To Ensure a Credible Election


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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How to Ensure a Credible 'Civilian-Civilian Transition Election' in Nigeria: Need for 'A Level Playing Field'




Professor Omo Omoruyi

Research Fellow, African Studies Center, Boston University  

CEO, Advancing Democracy in Africa (ADA) Somerville, MA 02143   [Former Director General, Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) Abuja, Nigeria]

Being a paper presented at Zurich Switzerland on “Nigeria: the Way Forward” under the auspices of the Nigeria Awareness Group (NAG) held at the Hilton International Hotel, on June 28, 2003.  


       I am most thankful to the organizers of this conference and for the invitation extended to me to bare my mind on any topic of my choice so long as it bears relevance to the Nigerian politics.    I could not think of a topic as timely as one of the matters arising from the recently concluded election.   That would be my contribution to the seminar, “Nigeria: the Way Forward”.  The membership and the vision of the group made me respond positively to the invitation to speak during this conference.   I see the group as a serious organization that wants to explore ways forward.   I am with you in this regard and I shall offer a novel idea within the context of 2007.  


       On the election itself, I am on record as having taken a position with respect to the presidential candidates during the election process.   I endorsed and argued for the election candidate Obasanjo for now.  In the same vein, I argued for the rejection of General Buhari and Dim Ojukwu also for now.   It is a matter of record that I wrote many essays to express my support for candidate Obasanjo out of the 17 presidential candidates.   In the same vein, I argued for the rejection of candidates Buhari and Dim Ojukwu.   These essays were published in various media.   For the sake of those who just read one of the twenty or so essays and formed opinion about me, I decided to publish all the essays in two monographs as “Omo Omoruyi on the 2003 Elections”.   The part 1 deals with the essays during the campaign; part 2 deals with the essays after the election.   They form part of the “Monograph Series on Nigerian Politics” published by Advancing Democracy in Africa (ADA).  

      This paper is therefore not about the recently concluded election but on how to ensure that all Nigerians, political parties and ethnic groups in future are allowed to compete for the highest position in the land.


     Every politician talked about the political problems that would likely occur in the civilian-civilian transition election in 2003 in the light of what happened to previous civilian-civilian transition elections in 1964 and in 1983.   There were three fears that the President and his team wanted to allay in Nigeria.   How President Obasanjo and his team did it is yet to be analyzed.  

       One that Nigerians of my generation would tell the story of how the crisis over the 1964 and 1983 led to the two longest misrule of Nigeria by the military from 1966-79 and from 1983 to 1999 respectively.   Nigerians were frightened with the prospect of the 2003.   Is this not a settled issue today?

       Two was the new issue raised by General Muhammadu Buhari that no winner of the self-succession election in 1964 and 1983 had completed the second term.   General Buhari ought to have appreciated or he should have been told that the political environment today had changed, thanks to the fundamental restructuring that President Obasanjo working with Lt. General TY Danjuma as the Minister of Defense had effected in the armed forces since 1999.  This is why the kind of violent military coup that ended the second term of Prime Minister Balewa in 1966 and of President Shagari in 1983 would not occur to end the administration of President Obasanjo during his second.    General Buhari ought to have also appreciated the nature of the international environment under which democracy is practiced today.   Maybe he did not understand the nature of the Nigerian citizens who would fight to resist any military incursion in politics today of the kind that Buhari knew and operated in the past. 

      Three that no southerner had won an election on the support of Nigerians that included his own who had been allowed to be sworn-in in the past.     There is element of truth in this fear.  

        In 1974 Sir James Robertson confessed in his memoir why and how he prevented a southerner or a coalition of southern politicians from forming government after the 1959 Federal Elections.   He did not want to offend the feelings of Sir Ahmadu Bello who would have taken the north out of Nigeria if he had allowed a southerner or a coalition of southern politicians to form the independence government after the 1959 election.   This was why he summoned Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to form a government before the final results were released and when it was obvious that the Sir Abubakar’s party did not field a candidate in the south.   According to Sir James, the advice he gave to Sir Abubakar was that he should “persuade some of the southern members to support him” and not the kind of coalition that he got involved in later.   For the way Sir James Robertson handled the transition in 1959 see Sir James Robertson, Transition in Africa (London, Hurst and Company, 1974) PP 234-235. 

     The second case was in 1993.   This was when a southerner, Chief MKO Abiola won an election from the support of Nigerians that included the massive support of his own people in the south.   The language that was used in 1993 by the geo-ethno-military-clique to deny this eminent Nigerian his democratic right was no different from the language that Sir James used in 1959 to frustrate the democratic ambition of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo.  

       The frustration of the democratic ambition of the two sages and the denial of the democratic rights of MKO Abiola took place because they were not in conformity with the “Design of the British” when Nigeria was being put together in 1914.   Under that “design”, it was not anticipated that a southerner (wife) would become the ruler of Nigeria and over the northerner (husband).   It was not anticipated that what one could call the conjugal power structure could be reversed through the process of “one person one vote” or through the ballot box.   When this was to take place in 1993 and how that was reversed was well discussed in my book, Omo Omoruyi, The Tale of June 12 (London, 2000).  

      What about 2003?   This was when Nigeria faced the third case when a southerner (Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) won an election from the overwhelming support of his people in the southwest as part of the enhanced geographical spread.   For the purpose of those who are wondering as to what is meant by an enhanced geographical spread, President Obasanjo can count on the support of the southwest, the south-south, the southeast, the north central and the northeast and less of the northwest.    How President Obasanjo successfully overcome the threat to the political order after the election is still to be thoroughly analyzed.

       President Obasanjo had to confront the threat from another source.   This was the Buhari/Ojukwu plot to promote stalemate in the election.   This was well discussed in one of my essays in Omo Omoruyi and the 2003 Election. 

      It was the threat from the Buhari and Ojukwu that gave rise to the DAURA ACCORD between Buhari and Dim Ojukwu.   Under this Accord, Dim Ojukwu was to support the leadership of Buhari in 2003 against Obasanjo.   This was based on what Dr. Chuba Okadigbo erroneously called the traditional friendship between the north and the southeast.   I call it erroneously because it was one of the frauds in Nigerian politics involving the political leaders in the north and in the southeast against the southwest.   The massive support from the southeast for Obasanjo in 2003 was a rejection of the Daura Accord and the implication it portended for the new political order in Nigeria.

     The Daura Accord reminds one of the kind of relationship between the north as the “journeyman” and the southeast as the “apprentice” in 1959, 1979 and 1993.   One would recall that the NCNC under Dr. Azikiwe had to be used to buttress the rule of Sir Abubakar Balewa in 1959.   One would still recall that the NPP also under Dr. Azikiwe had to be used to install the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979.  And of course, the ABN of Arthur Nzeribe had to be used to deny the rule of a southerner and in effect make room for the continuation of northern rule of Nigeria.

     The 2003 election was approached within the foregoing context.  If we cast our minds back a little, one would appreciate the warning under different settings that that I sounded since 2001.   Chief Obasanjo is President today despite all the foregoing fears of the dwindling minority that nurtured the three kinds of fears identified above.   


     I once had the opportunity during the end of the two years of the administration of 1999-2003 to sound a note of warning about the deep-seated uncertainty about 2003 election.    This was in an academic forum, the 44th session of the African Studies Association held at Houston, Texas in November 2001.   I was asked to offer a half-term assessment of the politics in Nigeria and the prospect for the future.   One of the questions that arose after my presentation that set me thinking seriously about the 2001 after the Houston meeting was by an American very familiar with the politics of Nigeria.   The question focused on the plan for the 2003 election.   She asked the question, which was in three parts.

1.      Can President Obasanjo with his PDP be trusted with the capacity to deliver democracy to the Nigerian people at the end of one term or two terms?

2.      Can he preside over a free, fair and credible election with the history of failed self-succession elections in the past in Nigeria, 1964 and 1983?

3.      Would you please deal with the two questions within the context of ‘No Vacancy in Aso Rock in 2003’ already announced by a chieftain of the PDP and a confidant of the President who is yet to announce if he would be seeking a second term?   

      For the purpose of this presentation, I shall focus on the expression, ‘No Vacancy in Aso Rock in 2003’.   I told the lady that the expression was capable of two meanings: 

1.      That there would be no level playing field for challengers to the present ticket of the party in the 2003 election and consequently the nomination exercise within the PDP would be manipulated to achieve the predetermined end.  

2.      That there would be no level playing field for all political parties that would like to challenge the current PDP candidates in the 2003 election and consequently the process of election would be manipulated to achieve the predetermined end.

      To me in November 2001, the issue of a level playing field was at the root of political competition for the 2003 election.   This happened to be the ignored element by all politicians in preparation for the 2003 election.   As if my warning in November 2001 did not make sense, the political class in the Presidency and in the National Assembly ignored the warning and advice that I tried to proffer.   I was surprised that they were involved in the preparation of a new electoral law without addressing the issues in the ‘level playing field’.   

        One would recall how the members of the political class were embroiled in intrigues involving what came to be called then “the politics of self-succession” through the law in late 2001.   They ignored the issues in the level playing field as critical to the election.   This prompted me to sound another warning to the Nigerian political class.  


        This second opportunity came through a four-part essay.   These papers were published in Nigeria by This Day.   They are still available in the three major World Wide Web today.  The titles of the papers are:

1.      Can President Obasanjo organize a “self-succession election: in 2003? A plea for the Internationalization of the Process.   This was my response to the question raised with me at the Houston encounter with an American lady who had asked if President Obasanjo counld be trusted with the capacity to organize a free and fair election.;

2.      Political Consequences of the new Electoral Law: One–party Dominance and not Democracy.   This was my initial reactions to the intrigues in the Presidency and in the National Assembly in the preparation of the new Electoral law.

3.      1993, 1998 and 2001: Continuity in the Betrayal of Democratic Rights of Nigerians thrice within Ten years.   The political class outside the majority party ought to have known that through their acts of commission and omission they produced an Electoral Act for self-succession. 

4.      Solutions to the Crisis over the Electoral Act.

        All the warnings contained in these papers were ignored.   Instead politicians concentrated on the formation of more political parties outside the INEC.   Within the majority party, PDP members were involved in the intra-PDP intrigues aimed at the denial of Obasanjo a second term.


        I still aided the Nigerian political class by incorporating the four-part essay in the second monograph released under the title, The Electoral Act of 2001 is for Self-Succession without Contest published as the No. 2 in the series on Nigerian Politics by the Advancing Democracy in Africa (ADA).   This was the third opportunity I had to make the Nigerian politicians to weigh the issues in the 2003 election that the field was not level for both the office holders and the challengers.  

       I should say that I did get some phone calls from some politicians in Nigeria who were enthusiastic to learn more about I said.  These politicians later became the leaders of the ANPP and the UNPP who thanked me for enlightening them.   Unfortunately, they thought I was helping them by providing them with ammunition to use in their challenges to President Obasanjo.   They did not see the papers as a way of providing them with materials that they could use to press for a level playing field in the 2003 election.   How they thought and believed that they had a level playing field with the office holders, beat me hollow.

        What bothers me is that the Nigerian politicians are incurable optimists.   They believe that the system could be fixed without taking the hard decision that were suggested by me in various papers published between November 2001 and March 2002.  


     The fourth opportunity I had to sound a note of warning to the Nigerian political class was in August 2002.   That opportunity arose during the Annual Conference of the National Association of Nigerian Community in Austria (NANCA) in Vienna, Austria August 15-17, 2002.  

     The Nigerians in Austria in 2002 were like you in Switzerland today.  They in Austria in 2002 confessed that they were concerned about the election of 2003.   The leader of the group told me that from what I did in the past and from what I had been saying since 2001 on the 2003 election, his group would be inviting me to speak to them on the prospect of 2003 being free and fair.   I was excited and took that invitation as another opportunity to sound a note of warning about 2003.

       I spoke to them under the title, “Election could be Free and Fair and it may not be Credible”.   I used that opportunity to send a message to the political class.    The issue of credibility was at the root of the controversies in the two civilian-civilian elections of 1964 and 1983.   I told them that credibility would be critical to the 2003 election.  The 1964, the 1983 and the 2003 were the three ‘civilian-civilian elections’ in Nigerian history. 

     The issue of credibility arose because of the lack of a level playing field for the office holder and the challengers.  If this issue was ignored in 1964 and 1983, it should not have been ignored in 2003.   It was the basis of my presentation at Vienna and the issue was well discussed at the Vienna meeting.   Some thought I was against Obasanjo.   In fact, I was in support of Obasanjo who also was on record by the time I was expressing my view was full of apprehension about the prospect of 2003 civilian-civilian election.           


         The fifth occasion was when I prepared a three-part essay with a title highly suggestive of the kind of problem the country would face in 2003, Neither a Candidate nor Office Holder be.    This was during the heightened campaign by politicians in Nigeria for President Obasanjo to preside over a self-succession election.   The critical issue was “preside over a self-succession election”  

     One would recall that this was the period when there were many agitations for ethnic presidency especially from the southeast culminating in what Professor Ben Nwabueze called the Igbo Presidency Project (IPP).   Never in the history of Nigerian had so many ethnic or regional associations outside the constitutionally recognized political parties lay claim to the Presidency.

     One would recall that the leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Afenifere and the Ohaneze Ndigbo had different and contradictory notions as to who should be President of Nigeria in 2003.   When they made these demands about who should be President, they ignored two issues.   One, they did not recognize the political parties.   Two, they did not state how they were going to funnel their claims through the electoral process. 

      The issue of a level playing field became critical and the Nigerian politicians did not know how to address the matter.   After the first and second parts of the essay, I came to the conclusion in the third part of the essay by advocating that a Level Playing Field, could be achieved if the Nigerian politicians would adopt the “Bangladesh Formula”.   

    With the exception of Chief Harry Akande of the All-Nigerian People Party (ANPP) and Dr. Wunmi Akintide and Tonye David-West the Nigerian politicians again ignored the search for a level playing field.   Maybe one should ask some pertinent questions:

1.      Did the parties know that they were going for the election at a disadvantage and in fact, to their peril?

2.      Did they know and appreciate that there was no way the security agency and the managers of the election would separate Obasanjo as the President from Obasanjo as a candidate during the election?

3.      Did they know and appreciate that what was at issue was a level playing field that I first raised and which the political class ignored?                              

       In 2002, there were two pertinent questions that the political class would have discussed and resolved in preparation for the 2003 election.
1.      Could President Obasanjo be a presidential candidate at the same time and act differently from the incumbents in 1964 and 1983?   
2.      Would Obasanjo as the presidential candidate and the President, Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces of Nigeria avoid the appearance of an intimidator of other candidates?  
      These questions were at the root of a level playing field for the office holder as a candidate and other candidates and for all political parties sponsoring candidates.   It is disingenuous for the opponents of Chief Obasanjo who knew that the electoral field would not be level by the fact of the duality of Obasanjo to turn round after the election to blame Obasanjo, the managers of the election and security organs and the media. 
       No one should plead the Constitution to allow confusion to continue unabated.   The 1999 Constitution does not help in the situation of a highly disputed election, which touches at the root of social order.  
    For the future, there should be a fundamental amendment to the 1999 Constitution.  
      The leaders of the Bangladesh political parties knew that the Bangladesh Constitution was silent on the issue of a level playing field.   The leaders of the various political parties knew that they could not secure a level playing field through the normal law from the Parliament.  But the political leaders came to the decision that a level playing field for all participants was critical to stable political order.   Having reached this decision, the leaders of all the political parties (not a coalition of some parties) proffered the solution in the 13th Amendment to their Constitution.    
         The Nigerian political class failed to do that in the past.   There is no excuse why the political class should not explore ways of ensuring that a new approach is set in motion in preparation for 2007.   The Nigerian political class should not fall into the temptation of making careless statement that it is the turn of this or that zone in 2007 outside the interplay of democratic forces as we did in the past in preparation for the 2003.  
        My plea in this paper is that the Nigerian political class should not fail in bringing about a level playing field as the Bangladesh politicians did in 1991 through an amendment to the 1999 Constitution in preparation for the 2007 election.
         Whatever action is contemplated for the future, it must start with the person and leadership of the President as President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.   He knew that the problem he had to face from the 2003 election was identical to what happened to Balewa and Shagari in 1964 and 1983 respectively.   He knew that in the three cases, the office holders, Balewa, Shagari and Obasanjo were also the candidates in 1964, 1983 and 2003 respectively.
     Nigeria and Bangladesh are identical in one respect.   No office holder can and should be entrusted with presiding over an election especially when he is both an office holder and a candidate,
     There is a lesson that one could learn from 1993 and 1999.  May I use this medium to further correct those who are talking of (a) how and why free and fair the June 12 was and (b) how and why in the end the opponent did not raise question about the conduct and the outcome of the election?   Most people attributed this to the method used in the election that most erroneously called “Option A4”.   May I still use this forum to further correct the Nigerian politicians in search of relevance that the success of the June 12 was partly through the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS).   The success of that election was due more to the political atmosphere that provided a level playing field for all the contestants for offices within and between the political parties.      May I further emphasize that it was not just the presence of a level playing field for all contestants but it was the belief that this was so by all contestants that led not only to a free and fair election but a credible process and outcome.
      The fact that the office holders IBB and the military were not involved as candidates at the same time, was largely responsible for the free, fair and credible election in June 1993.    The political actors believed that situation to be so.   Those of us who managed the process from the pre-Election Day to the Election Day knew that IBB was not a candidate.   It should be noted that IBB did not impress on us that he had a preference between the two parties and the two candidates during the pre-Election Day and on the Election Day.
      This is an opportunity to respond to the comparison made between Justice Ephraim Akpata and Dr. Abel Guobadia by Commodore Ubitu Ukiwe.   According to Commodore Ukiwe, the former Chief of General Staff under the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, 
                            You need a competent, focused and
                             reasonable independent leadership
                             to run an election.  
                            And I think that Justice Ephraim Akpata
                            before he died, showed traces of knowing
                            what he was doing.  
                           Akpata had more control and I had
                           more confidence under him that what
                             I have seen in the present leadership. 
Vanguard of June 13, 2003.
         This is an unfair comparison.   It is like comparing apples and oranges.   The political environments in which both illustrious sons of Edo land operated were not only different, the budgetary systems in both settings were radically different.   The tragedy of the armchair critics in Nigeria of the Nigerian politics from some former office holders is that some of them use undigested facts to reach conclusion as if the situation would have been different if they were in office.   This is the way I see Commodore Ukiwe’s criticism of Dr. Guobadia and how he tried to compare him unjustly with Justice Akpata.   Commodore Ukiwe failed to address some critical issues.
      What Commodore Ukiwe did not say and ought to have appreciated was that Justice Akpata in 1999 was like Professor Humphrey Nwosu in 1993.   Both worked in a political environment that did not have the office holders who were also candidates in the election that they managed.   General Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1999 was like IBB in 1993.   They were not candidates in the election.   Commodore Ukiwe ought to have appreciated that that explains the relative independence that INEC enjoyed under Akpata.   The funding of INEC did not have to be politicized or made an issue between the two arms of government as the two arms were fused into one, the military Head of State, Commander in Chief.
      But Dr. Guobadia with the best will in the world operated in an atmosphere where the varieties of office holders were also candidates.  If Chief Obasanjo and the host of governors were not candidates then we would have the basis of comparing Justice Akpata and Dr. Guobadia.   Even if the President, Commander in Chief who was also a candidate did not want to use all the instruments of government to aid his candidature and the PDP, he could not stop the public media and the security organs from coming to his aid.  
      The boundary between Obasanjo, the President, Commander in Chief and Obasanjo, the PDP candidate is blurred.   In fact, the boundary does not exist in the reckoning of the security agents and the practitioners of the public media.   Among some INEC officials, he is not an ordinary candidate like his challengers.   This is why a level playing field is critical to a civilian-civilian succession election in a plural society like Nigeria.   
           Accuse me of being a copycat.   And so what?   One could not replicate the atmosphere of the 1993 as described above.   Nigeria is in a democracy today.  One must search for what worked elsewhere under a democratic order.  
       In my search I am attracted to what is working in other developing democracies.   Bangladesh is a developing country like Nigeria.  It is a former colony created by the British and it has a military background like Nigeria.  Above all, it is a society where many political groups want to be President/Prime Minister as the case may be.       
       By the way, for the information of those who do not know and would want to accuse me of copying, let me make one point.   Many Nigerians do not know that there was nothing original in the 1979 Constitution that formed the basis of subsequent Constitutions.  The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) of 1976-77 copied from elsewhere.
        Those of us who worked in the past to evolve a constitution for Nigeria that would address the lingering political problems as we saw them in the past reached for what would work from the universe of constitutional arrangements.   It was not a surprise that the Nigerian Constitution since 1979 including the current 1999 Constitution lifted sections of the Indian Constitution.   It is a matter of history that the Bangladesh Constitution also drew on the Indian Constitution.   To confirm this one would refer to what in the Nigerian Constitution of 1979 to 1999 is called the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”.    It is identical with the “Fundamental Principles of State Policy” in the Bangladesh Constitution.   Pakistan copied it from India and Bangladesh being a secessionist state from Pakistan also copied it from the Pakistan Constitution.   It is my humble opinion that Nigeria should still further benefit from Bangladesh and other countries for after all the kernel of the Presidential System was copied from the US.  
       As a partisan politician and a citizen of Edo state, an integral part of the south-south and the Fourth Dimension, I was reputed for pushing beyond the “tripod” in Nigerian politics.   See Omo Omoruyi, Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics. (Benin City, 2001).
      As a policy maker from 1989-93 and since then I was convinced that the system of organizing the selection of candidates for the highest office in the land would have to be drastically addressed.   Since 2001, I have been giving much thought to the issue of having a level playing field for all political parties, ethnic or regional groups and the candidates they sponsor.  
      I have been following the quest for a shot at the presidential nomination by many peoples and groups.   All the various interest groups and the various zones and regions that have been clamoring for their turn can only have their day in “court”, as the lawyers would say if and only if there is a level playing field for all.   For the interest of those who are confused about the implication of Option A4 and getting it mixed up with the politics of 2003, let me make some explanation.   The “Option A4” was devised in 1992 to achieve “the policy of equal opportunity” for all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria in 1992 after the botched presidential primaries in October 1992.   Option A4 was a response to the clamor for rotation, zoning and power shift outside the democratic process.    This is still at the root of the call for a level playing field for ethnic nationalities in Nigerian politics.        
       Let me put it crudely, the Igbo and the south-south clamoring for opportunity to compete have no chance now or in the foreseeable future under the prevailing political order unless there is a fundamental rethinking on how to have a level playing field for all groups in Nigeria.   This was what was denied the Igbo since the Civil War.   I was a witness to their disadvantageous position Vis a Vis the other majority ethnic groups as the Nigerian civilians commenced the transition to civil rule in 1977.   I was party to the efforts that the minorities in the south and in the north tried to make in 1977.   These efforts failed in the end because there was no level playing field for all.  
      What I knew as a partisan politician and as a functionary of “the military in politics” was that the military only recognized the tripod.   The Nigerian tripod is made up of the Hauas, Yoruba and Igbo that originally dominated the three administrative regions of north, west and east respectively created by the colonial government in the past.  Even the elected President Obasanjo still believes that peace and stability in Nigeria could be predicated on the leaders of Arewa Consultative Forum, the Ohaneze and the Afenifere.   This was why he called on the leaders of the three  organizations to meet and resolve their differences as that would resolve the lingering political problems plaguing Nigeria.   I am on record as calling on the President to change his views on the Nigerian plural society.         
        One would still find that even after the 2003 election, the leader of the Ndigbo, Dim Ojukwu was still making a case for the three ethnic nationalities as if they were the only ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.    One would recall how he proposed to President Obasanjo that the three groups should meet and sort out matters forgetting that Nigeria has many ethnic nationalities.   Isn’t sad that the Igbo leader, Dim Ojukwu had to meet President Obasanjo with a plea that the three ethnic nationalities of Hausa-Yoruba-Igbo should meet as equal and resolve matters arising from the election?  Did Dim Ojukwu actually believe that there is equality among the three ethnic nationalities since the end of the Civil War?
     Maybe one should consider the proposed “fundamental restructuring” of Nigeria that one reads in the press from President Obasanjo?   Maybe that would be a logical follow-up of the new Nigerian Political Mainstream that emerged from the election?   I have argued elsewhere that the election of 2003 fundamentally reduced the political salience of regional and ethnic organizations in favor of the dominant political party, the Peoples Democratic Party under President Obasanjo.   Would President Obasanjo use this new majority as the basis of fundamentally restructuring Nigeria?   Would the need for the Sovereign National Conference be tenable in the light of the new majority or mandate after the 2003 election?   All these questions are in search of answers.   Maybe our discussion during the paper by Dr. Beko Kuti on the Sovereign National Conference would take all these questions into account.  
      The closest example to what Nigeria needs in order to have a level playing field was the operation of Option A4 in 1992.   Under that system of nomination of Presidential candidates within the two political parties, zoning, rotation or power shift were left to interplay of democratic forces within the parties and between the parties under a level playing field.
      It should be noted that Option A4 was only in a statement issued by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).   Option A4 was not based on the Electoral Act (Decree) or on the Constitution or in the Constitutions of the parties.  
          The closest to Option A4 in terms of allowing all and sundry to vie for offices is the practice in Bangladesh that was adopted as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1991.   This is a unique feature that was the choosing of all the political parties in Bangladesh.   I am still to see it anywhere in the Commonwealth.  The relevant section in the Bangladesh Constitution is made part of this paper as an appendix.  
       If the Nigerian political class is serious and if they are committed to a credible democratic election, they should behave like the Bangladesh politicians adopt a variant of what I call the Bangladesh Formula.    
        Under this amendment, the general election in Bangladesh is usually held under a NEUTRAL NON-PARTY CARETAKER GOVERNMENT.  
        This neutral non-party caretaker government then guarantees a level playing field for all-political parties, ethnic nationalities and candidates in the nomination within the parties and election in the country.
         For the first time, the voter would be the king by making his or her vote to be his or her voice.  
         As it is described in the information sheet in the WWW on Bangladesh it is stated that: 
                  Through this system the people of Bangladesh
                    got back their lost right to vote freely and
                    independently without the pressures
                   of the reigning government.
         This is what we need in Nigeria today.   We want to be able to say that the Nigerian voters for the first time in an election organized under the civilian era shall have got their lost right.    The Nigerian voters like the Bangladesh voters say with joy that they are free to vote for whoever they like without any fear of recriminations. 
        The fear of security agencies taking over the election as was reported in the media in the 2003 election would be a thing of the past.   The new Caretaker Body would also take over these agencies, the military and the police during the period covering the election process.  This means that the Federal or State Government media and the security agents would be removed from the control of any candidates since they would not be doubling as officials.   Since the security officials are under the caretaker body, no candidates would be able to intimidate other candidates and the voters.    The voters for the first time would win their freedom back.
        The voters would for the first time be free to judge the records of the party of the former office holders with the contenders.   Put simply,
1.      The party of the outgoing President through the new Presidential Candidate would have an opportunity to showcase party’s achievements in the past four or so years as the President.  
2.      Those challenging the new candidate of the party of the outgoing president would also have opportunities to challenge the claims and sell themselves.  
3.      The voters as the KING would be the arbiters.   
4.      All the candidates would enjoy for the first time equal protection under the law as candidates if the outgoing President no longer is in charge of all the security agents.
5.      All the candidates will have equal opportunity to make their case if the outgoing President is no longer in charge of the public media of communication like the Radio Nigeria, the TV, Daily Times and New Nigeria and a host of State mass media.
6.      At the State level, the parties of the outgoing Governors would also have the opportunity parade themselves with what they did in four or so years as the basis for asking for a second term.    Their challengers should also be ready to go to the people with their plan.   The voters will be the judges.
7.      For the Senators and others, they would also have to go back to their constituencies and face their challengers.
8.      All the elected officials including the President, the Governors and Assemblymen will have to vacate their official quarters immediately after the term of office.  
9.      There would be a symbolic declaration of “Vacancy in Aso Rock” and in all the State Government Houses awaiting the end of the election when they would be filled or occupied by the newly elected persons.
10.  All officials should also surrender the official vehicles.  
11.  All the state security details would be extended to the presidential candidates of all parties.
12.  All the security details not available to others would also be denied former office holders.  
This is what is meant by a level playing field in an election.    
           For the attention of party leaders, this would be an opportunity for them to get their freedom back.   They would get the freedom of action that would enable them to provide the needed level playing field for all aspirants in their respective political parties.   The system of allowing those who were enjoying government patronages to be members of the Convention as was reported under the PDP would no longer be allowed.  
        Nigerians did not believe the PDP National Chairman when he said that all the aspirants seeking the endorsement of the PDP would have a level playing field with President Obasanjo during the Convention of the party.   Did Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Senator Ike Nwachukwu and others who were seeking the nomination of the PDP have a chance with the President of the country who was also a an aspirant for nomination of the party?   This was what Dr. Ekwueme and co should have done in 2002 to agitate for a level playing field with the President before the party’s National Convention.    For Dr. Ekwueme and the Ndigbo leaders to blame Obasanjo for their shortsightedness was unfair.  
       This would be an opportunity to have political parties as we would want and not political parties that are tied to the apron spring of the Executive or political parties that operate as arm of regional/ethnic organizations.  
       There should be a rigid application of the Constitution that only makes the political parties the sole body to sponsor candidates in election and campaign for them.   There should be a legislation that would prescribe penalty for any breach of this provision in the Constitution.
       Even though the 2003 election had reduced the political salience of regional/ethnic organizations, the religious factor is still there.
       The number of political parties makes the suggestion of all party affairs in Nigeria unacceptable.   There is no way that the suggestion of the Patriot, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Senator Abraham Adesanya for an All-Party INEC would be a solution to the issue of a level playing Field.   There are at the moment thirty political parties with a possibility of having more.   With the best will in the world a consensus cannot be formed around thirty parties when it comes to the issue of political competition.   It is a level playing field that they all want and they would NOT get it from an All-Party Government.   But they can get it from a Caretaker Government if we adopt the Bangladesh Formula or a variant of it.  
        It should be noted that it is not the specific of the Bangladesh Formula that we need.   What is critical is the principle behind the Formula.   We should also understand and appreciate why the people of Bangladesh came by it.   There are three principles governing this Formula that I wish to commend to the political class in Nigeria.
1.      That the party in power or the government in power should NOT be entrusted with the organization of election while in office.
2.      That no person should double as an office holder and as a candidate in any election. This means that the same Government officials should not be candidates in the election.
3.      That election should be entrusted to a neutral body that would provide or guarantee a level playing field for all the political parties.
How do we apply this to Nigeria?   Let me make some suggestions.   They are just suggestions and nothing more.   Any suggestions within the three principles should be considered.
       What would be required are:
1.      That President and other elected persons at the Abuja and at the State capitals should take themselves out of the administration of elections.  
2.      That in order to make No. 1 operational, the office holders would have to end their various terms at the end of the term and would therefore vacate the offices and residences of the State;
3.      That the office holders would formally hand over to a new body, the Caretaker or an interim body.   Are they free to contest elections?   Someone had asked that since they are not to be involved in the management of the election, if they would be free to seek a reelection?   By the nature of plural composition of the States and of Nigeria, the term of the Governor and of the President should be restricted to one term   Therefore they would not be free to participate in the election.
4.      That there should be a National Conference in Nigeria instead of the All-Party Summit or conference that resolved the problem in Bangladesh.   The National Conference would determine the tenure of office holders and the modality for setting up a Caretaker Administration after the end of the term office.
5.      That the decision of the National Conference would form an amendment to the 1999 Constitution like the 13th Amendment to the Bangladesh Constitution.    This is not what an adhoc body like the Patriot or the regional group like the Arewa Consultative Forum or ethnic group like the Ohaneze Ndigbo would want to propose few days to an election or immediately after an election.
       From 2007, all office holders should vacate office at the end of the current term and they would not double as candidates at the same time.   This is just one part of the Bangladesh Formula.
      The second part is that that the office holders should have nothing to do with the election at the end their tenure of office.
      Under this plan, the term of all office holders would end at 12 noon on May 29, 2007.   No present President or Governor would be free to seek (a) the renomination of their parties and (b) seek the votes of in their constituencies like other candidates.   
        The issue of term limit should be settled once and for all.   Under the Bangladesh Formula, there is no term limit for office holders.   Are we having one term limit for President and Governors?   What about the Governors who have just done a one term?   Would they be free to seek a second term if they do it from their homes?   What about the members of the legislatures?  All these issues would have to be resolved at a National Conference. 
        Appointed to their places are Caretaker Administrations in Abuja and in 36 States that would automatically take over on May 29, 2007 at 12 noon.  
       The Caretaker Administration will continue with routine administration.
       The Caretaker Administration will perform the critical function of organizing election at all levels.  
        In Bangladesh, the tenure of the Caretaker Administration is three months.   Because of the enormous problems that may face this innovation in Nigeria, I am proposing that the tenure of the Caretaker Administration in Nigeria should not be more than four months after 2007. 
         The Independent National Electoral Commission would have the opportunity to really be independent.
         There is nothing wrong with the persons of the Members of the Commission.    What people complain about is the constitutional relation between INEC and the President that is also a candidate for the election.  
        If the President is no longer a candidate, as an office holder that would remove whatever control the President exercises over the INEC in the performance of its functions.

       The Caretaker Administration should direct INEC to conduct election beginning with the voters’ registration and the scheduling of elections.


         The issue of the number of political parties should be left to the interplay of democratic forces.   The politicians would sort themselves out depending on the offices and level they wish to participate.  

      A party that is interested in just the State government needs not be a national party.   In fact, a party could emerge just to take over a local council.   They would have to affiliate with other parties eventually to pursue national programs.   Take for example the politics of Sharia can be pursued within some states.   But that does not mean that the party in such states would have no dealings with politicians in other states.  

       But a party that has its eye on the Presidential election would know that a national coverage is needed.   Let parties decide this on their own.  

       Under the Presidential system, two sprawling political parties would emerge.   It is just natural.    Religious bigots, Zonal or regional warlords would find that it is in their interest that a two-party formation will guarantee them the position of the President that all of them crave for.


   The Caretaker Administration should put the Government Mass Media under a non-partisan Board.   It should conduct fair reporting of the activities of political parties and candidates.   Parties and candidates should have the right to petition on issues of fairness.

       The Media should give equal time to all parties and candidates.   This should apply to privately owned newspapers.   Paid political broadcast should be regulated.


       All the Security Agents like the Army, police, and non- uniform security agents should come under the Caretaker Administration.   Equal protection should be accorded all political parties and candidates.


          The schedule of elections should be as follows:

              State Level:

State Assembly and the election of the Governors

             Federal Level.

House of Representatives and Senate and then the election of the President.      

There is logic in the schedule outlined about.   It would take care of (a) the separation of power and (b) division of power.


     The level playing field should also apply to the political parties and candidates in their competition.   It should also apply to all the ethnic groups in the country and within the states.   They should be free to compete for any office as many times as they like in accordance with the Constitution on term limit. The Caretaker Administration should allow all political parties to contest all the elections.   

       If there is a level playing field, there would be no need for any part of the country to cry over how many times’ one section produces the President or Governors in the past This is an opportunity for the Arewa, the Ohaneze, the Afenifere and the Fourth Dimension to compete.  
     The political parties should be open to all Nigerians and groups.   Consequently parties should not get involved in the issue of zone or region that should produce the President.   All zones or groups should be free to nominate any candidate.  
        This was what we tried to provide for under a system of nomination called Option A4 out of 8 Option that allowed all ethnic groups and states in the federation to put forward their favorite sons and daughters.   The important thing is that all the aspirants should commence their nomination journey from the ward and work their way up to the National Convention of the party.    At the National Convention of the party there would be one favorite son from each of the 36 States of the federation who would have to vie for the votes of the delegates at the Convention.  
       One would recall that this was how Chief MKO Abiola, a favorite son of Ogun State emerged from a pool of 30 candidates at the SDP National Convention at Jos in March observed by both the domestic and the international observers.
      One would also recall that that was how Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the favorite son of Kano emerged the nominee of the NRC from a list of 30 candidates at the NRC National Convention at Port Harcourt in March 1993.   The process was observed both by the domestic monitors and the international observers.
      Parties are formed to win elections and should be free to resolve the issue of whose turn it is through the interplay of democratic forces.   This should not be dictated by anybody.  Parties want to win and therefore parties would determine how to put together a ticket that balances and nominate candidates that could win.

        For those who are confusing Option A4 as a nomination system and Modified Open Ballot System as voting device should read my book The Tale of June 12, especially Chapter 3, “Presidential Nomination Crisis: The Emergence of MKO Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa”.


        The Caretaker Administration should fund the Domestic Monitors and perform the function of sensitizing and accreditation of the International Observers.   

       The Domestic Monitors and the International Observers should be involved in the entire process from the pre-Election Day activities to the Election Day activities and after the Election Day activities.   Let me itemize all the activities under the three stages.

     The pre-Election Day activities are:

1.      The formulation of the Electoral laws and regulations

2.      The Composition of the Electoral Commission;

3.      The Constituency Delimitation;

4.      The Registration of Political Parties;

5.      The Registration of Candidates;

6.      The Registration of Voters;

7.      Te Voters’ Education;

8.      The Rules governing Campaign; and

9.      The Rules governing Campaign Finance;

10.  The Rules governing the Public Media.

      The Election Day activities include:

1.   The Security of the Ballot;

2.   The Security of the Voters;

3.   The Secrecy of the Voting;

4.   The Openness of the Process;

5.   The size of the Voters at the Polling Booth;

      The post Election Day activities include the following:

1.     The Counting of the Votes;

2.     The security of the Vote;

3.     The Freedom of the Voter after he shall have cast his vote;

4.     The Announcement of the Result;

5.     The Procedure for announcing the Results;

6.     The Swearing-in of the winner of the election.


        One would want to address some of my misgivings about the conduct of the domestic and the international observers in the 2003 election.    A one day Safari is not in keeping with the international practice and to use what one found on the Election Day as an evidence of what went wrong in the entire election process is simply ludicrous.

      Unlike what happened in 1993 and like what happened in 1999, the 2003 election did not have an interpretation of the election as a process that has three parts.  

      Those who served as the international observers and the domestic monitors focused on what happened on the Election Day.  

      The EC, the US and the Commonwealth quarrel with the Zimbabwe election was not over what happened on the Election Day but on what happened before the Election Day.   One would recall that the Zimbabwe government prevented the EU monitors from certain countries within the EU from becoming part of the EU team of Observers and also prevented the international involvement in the pre-Election Day activities.   The Zimbabwe government and candidates dominated the government media to the disadvantage of the opposition parties and candidates.   The Zimbabwe government used the police to deny the opposition parties and candidates their right to assemble by denying them permit to assemble and campaign.  

      This was why the EU and the US said that the Zimbabwe election was “a flawed process”.   They were not referring to what happened on the Election Day.   Thai was why the white Commonwealth members wanted Zimbabwe suspended before the Election Day because it was their feeling that the election was flawed before the Election Day.  

      It is common sense that elections are won or lost depending on what happens before the Election Day.   The Nigerian political parties who are attaching importance to data collected from a one-day safari are ignorant of the notion of election as a process covering the three stages.    This is implicit in the notion of a level playing field.   We should be talking of a field that covers the three stages of the election process.

        Unlike what we did in 1993, there was no adequate training of domestic monitors on what to look out for and the international observers were not given sensitivity training as to what to look out for.  Because of the interest that the matter generated recently, I am now exploring the possibility of publishing the report that the Centre for Democratic Studies put together about the domestic monitors and international observers in the 1993 election circle.    


       The Caretaker Administration should install the elected President who in turn would inaugurate the National Assembly.   

    At the State level, the Caretaker Administration will swear in the Governor who would in turn inaugurate the State Assembly.


        I left this to the last.   In Bangladesh, the composition of the Caretaker Administration is drawn from the list of retired Justices of the Appellate Division and the last retired Chief Justice heads it.  

        The purpose of resorting to the use of retired Justices is to avoid the situation where the sitting Justices are made to make laws that would come before them eventually.   This is why the suggestion of some politicians in Nigeria who want the Chief Justice or President Court of Appeal to be made an interim administration should be rejected.   There are enough retired Justices that could be used.

        My suggestion in Nigeria is that the last retired Chief Justice of Nigeria should head it.   Serving with him I would suggest the last retired Chief Judge of each of the States in the Federation.  The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission shall serve as the Secretary.

          At the State level, the caretaker Administration should be headed by the last retired Chief Judge.   Other members shall be one Traditional Ruler from each of the Senatorial zones in the State and the Vice Chancellor of the State University or College of Education or Polytechnic as the case maybe who shall serve as the Secretary to the Committee.

    The above are just suggestions and should be dealt with at the National Conference as this is too fundamental to be left to the National Assembly or to the Summit of Party Chairmen.  

      The important thing is that the Committee should be non-partisan.   In Bangladesh it is called the “Non-Party Caretaker Government”.  

     In Nigeria, I am suggesting that it should be called, the “Non-Partisan Caretaker Administration”.

   Attached is the relevant section from the Bangladesh Constitution to guide the discussion.




58B. Non-Party Care-taker Government

bullet (1) There shall be a Non-Party Care-taker Government during the period from the date on which the Chief Adviser of such government enters upon office after Parliament is dissolved or stands dissolved by reason of expiration of its term till the date on which a new Prime Minister enters upon his office after the constitution of Parliament.
bullet (2) The Non-Party Care-taker Government shall be collectively responsible to the President.
bullet (3) The executive power of the Republic shall, during the period mentioned in clause (1), be exercised, subject to the provisions of article 58D(1), in accordance with this Constitution, by or on the authority of the Chief Adviser and shall be exercised by him in accordance with the advice of the Non-Party Care-taker Government.
bullet (4) The provisions of article 55(4), (5) and (6) shall (with the necessary adaptations) apply to similar matters during the period mentioned in clause (1).

58C. Composition of the Non-Party Care-taker Government, appointment of Advisers, etc.

bullet (1) Non-Party Care-taker Government shall consist of the Chief Adviser at its head and not more than ten other Advisors, all of whom shall be appointed by the President.
bullet (2) The Chief Adviser and other Advisers shall be appointed within fifteen days after Parliament is dissolved or stands dissolved, and during the period between the date on which Parliament is dissolved or stands dissolved and the date on which the Chief Adviser is appointed, the Prime Minister and his cabinet who were in office immediately before Parliament was dissolved or stood dissolved shall continue to hold office as such.
bullet (3) The President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Chief Justices of Bangladesh retired last and who is qualified to be appointed as an Adviser under this article:

Provided that if such retired Chief Justice is not available or is not willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Chief Justices of Bangladesh retired next before the last retired Chief Justice.

bullet (4) If no retired Chief Justice is available or willing to hold the office of Chief Advise, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Judges of the Appellate Division retired last and who is qualified to be appointed as an Adviser under this article:

Provided that if such retired Judge is not available or is not willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Judges of the Appellate Division retired next before the last such retired Judge.

bullet (5) If no retired judge of the Appellate Division is available or willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall, after consultation, as far as practicable, with the major political parties, appoint the Chief Adviser from among citizens of Bangladesh who are qualified to be appointed as Advisers under this article.
bullet Notwithstanding anything contained in this Chapter, if the provisions of clauses (3), (4) and (5) cannot be given effect to, the President shall assume the functions of the Chief Adviser of the Non-Party Care-taker Government in addition to his own functions under this Constitution.
bullet (7) The President shall appoint Advisers from among the persons who are-
bullet (a) qualified for election as members of parliament;
bullet (b) not members of any political party or of any organisation associated with or affiliated to any political party;
bullet (c) not, and have agreed in writing not to be, candidates for the ensuing election of members of parliament;
bullet (d) not over seventy-two years of age.
bullet (8) The Advisers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Chief Adviser.
bullet (9) The Chief Adviser or an Adviser may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the President.
bullet (10) The Chief Adviser or an Adviser shall cease to be Chief Adviser or Adviser if he is disqualified to be appointed as such under this article.
bullet (11) The Chief Adviser shall have the status, and shall be entitled to the remuneration and privileges, of a Prime Minister and an Adviser shall have the status, and shall be entitled to the remuneration and privileges, of a Minister.
bullet (12) The Non-Party Care-taker Government shall stand dissolved on the date on which the prime Minister enters upon his office after the constitution of new parliament.

58D. Functions of Non-Party Care-taker Government

bullet (1) The Non-Party Care-taker Government shall discharge its functions as an interim government and shall carry on the routine functions of such government with the aid and assistance of persons in the services of the Republic; and, except in the case of necessity for the discharge of such functions its shall not make any policy decision.
bullet (2) The Non-Party Care-taker Government shall give to the Election Commission all possible aid and assistance that may be required for bolding the general election of members of parliament peacefully, fairly and impartially.

58E. Certain provisions of the Constitution to remain ineffective

Notwithstanding anything contained in articles 48(3), 141A(1) and 141C(1) of the Constitution, during the period the Non-Party Care-taker government is functioning, provisions in the constitution requiring the President to act on the advice of the Prime Minister or upon his prior counter-signature shall be ineffective."]

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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.