Barely two weeks after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), released the time-table for the 2019 general elections and with just a year to the elections proper, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Electoral Matters submitted its report on the electoral process which recommended an amendment to the Electoral Act of 2010.
The bill on the amendment, which has passed its first reading, proposes an alteration in the sequence of the elections. According to it, the National Assembly election will hold first, followed by Governorship and House of Assembly. If passed into law, the Presidential election will be conducted last. In INEC’s time-table, Presidential and National Assembly elections were billed to hold first while the Governorship and House of Assembly elections are slated to hold later.
Election is an important part of any democratic process that enables the citizenry determine fairly and freely who should lead them at every level of government periodically. It is the expectation of the electorate that the government that emerges at the conclusion of the process will take decisions that would determine the economic, political and social wellbeing of the people. It is from this perspective that both the National Assembly and the INEC should exercise due diligence and ensure that the process is not affected negatively by any rash amendment.
Ordinarily there ought not to be any misgivings over the proposed amendment to the electoral act. On the contrary, it should be a welcome development in the hope that it will serve to refine the system beneficially. However, in this instance, there is a worrisome development which has to do with the time it will take to effect the proposed amendment. This calls for accelerated amendment so as to avert any logistic catastrophe that may arise in implementing the amendment.
Free and fair election serve the purpose of legitimizing any democratic government and the integrity of the election is part of the criteria for assessing the level of consolidation of the democratic fundamentals. Elections are therefore as vital and indispensable for determining the democratic nature of a political system and ensuring national security. When election is not managed quite satisfactorily, it can pave the way for loss of legitimacy of elected authorities, protest, violent contestation, social explosion, and doubt about institutions and instability or even threaten the entire process.
Therefore, desirable as the amendment may seem, it should be managed properly when considered that in Nigeria’s peculiar political environment, the electoral process can spin off into a real and prolific source of conflicts, violence, insecurity and instability.
As the proposal must enjoy concurrence of both chambers of the National Assembly for harmonization and will require inputs from states, the National Assembly should, as a matter of national interest, consider the time it will take to effect any changes.
The priority of all stakeholders should be the success of the 2019 general elections. Both the National Assembly and INEC should look beyond 2019 and ensure that the right procedure is followed. The nation cannot afford to get a less credible elections.
As the nation prepares to go to the polls, there is need for proper planning and thorough implementation of the plan. The National Assembly must recognise the limits of rhetoric and expedite action on the aspects of the Electoral Act that needs to be amended.
The law says INEC should conduct elections according to provisions of the constitution and the electoral act. In our view, the National Assembly should have consulted INEC on how far it has gone in the preparation for the 2019 general elections before coming up with new amendments. Nothing should be done in a hurry but things should be put in place to ensure that we don’t get it wrong.
What makes democracy appealing is the democratic process. The legislature should as a matter of national duty, speed up the process and the executive should ensure timeliness in enacting it.
Late timing has marred conduct of previous elections. The announcement of the 2019 electoral calendar is timely but late alterations can adversely affect the whole electoral process. INEC should ensure that the voter registration process is not characterized by abysmal failure to assemble adequate registration, equipment, personnel and sufficient publicity about the process.
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