and a premeditated evil contraption against the Nigerian people. It must also be conceded that Civil Society reaction to such a monumental fraud and affront on the people’s sovereignty fell short of expectations considering the high marks they scored in Pre Election and Election Day activities.

“The mind set that post election reaction should be the exclusive preserve of politicians and political parties must be addressed. It reflects in our laws, it reflects in media reports and it is reflected in the silent agony with which the electorate have borne their April 2007 tragedy. Post election voices of the people is very paramount, if Nigeria is to be the reference point for the conduct of free and fair elections in Africa. There is a strong hunger by Nigerians for a country where their will, through free and fair elections will be the determinant for choosing those who govern the country at all levels. We must achieve the sovereignty of the people over politicians. What we have now is the sovereignty of the politicians over milititians.”

Ugboaja called for a Commission of Inquiry to “investigate, apportion blames and recommend punishments for complicity in the premeditated, systematic and brazen undermining of the 2007 elections. It is after this that any electoral reform can have the desired effects of ending electoral fraud in Nigeria.”

Speaking on “The role of the Police in Election duties,” Albasu said: “The primary role of the police as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution is to protect life and property and preserve law and order. Similarly, it has a duty under the Police Act to prevent crimes to apprehend criminals and prosecute those apprehended.

“This also goes with election duty. The police have a duty to ensure free, fair and peaceful election along with the electoral commission they have to ensure that all elections are devoid of fraudulent activities. Unfortunately, however, since independence, elections in Nigeria have not been seen to be free and fair. In particular the 2007 election has been widely criticized as one of the most fraudulent election in Nigeria.

“The police just like the Independent National Electoral Commission and other organs of democracy have been accused of aiding and abetting the rigging of the said election. The question therefore is what makes the police to succumb to politicians wish as to help in the rigging of the election and what can we do to prevent future occurrences?”

He said that the problem lies in the provision of the 1999 Constitution, which makes the appointment of the Inspector General a sole responsibility of the President.

“The constitution says “the Inspector General of Police shall be appointed by the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria in consultation with the Police Council” while the President has a duty to consult the Police Council he is not bound by whatever consultation held and is not bound to take any advice from them. The President has absolute power to appoint anybody he wishes as the Inspector General of Police. In the exercise of such power in 2002, former President Obasanjo picked up an Assistant Inspector General and appointed him as Inspector General of Police over and above several Deputy Inspectors General and Assistant Inspectors General senior to Mr. Tafa Balogun who were subsequently retired to pave way for Mr. Balogun the president’s choice. Under such circumstances the Inspector General has absolute loyalty to the president and not to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Stories were awash in all our newspapers making great allegations of how Mr. Balogun used the police to rig the 2003 elections so as to retain his post as Inspector General.”

To ensure Police neutrality, he suggested among others that:

 

  • The appointment of the Inspector General should be confirmed by two-third majority of the members of the Senate.

     

  • The operational control of the Inspector General and Commissioners of Police should be regulated by law and not to be left to the absolute wish and caprices of the President who is a politician.

     

  • The Police Service Commission should be an independent body made up of non-politicians. One may suggest that a serving Chief Justice of the Federation should be the Chairman of the Police Service Commission and other members should be retired Inspector Generals of Police who are known to be non-politicians.

     

  • The role of the police during elections should be clearly spelt out by the electoral law and not to leave the police under the control of electoral officers.

     

  • The funding of the police must be seriously improved and the sources of the funding clearly identified. These should include the salary, allowances, housing provisions, after service welfare and sufficient equipment for executing the job.
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