Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
AGENDA FOR POLITICAL REFORM
Former National Deputy Publicity Secretary, PDP
PRESENTED AT A SPECIAL SEMINAR ON POLITICAL REFORM: AGENDA FOR NIGERIA BY THE OFFICE OF THE POLITICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT ON THE 17TH OF MARCH 2004.
Two weeks ago, the chairman of Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission, was cut down in a hail of bullets in an obviously politically motivated assassination, defiling the innocence of the once serene capital city of the then Kabba province.
It was the second time within a week that the country will be waking up to the tragic news of high profile murder following a frightening ambush of the convoy of the Governor of Benue State. These developments combined to raise the specter of violence associated with politics to a new pedestal in the annals of our political history and pushed violence in politics to the center of public commentary.
Both events were also a sad reminder of the increasing volatility of the Nigerian political terrain, which kicked off, with the murder of the late Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Bola Ige, and series of other associated political murder such as that of late Chairman of Kwara State PDP – Alhaji Ahman Pategi, the late Vice Chairman of the PDP Harry Marshal, and the late Senatorial Candidate of the ANPP in Imo State popularly known as OGB and a host of others.
Apart from these high profile political murders, the intensity with which acquisition of political power in Nigeria is being pursued interms of guns and cash, intimidation and manipulation, threats and blackmails have all raised the question as to whether the Nigerian political system is not costing Nigerians too much compared to what it is offering and hence the necessity for reform.
The last election was simply war. It was waged with all the logistics of war and sometimes with the crudity and the barbarity of ancient traditional power mongers.
For those of us who were in the tick of the primaries of the party as actors we were witnesses to an admixture of the inane, the absurd and the un imaginable. In the party primaries candidates emerged under arrangement other than party constitution and guidelines, some emerged as governorship candidate after they have taken oath surrounded by dead bodies in evil ancestral shrines. In the general election stolen money either from public coffer or stolen from the vaults of Banks by those who were licensed as bankers were deployed together with guns and bullets to ‘take over power’. You either had command of the army or police to displace an incumbent or you were an incumbent ready to turn your state into a killing field with your own private army to survive the hurricane.
Those who had no private armies were forced to either align with those who had or were simply politically irrelevant. They were losers vilified by a new tribe of power psychopaths who had emerged as columnist in a section of Nigeria press devoting most of space to tutoring politician in the writings of Nicolo Machieveli and Robert Green. They were the promoters of Mafioso politics today’s acolytes of Nigeria’s Pablo Escobar’s.
Not a few civil-society organizations, patriots, international observers and writers of good will immediately after April 2003 election quickly called for immediate political reform if Nigeria will not suffer a democratic seizure, President Olusegun Obasanjo himself lamented the glaring short-coming of what the Nigeria political system is throwing up at an INEC organized seminar on ‘Agenda for Electoral Reform’ on the 27th of November 2003. Hear him:
“With so much resources been deployed to capture elective offices, it is not difficult to see the correlation between politics and the potential for high level corruption. The greatest loser are the ordinary people, those voters whose faith and investment in the system are hijacked because money not their will is made the determining factor in the election”
The President in this brilliant expose of the effect of the monitisation of politics on the social economic development of the country concluded that there must be reform. Here him again:
“The will of the people can not find expression and flourish in the face of so much money directed solely at achieving victory. Elective offices become mere commodities to be purchase by the highest bidder and those who literally invest money see it an avenue to recoup and make profit politics becomes business and the business of politics become merely to divert public funds from the crying needs of our people for real development in their lives”
What Manner of Reform?
From the above it is evident that the need for reform is appreciated at the highest level of government and civil society. That the office of the political adviser to the President is today organizing this Seminar is an eloquent testimony of a deep appreciation of the necessity for reform. But what manner of reform? By whom for whom and when is the reform? I think this is the reason why we are here.
I am fortunate that my assignment is to speak for 30 minutes as an actor in the political arena, so that I will not attempt the difficult but tempting conceptual and scholarly definitions, I have also been told that I have thirty minutes to make my presentation and I will try to make it twenty minute and donate ten minutes to Professors and holder of PhD’s so they can have enough time.
My other justification for this obviously escapist method is also because the question of political reform is very broad. In its enlarged form it might mean a look at the constitutional system, the party system, the electoral system, the way and manner in which power is distributed among the tier of government, the way and manner in which power is distributed among the arms of government etc.
To save time and maintain focus I will limit the discourse to the following questions:
· How to ensure that the contest for political power center around engendering rapid social economic transformation in order to achieve development and social justice.
· How to ensure basic transformation in attitude of both the electorate and the elected officers in order to achieve good governance.
· How to ensure that the electoral system regain legitimacy as a mechanism to effect change in political leadership.
To address the above questions we shall propose that the reform agenda must look in the following direction (i) Legislative (ii) Attitudinal (iii) Institutional and (iv) Administrative.
Legislative initiative in the area of political reform must aim at achieving the following:
· Providing constitutional guarantees for the independence of the electoral agency in terms of appointment of personnel and funding of the operation of the electoral agencies. It is suggested that the funding of the electoral agencies should come directly from consolidated revenue fund as a first line charge.
· Making electoral offices answerable for electoral crime by ensuring that electoral offences such as aiding and abetting, falsification of result and other act of rigging are punishable under the electoral act.
· Act of violence aided by any politician should be punishable under the electoral act, which may include banning such an offender from engaging in political contest for a period of time.
· There should be an Act regulating campaign finance one of its provision should include disclosure of money received for campaign and also establish a commission to monitor the financing of political parties and candidates and to impose a ceiling from time to time as to how much can be spent on political campaign and elections and for what items. Such an act will also prescribe appropriate punishment for violation.
Never in the history of Nigeria politics as political behavioural pattern been so distorted as it is currently. Practices by political leaders and followers appear to reinforce the worst in us while a dominant section of the media keep promoting these attitudes in their editorial content.
In the last election the kind of fees charged as nomination fees by the dominant parties seem to suggest that party candidature is for the millionaires, this was in contrast to the practice where integrity and record of performance were dominant yardstick. The PDP charged as high as 3million for the governorship candidate as against 100,000.00 naira charged by the founders in 1998 and I know so many people who are governor today who could not on their own pay the fees in 1998.
The absurd thing is that some political editors help in no small measure to promote this in their endorsement of the ‘serious’ and ‘unserious’ candidate. I have chuckled at some of the analysis which rated serious candidate as those able to raise as much as 500 million (35million dollar) for governor ship election an amount very ridiculous for an election even in the richest country in the world the United State not to talk of Nigeria where per capital income is shamelessly low. It absurd that the media in its agenda-setting role does not help to discourage the use of too much money, in fact in some instances the media promoted it by zoning out candidate with integrity as unserious on account of their small ‘personal financial war chest’ ab-initio even before the contest began.
Other associated political practices, which has to be reformed, includes the practice of paying people to attend meetings, rallies and other form of gratification to perform party assignments.
In the days of yore when politics was based on issue and follower-ship secured on account of charisma of the political leaders and record of achievement, party’s were sustained largely by membership due and contribution of rank and file members, today members attend meeting and expect to be paid by sponsors and financiers which in any way does not impose any obligation of performance on political office holder since they see themselves as having settled party members before they got to office.
The attitude change is one fundamental reform which must start now and must be led by not just government but the political parties, civil society organizations, labour, the clergy and mass media through a conscious agenda setting role. Political parties must seek membership dues, which will inturn, make them more accountable rather than relying on sponsorship and the very convenient fund raising and charges and levying of candidate which in most cases are never accounted for.
The process of increasing membership role in party financing will generally play a crucial role in opening a party for inter democracy as an integral part of democratizing the polity itself.
Reform of the Independent Electoral Commission before 2007 election most focus on ways of bringing the Nigeria electoral system in conformity with internationally acceptable standard of Best practice.
Having settle for the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system, Institutional Reform must be immediately embarked upon to ensure that subsequent elections in Nigeria are not only fair but perceived to be substantially fair by all stake holders, the key issues in these must include the following:
· Guaranteeing non-partisanship in the personnel, and staffing of the electoral commission.
· Ensuring that polling booths are fairly delineated and their creation done well in advance of election and their locations properly advertised.
· Up date of voter registration display objection and display of cross checked version by party agent must be done at least sixty days to election and in compliance with the electoral act.
· De-centralization of ballot production system to discourage a situation in which parties not contesting election in certain state will be or the ballot paper in other to minimize wastage.
· Appointment of ad-hoc staff such as presiding officers, returning officers and clerks should be done well in advance of election names of successful candidates displayed at least two weeks to election to enable those who have objections as to their integrity raise such objection before a panel to guarantee fairness.
Police Armed Force and Security Agencies
Year 2003 election saw the drafting of members of armed forces for election duties even under the pretext of the need to arrest violence in politics. Eventually these men were largely accused by various party’s as the arrow-head of intimidation tactics. In future elections the armed forces must be specifically excluded by the provision by the electoral act from election duties.
The role of the police must be seriously enhanced but under a new frame work where the non partisan position of the police is guaranteed through a recomposition of the police service commission, accompanied with legislative initiative to make the police more non partisan and also by instituting a legislative regime that makes the individual police man answerable for his or her action on election duty.
Political Party Reform
An act should be enacted to bring political party nomination processes in conformity with standard democratic practice to avoid a situation where inter party practices stifle internal democracy.
Campaign and Election Finance
There must be an act to regulate party financing, campaign and election expenditure with a view to checking the monetisation of politics. Such an act should establish a commission, and also set up provisions to determine the following issues:
· Maximum expenditure allowed a candidate and political party
· Maximum contribution/donation allowed from an individual to a candidate and to a political party.
· Put in place measures to check vote buying both at party conventions and general election.
· Compelling disclosure of money received for campaign purpose, their source and amount.
We must state from the onset that of all the institutions of state in Nigeria, the Judiciary has demonstrated more determination and will to ensure internal reform of the Justice Delivery System in respect of the integrity of the system.
In the judiciary we see a periodic review of cases of abuse of the system by the Nigerian Judicial Service Commission, which further strengthens confidence in the Judicial System as a genuine platform for resolution of election petition matters especially at the appellate level. If politicians and administrators can demonstrate half the commitment of the leadership of the Judiciary to reform we could immediately begin to exude confidence that Nigeria democracy has arrived.
Nevertheless the process of adjudication of disputes continues to exhibit an intolerable slowness, which in some occasions heighten political uncertainty, tension and instability in government business.
There is a need for immediate reform to accelerate the process of Justice delivery. Necessary legislative and executive back-up to ensure rapid reform of this sector must be provided immediately by all concerned.
So far we have tried to examine the immediate question concerning political reform that can be handled between now and 2007. The other deeper and extensive question concerning the form of government, Presidential/parliamentary, the nature of our federalism, constitutional reform etc etc can be deferred to the future after we have overcome the basic question of instituting a credible and acceptable system of electing those who will represent us in various arm of government on the basis of the current arrangement.
I thank you for your attention.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.