Recommending Dates and Ballot System

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Recommending Dates And Ballot System For The 2007 Nigerian Elections

 

By

 

Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD

Alukome@gmail.com

Burtonsville , MD, USA

 

 

May 31, 2006

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 

Now that the Third-Term Agenda (TTA) is dead and buried even though the dead body is still stinking up the country   it looks much surer now that the next handover date of this administration will be, God willing,   May 29, 2007, which is a Tuesday.  That better assurance has led to a flood-gate of new presidential and gubernatorial aspirants country-wide, and has more generally breathed new life into the electoral process.  

 
 

INEC Chairman Prof. Maurice Iwu has also found his new voice, with his first post-TTA breath being to pronounce on a window of dates, April 7 28, 2007, within which next year's elections required by the 1999 Constitution must be conducted.  He has also finally dumped the use of the controversial Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in the voting, even though he still maintains that electronic voter registration, voter authentication and result transmission [which, with EVM all comprise his Electronic Voting System (EVS)] still stand.

 
 

 

On Voting Dates

 

 
With respect to dates, Iwu's window is not entirely accurate, however, and reflects a fixed mindset about past election dates.  

 

 
According to Sections 132 (2) (which refers to the Office of the President) and  Section 178 (2) (which refers to the Office of the State Governors) of our 1999 Constitution, we have:

 

 
QUOTE
 
 
132 (2) An election to the said office shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.
 
 
178 (2) An election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.
 
 
UNQUOTE

 

 
If you pick up your calendar for 2007 and count backwards, 30 days BEFORE May 29, 2007 is Sunday April 29, 2007, and 60 days BEFORE that date is Friday March 30, 2007 .  So the correct window is March 30 April 29, 2007, and not April 7 April 28, 2007 .  The one-week gain is important because of the stipulations that TWO POSSIBLE election RUN-OFFS -  each within seven days of the previous inconclusive election -   must be conducted in case the presidential and gubernatorial elections are inconclusive (See Sections 133-135 and 179). Furthermore, with an eye to election petitions, one would wish to have as long as possible time for petitions before the installation date, or at least as  soon as possible thereafter.

 

 

Some Guiding Principles

 

 
Consequently, below, I make three recommendations in order of preference for the election dates in 2007 between March 30 and April 29.   The five principles for making the recommendations are as follows:

 

 
(1) Thursday April 5, 2007 is Maundy Thursday;   Friday April 6 is Good Friday and April 8 is Easter Sunday for Christians.  So Thursday to Sunday of that week should therefore be out as far as elections are concerned.   Eliminating Saturday April 7 also eliminates Saturday March 31, 2007 one week earlier, since a run-off would not be able to be conducted.

 

 
(2) Nothing in the Constitution requires elections must be held on a Saturday, even though that has become a tradition in Nigeria.  Consequently we might require that the FIRST convenient DAY that is NOT a Friday or Sunday (in a bow to religious observations) shall be used for Elections.

 

 
(3) Nothing in the Constitution requires that the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections should be held on the same day.  In fact, the more logical sequence is to have all FEDERAL elections (President/Senate/House of Representative) on the same day, and to have the STATE elections (Gubernatorial/State Assemblies) on the same day.

 

 
(4) In order to eliminate the deleterious "bandwagon" effect of the presidential elections on state elections, the state elections should be held on the same day or BEFORE the presidential elections.

 

 
(5) The preferred dates should be chosen such that the MAXIMUM length of time is left between the last possible date of the last run-off, and the May 29 hand-over date, to give the maximum possibility for resolution of election petitions.   Thus the main elections should be concluded as quickly as possible, possibly on the same day, or within a day or two of each other.  Also, the two run-offs for the president and governors should thereafter be held on the same day to save time.

 

 
Based on the above five principles, the following dates in order of preference are hereby specified:

 

 

Recommendations on Voting Dates

 

 

Recommendation #1

 

 
State and Federal elections are held on two separate dates, with a view of also eliminating the presidential band-wagon effect:

 
* Gubernatorial/House of Assembly Elections Tuesday, April 3, 2007
 
* Presidential/Senate/House of Representatives Elections   Wednesday, April 4, 2007   
 
* Run-off # 1 for Presidential and Gubernatorial Offices - Tuesday, April 10, 2007
 
* Run-off # 2 for Presidential and Gubernatorial Offices Saturday April 14 or Tuesday, April 17, 2007

 

 

Recommendation #2

 

 
All Federal and State elections are held on the same day:

 

* Election Date Tuesday,  April 3, 2007

 
* Run-Off # 1 - Tuesday, April 10, 2007
 
* Run Off # 2 - Tuesday April 17, 2007

 

Wednesdays April 4, 11 and 18 are also possible dates here.

 

 

Recommendation #3

 

Main Elections Done on the Traditional Day of Saturday Only.  If we ignore the April 7 date, then the only possible sequence with the fewest number of election days is as follows:
 

* All Elections  - Saturday, April 14, 2007   
 
* Run-off # 1 for Presidential and Gubernatorial - Saturday, April 21, 2007
 
* Run-off # 2 for Presidential and Gubernatorial - Saturday, April 28, 2007

 

 

On the Recommendation of Time-Stamped, Video-Taped Secret Modified Open Ballot System (S-MOBS)

 

 
The traditional method of voting the world over is to declare a day of election, and to specify a period on that day of voting.   Then voters go in and cast their ballots individually and secretly at any time during that period of day.  The votes are then counted later, generally away from the eyes of the voters.

 

 
However in the now-famous June 12, 1993 elections in Nigeria, which has been adjudged free and fair by most Nigerians, voters lined up over a given period of time (say from 8 am to 12 noon) behind the two ballot boxes of the two presidential candidates.   After that lining-up period, no additional voters were admitted to the line, so that actual counting then began (say from 12 noon to 2 pm), all in public eye, and votes announced on the spot no later than (say) 4 pm.   This was called the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS), more popularly (but wrongly) called Option A-4.

 

 
While that was not a secret ballot, most agreed that it was free and fair:  the results were hardly contestable, even though the entire elections were ingloriously cancelled by the Ibrahim Babangida regime, which   plunged the country into a further six-year crisis.

 

 
Many Nigerians, including members of the National Assembly,  have urged a return to MOBS or a variation of it in 2007.

 

 
However, in the upcoming 2007 elections, there are now 37 political parties, with a possibility that there will be as many as 46 by then.   It would therefore be impractical to expect all voters to line up behind 46 ballot boxes, assuming that each party had its own presidential candidate.   Rather, what we recommend here is a Secret Modified Open Ballot System (S-MOBS) in which all the features of MOBS are in place EXCEPT for the lining up behind ballot boxes. When voting begins, all voters place their marked ballot papers into a single box, from which counting is done and announced on the spot.

 

 
With the availability of voter register per polling booth, one would know the maximum number of votes that can be cast in each polling booth.   Both INEC and independent monitors should be able to ascertain the ACTUAL number of voters that lined up in each polling booth, so that the total number of votes cast can be checked against the addition of all the announced results for the candidates.   However, a further authentication whose cost might take the place of the now discarded Electronic Voting Machine is the use by accredited monitors of digital cameras and video-tapes of the LINING UP and VOTING processes, which films/pictures should be admissible as required evidence of smooth running of elections at each polling booth.

 

 

 
Putting INEC on notice
 
 
Finally, the desperation of Nigeria's politicians to take part in elections no matter the how clear its prospects for failure are provides a recipe for both the Executive and the conniving INEC to sometimes delay processes vital to such a success until the last days before the elections.  The political parties must therefore set CLEAR markers for ascertaining the credibility of the process, and the legislatures should incorporate the following into the new electoral law yet to be promulgated,  namely:
 
 
     * the poll booth identification process:  INEC should (re-)delineate the election wards and polling booths IMMEDIATELY and publish same on their website, say by September 30, 200;
   
     * the voter registration process:  the voter registration should commence without delay, and be continuous until December 30, 2006 (three months before the election window);
 
     *  the voter roll publication process:  INEC's website must at the minimum publish (by January 30, 2007) the roll of voters against each electoral ward;
 
     * the candidates identification process:  all candidates for all offices should be identified at least by February 30, 2007 (one month before the election window).
 
 
When these minimum conditions are fulfilled, then INEC's seriousness can begin to be considered.
 
 
Epilogue

 

 

It is almost trite to state that the 2007 elections are again slated to be another watershed event in Nigeria.  Now that we are almost certain that the Obasanjo administration will no longer be with us after May 29, 2007 , the greatest legacy that it can leave behind with the nation are free and fair elections.

 
 

May God grant our request - and may Man work His will !  [Amen !]

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX

 

Excerpt of 1999 Nigerian Constitution

 

 

 

A - The President of the Federation

 

132. (1) An election to the office of President shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

(2) An election to the said office shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.

(3) Where in an election to the office of President one of the two or more candidates nominated for the election is the only candidate after the close of nomination, by reason of the disqualification, withdrawal, incapacitation, disappearance or death of the other candidates, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall extend the time for nomination.

(4) For the purpose of an election to the office of President, the whole of the Federation shall be regarded as one constituency.

(5) Every person who is registered to vote at an election of a member of a legislative house shall be entitled to vote at an election to the office of President.

133. A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected to such office where, being the only candidate nominated for the election -

(a) he has a majority of YES votes over NO votes cast at the election; and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja

134. (1) A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have be been duly elected, where, there being only two candidates for the election -

(a) he has the majority of votes cast at the election; and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja.

(2) A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being more than two candidates for the election-

(a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election;

and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja.

(3) In a default of a candidate duly elected in accordance with subsection (2) of this section their shall be a second election in accordance with subsection (4) of this section at which the only candidate shall be -

(a) the candidate who scored the highest number of votes at any election held in accordance with the said subsection (2) of this section; and

(b) one among the remaining candidates who has a majority of votes in the highest number of States, so however that where there are more than one candidate with majority of votes in the highest number of States, the candidate among them with the highest total of votes cast at the election shall be the second candidate for the election.

(4) In default of a candidate duly elected under the foregoing subsections, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall within seven days of the result of the election held under the said subsections, arrange for an election between the two candidates and a candidate at such election shall be deemed elected to the office of President if -

(a) he has a majority of votes cast at the election; and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja

(5) In default of a candidate duly elected under subsection (4) of this section, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall, within seven days of the result of the election held under the aforesaid subsection (4), arrange for another election between the two candidates to which the subsection relates and a candidate at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of President, if he has a majority of the votes cast at the election.

 

 

 

                                                           A - Governor of a State

178. (1) An election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

(2) An election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.

(3) Where in an election to the office of Governor of a State one of the two or more candidates nominated for the election is the only candidate after the close of nomination, by reason of the disqualification, withdrawal, incapacitation, disappearance or death of the other candidates, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall extend the time for nomination.

(4) For the purpose of an election under this section a State shall be regarded as one constituency.

(5) Every person who is registered to vote at an election of a member of a legislative house shall be entitled to vote at an election to the office of Governor of a State.

179. (1) A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be deemed to have been duly elected to such office where, being the only candidate nominated for the election-

(a) he has a majority of YES votes over NO votes cast at the election; and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State,

but where the only candidate fails to be elected in accordance with this subsection, then there shall be fresh nominations.

(2) A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being two or more candidates -

(a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State.

(3) In default of a candidate duly elected in accordance with subsection (2) of this section there shall be a second election in accordance with subsection (4) of this section at which the only candidates shall be -

(a) the candidate who secured the highest number of votes cast at the election; and

(b) one among the remaining candidates who secured a majority of votes in the highest number of local government areas in the State, so however that where there are more than one candidate with a majority of votes in the highest number of local government areas, the candidate among them with the next highest total of votes cast at the election shall be the second candidate.

(4) In default of a candidate duly elected under subsection (2) of this section, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall within seven days of the result of the election held under that subsection, arrange for an election between the two candidates and a candidate at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Governor of a State if -

(a) he has a majority of the votes cast at the election; and

(b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State.

(5) In default of a candidate duly elected under subsection (4) of this section, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall within seven days of the result of the election held under that subsection, arrange for another election between the two candidates to which that sub-paragraph relates and a candidate at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of governor of a State if he has a majority of the votes cast at the election.

 

 

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