Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE
Prof. Omonhiomwan Omoruyi
Director-General, Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), Abuja 1989 – 1994
Visiting Fellow, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School, 1995 - 1996
Chief Executive, Advancing Democracy in Africa (ADA), Abuja 1995 – to date
Being the 2006 Malam Aminu Kano Memorial Lecture at the Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Mambayya House, Bayero University, Kano, April 17, 2006
I wish to thank the Director of the Centre, Dr. Haruna Wakiki who on the spot when he met me during my sight seeing visit to the Centre extended an invitation to me to deliver a lecture at the Centre. On the spot also I accepted the invitation. In accepting this invitation, I thought it would be an opportunity for one to go down memory lane, may be set the record straight or go to the genesis and not the “exodus” as to the origin of the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS). Please permit me this indulgence. I need to put the lecture in context.
GENESIS OF THE IDEA
It was not the military as a government or as an organization but General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s idea that grassroots democracy must be pursued. It was his dream and idea that the Nigerian political leaders who believe in grassroots democracy should be immortalized. This clarification is necessary for obvious reason. Another military officer killed the idea and another retired General today, as President could not think of the idea. I still recall one day when General Babangida, the then Military President called me up in early 1990 with a directive that I should proceed to Kano and inspect the condition of Malam Aminu Kano House called Mambayya House. Before I could ask to do what, he said “I am going to Kano and I plan to immortalize the late Malam Aminu; I want to take over his House and turn it over to the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS)”. This was how Mambayya House became the Kano base of operation of CDS, a democracy enhancing institution just founded by the Military Administration in 1989.
It was later I discovered that the take-over of Malam Aminu Kano’s House was part of a President Babangida’s plan, in fact a grand design, to immortalize the Nigerian political leaders who made tremendous contributions to the founding of Nigeria as a democracy i.e. the Nigerian leaders who lived by the vote. Why should a Military Officer think that way? This still remains one of the unexplored aspects of this man who recently singled out Kano and its defence of democratic rights. General Babangida unprovoked challenged Nigerian politicians to “defend their ballot box” instead of crying foul all the time that they had been rigged out. Of course, he used the Kano of 2003 to illustrate his belief that rigging of election can be thwarted if candidates would defend their ballot box.
One would recall that President Babangida made handsome contribution to the Chief Obafemi Awolowo Foundation; he approved a plan to construct a complex named after Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe at Zungeru, the place of his birth. He took over the abandoned J. S. Tarka Institute of Political Studies at Gboko and turned it over to CDS. A plan to have a zonal complex named after Chief H. Omo Osagie and Chief Anthony Enahoro in Benin City was in the offing. Adequate arrangements were made to have befitting edifices named after Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
What was common among these great Nigerians ? How were their lives relevant to the mission of the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS)? From my study, I discovered that it was their commitment to the “vote” as the basis of getting to power. Throughout the lives of these great men, they knew an incumbent could be defeated if that was the wishes of the voters. How many of us still remember that it happened in the Western Region in 1954 when the NCNC, an opposition party in the West defeated the AG, the party in power in the West in the Federal Election? These Nigerian leaders did not toy with the idea of a periodic election; they did not think of any plan to sit tight or engage in the anti-democratic plan called “tenure extension” or ‘extension’ or “third term” outside the will of the people. Never in the lives of these great men did they fiddle with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as if it were a party constitution. They swore to and lived by it; they took the amendment to it as a very serious business.
For the record, there were only two amendments to the Independence Constitution. One was when Nigeria moved from Monarchy to a Republic and the Second was for the creation of the fourth region – the Midwest. What was unique in these two cases was that it was the Prime Minister who led in both cases because there was a “national consensus” for both. This is what the founding fathers of the modern constitution had in mind when they made amendment to it very rigid. These great Nigerians would weep in their graves, if they were told that the Nigerian Constitution has been turned into a Party Constitution and that the process of amending it is being turned into “a cash and carry” affair and pursued outside a national consensus. One could imagine the feeling of Malam Aminu Kano and other great Nigerians if they were still alive!
GENESIS OF THIS COMPLEX – MAMBAYYA HOUSE
It was my desire to turn President Babangida plan into something big and complex. His plan was to take over a single building. My plan was to turn that single building into a huge complex. This was my idea of how best to immortalize the great man of learning and a strong believer in the people. Malam was a man of learning who in his life time cherished lectures, debates etc. on political issues. A summary of Malam’s work is published by this Centre. His fertile mind and his commitment to democratic life are captured by the various lectures and letters. His contributions to the philosophy of grassroots democracy was reflected in my lecture (see Omo Omoruyi, Malam Aminu Kano and the Legacy of Grassroots Politics in Nigeria, CDS, 1992).
It was my honest view that having a lecture theatre, research/library centre as part of Mambayya House would be an adequate way of immortalizing Malam. This was what I did. This was not easy but for the cooperation of officials too many to identify.
I found the then Military Governor of Kano State, Brigadier-General Garba Mohammed a willing ally in my plan to take over many houses around Mambayya House. I could imagine what was going through his mind when I
approached him with the thought of having the buildings around Mambayya House to form part of CDS. He must have thought that this Professor was crazy asking him to demolish many ancestral homes in the Kano City. I was not. Today, what we have here arose from that crazy thought of mine.
I want to pay tribute to the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, late Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed, Waziri Jamal and the then civilian Governor, Alhaji Kabiru Gaya and countless officials who saw to it that my interpretation of President Babangida’s dream could materialize. I cannot forget my Papa, the Chairman of the Governing Council of CDS who encouraged me in many ways and facilitated the smooth takeover of the houses around Mambayya House and the relocation of those whose houses were acquired. I am referring to Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Danmasani Kano. All these efforts would have come to naught but for the “open cheque” that President Babangida gave for the implementation of the project.
MISSION OF THE CENTRE FOR DEMOCRATIC STUDIES
On the idea of the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) there are some documents that the present Centre for Democratic Research and Training should have, if it does not have them already in order to make the history complete. I am referring to the General Babangida’s Guardian Lecture August 1989 where he mooted the idea of a training programme for politicians.
The second is President Babangida’s Address to the Nation titled “ The Dawn of a New Social - Political Order” which was based on the two
programmes of the Two-Party System and the Centre for Democratic Studies. I had on several occasions to revisit these two documents in my sojourn in the US reflecting on the crisis of democratilization in Nigeria.. They are still relevant to the Nigeria of today.
On the idea of a programmed political education, a lot of ignorance was exhibited by some politicians in Nigeria when President Babangida first mooted the idea in 1989. Let me cite a typical example of the display of ignorance exhibited by Senator Uba Ahmed, a noted political strategist of the far right in Nigerian politics. First, he did not like academicians in government and second he hated those Professors who worked for the regime of President Babangida. According to him, President Banbangida’s downfall could be traced to the Professors. He said:
You see Babangida as a person is a very good man,
a very trusting person and a lot of people around
him, most of them the academics, the so-called
Professors have exploited his good nature and in
the process, it has plunged this country into crisis
He went on:
The major setback to Babangida’s administration
Is just, his trust upon the chains of a advisers he had;
Advisers who had been living in the ivory towers and
Who have lived all their lives in the sky and their feet
Never touch the ground, have virtually all the programmes that came met a ‘colossus’ failure.
Who is to blame for IBB’s failure, Uba said:
I don’t blame Babangida; he was a professional soldier, but I blame the Professor, the intellectuals, who exploited the good nature of our various leaders. Babangida is one of the many of them who were used in order to create works for themselves and find the way to make money from the campuses and we have left the campuses to rot. See “I don’t blame Babangida” by Uba Ahmed in Sentinel of December 19, 1994.
Did Alhaji Uba know General Babangida that well? He did not. Yes, he surrounded himself with many Professors; but to say that these Professors misled him and used their service to Nigeria under him to make money is arrant nonsense.
From the above, I was not surprised that Senator Uba Ahmed never showed up in any of the programmes organized by the CDS for politicians. He descended heavily on the Centre when he said:
The Centre for Democratic Studies has taken over most
Functions and works of the Presidency itself like the
supervision of election and teaching politicians.
Did CDS actually do that? I knew it was an obvious reference to me, a Professor, one of the Nigerians who served Nigeria under General Babangida that he could not stand. Don’t be surprised that the Centre still harbours enemies. One hopes the Centre for Democratic Research and Training will make its knowledge available to guide the political class. They need it.
The CDS’ crime during the period after the botched presidential primaries in 1992 was that I contributed to the killing of the various attempts to foist on the Military President, what Senator Uba Ahmed and others called a diarchy. This was to be a rule of a military President under the democratic structures already in place in the states and the National Assembly. Part of diarchy was the attempt by Senator Uba Ahmed and the minority party, the NRC to take over the National Assembly from the majority party, the SDP and run the Federal Government with the military President. Under this plan, there would not have been a Presidential election.
General Babangida, a democrat, knew that Senator Uba Ahmed’s plan was contrary to standard practice and said so and did everything to stop it. The NRC led by Senator Uba Ahmed did not forgive me for originating a plan for the President in furtherance of his decision to use to inaugurate the National Assembly on December 5, 1992. The Military President was convinced that the votes of the people as of July 4, 1992 should be the voices of the people in the National Assembly. This was the basis of the address I put together for the President for the inauguration of the National Assembly on December 5, 1992. Senator Ahmed called this address a “forged” document in his press attack on me personally and on the CDS as an institution (See “Advancing the Frontiers of Democratization”, IBB’s Address in Sam Oyovbaire and Tunji Olagunju ed, Crisis of Democratization. Malthouse, 1996).
As if the above display of ignorance was not enough, Senator Uba Ahmed went on to attack the idea of a programmed political education when he said:
“I have never heard of any place in the world where
politicians are called to go to school to be politicians
except here” (Also see the Sentinel of December 19,
Which world was he talking about? It was his world. It was obvious that this was a gross display of ignorance of what makes the mature democracies survive over the years. This ignorance was partly responsible for the backsliding in the democratization process in the past. It is still there today. It is my view that if the 400,000 new breed politicians under the two party system who passed through the Centre for Democratic Studies between 1989 and 1992 were allowed to continue, Nigeria would have been different today. These were believers in one-person one vote for, after all, this is what democracy is about, belief. You either believe in it or you did not believe in it. One should observe that during this period the political salience of religion and ethnicity was reduced.
It is also my view that the introduction of non CDS products into the political arena from 1993 increased the class of non-believers in democracy. This class came into the political arena with their belief and contributed immensely to the collapse of the transition programme in 1993. One should also observe that the period also witnessed the increase in the political salience of religion and ethnicity in Nigerian politics.
Between 1993 and 1999, Nigeria witnessed the takeover of the political environment by non-believers in the idea of “one person one vote”. This was the rule of General Sani Abacha, The 1999 transition programme to civilian rule after the death of General Abacha was unfortunately commenced with “politicians” drawn from those who didn’t originally participate in the CDS programmes and who never harbored any belief in “one-person one-vote”. They, in effect, were politicians who didn’t believe in democracy. They abound in the leadership of the dominant political party and in the government that grew from it. Reading through Segun Adeniyi’s account of the last 100 days to the death of General Sani Abacha and going over the political terrain and the actors today, there are common names, common attitudes and common tendencies. The same Nigerian politicians who never believed in democratic process since 1993 are still operating from the same belief within the dominant political party that the vote in a multi-party politics is meaningless. To them, their plan is “to fix it”. See Olusegun Adeniyi, The Last 100 Days of Abacha (Book House Company 2005).
NON-BELIEVERS IN DEMOCRACY ROOT OF NIGERIAN CRISIS
My study in the US since leaving CDS in 1995 made me to come to the conclusion that the crisis of democratization in Nigeria has to do with the lack of education in the primacy of democratic rights. Even though Nigeria was party to the declaration by the UN General Assembly in 1999 that there is a “right to democracy”, the Nigerian politicians still do not believe in its “ingredients”. For the UN Declaration, see the UN Human Rights Commission Resolution 2002/46.
The ingredients of democratic rights are variously expressed in literature as “genuine election”; “periodic elections”; “ universal suffrage”; “secret ballot”; “the will of the people”; “level playing field”; “independent judiciary”; “related conditional right” as the freedom of the press, fair access of political association to the media, the freedom of association and freedom of assembly and freedom to organize intermediate groups. (See Thomas M. Franck “The Emerging Right to Democratic Governance”, American Journal of International Law 86 (February 1992) pp.46-91. Ceert Van Haegondoren “International Election Monitoring” in Revue Belge de Droit International Vol. 28 (1987) pp.86-123. Also see Omo Omoruyi, “Democracy as a Right: Neglected Issue in Nigeria”. First Distinguished Annual Faculty of Social Science Public Lecture, University of Benin, 2004.
If the non-believers in the education for democracy saw to it that the CDS was one of the first institutions to be disbanded by General Abacha in 1993, one would have thought that the CDS was one of the institution to be set up by a “democratically” elected President Obasanjo in 1999 as part of the “dividend of democracy”. The current administration has been too interested in economic issues and less in political matters. One would have thought that the same amount of time devoted to economic reform would have been devoted to political reform since 1999. The situation is complicated by the prevalence of political pathologies that the CDS research unearthed since 1990. The CDS tried to solve them through political education in the past.
An American colleague of mine was right who lamented at Harvard in 1995 that if the 400,000 ‘new breed’ politicians that passed through the Centre for Democracy Studies between 1989-1992 were allowed to continue (i.e. if the democratization process were not interrupted in June 1993), Nigeria would have been different today. Why do we expect the Nigerian democratic experiment to commence with the non-believers in democracy? This is still the problem today.
What the present Centre should be doing is deal with how to convert non-believers in democracy to believers in democracy. This is a tall order; is it possible? I’d say yes if the present generation of politicians would humble themselves and go to the first principle, education. I was asked recently to advise on the way out of the current crisis of democracy in Nigeria. I’d say fix the political pathologies in Nigerian politicians.
FIX THE ‘POLITICAL PATHOLOGIES’ IN NIGERIAN POLITICIANS
Since 1999, it should be obvious to us that in the area of democratic rights or participatory rights, we need an institution to enhance people’s democratic rights. It is abundantly clear that in the area of democratic governance, the current office holders from the President to the Councillors ought to be going through continuous civic education to deal with the anti-democratic attitudes and behaviour.
I can point out some of the defects in the Nigerian political life, the political pathologies from the anti-democratic behaviour of Nigerian politicians since 1999. Consider these:
(1) The Nigerian politicians generally do not have faith in the ballot box.
(2) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that they could lose an
(3) The Nigerian politicians who glaringly lost an election or were
rejected by the voters in their various communities still go to the tribunal and cry foul that their opponents or the managers of election or the government or police robbed them of victory.
(4) The Nigerian politicians believe that winning is the only option in an election even if it is very obvious that the voters do not want them.
(5) The Nigerian politicians believe that all is fair in elections.
(6) The Nigerian politicians believe that the election officers are purchasable and could be bought to deliver victory to the losing party.
(7) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that there would be another election.
(8) The Nigerian politicians believe that they are only involved in the last election.
(9) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that one could work for and actually earn votes in an election based on one’s vision and appeal.
(10) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that democracy is anchored on a series of elections.
(11) Nigerians, especially those who call on Allan and God to show them the way do not believe in appealing to the people for votes.
NEEDED, INSTITUTION FOR EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY
Nigerian politicians do not believe that the Nigerian politicians and would-be politicians should be sent to school to learn to be a democrat. You train for other jobs; but in politics every Nigerian believes that it is a profession of anything goes. They ought to know that Democratic life is a learned life amenable to the rules governing learning. This is the experience from mature democracies.
Trade unionism and journalism used to be like that in the past for misfits and school dropouts. It was fashionable that as soon as one could be an agitator or provocative writer, he was called a trade unionist or a journalist such as the Imoudus and the Enahoros. Has that not changed today with the advent of many schools of mass communication and department of industrial relations. Unfortunately, Politics has become one trade where politicians think that there is no need for education. Can we use this forum to call on the Nigerian political class that they need reorientation? This should or ought to be obvious from what Nigeria went through in the hand of the military. Should we not have made some effort to deal with the aftermath?
A commentator once took me on that I should support a Nigerian with no military background for an elective office and questioned my support for General Babangida. I wrote back that he should show me one. He fired back that it is a tragedy of our time that no Nigerian of civilian background has faith in himself when placed side by side with a retired General.
Some would say that it is money that makes iron to float in politics. Unfortunately, no one ever mentioned Vision and faith in the elections process as some attributes that politicians should cultivate. Maybe this is what General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was referring to when he said recently that Nigerian politicians aspiring to elective office should stop playing the ethnic card and deal with ideas and programmes. Is this not a factor in the political pathology to rely solely on money and ethnic or zone as the bases of politics? Could this not be dealt with through political education?
My view is that Nigeria since 1999 should have embarked on (i) the fundamental reconstruction of society and (ii) the fundamental reorientation of attitude to politics as the Germans and the Japanese did after the WW II. Is it late? What Nigerians passed through in the hands of the military from 1966 to 1979 and from 1983-99 should have convinced President Obasanjo that Nigeria passed through war - like period, like the Germans and the Japanese requiring a fundamental reconstruction and fundamental reorientation. Instead he devoted too much time to the economic reform and neglected the political realm. The crisis arising from this neglect is obvious today.
The issue today in an era when the President and his handlers are all knowing about democracy is who would push for this in Nigeria?
One would not expect the Nigerian politicians to be knowledgeable in the philosophy behind political education, which is a special field with many authorities behind it. What one would have expected of them is to allow those who are trained in this area to reconstruct Nigerians political culture to do their work. This was what happened in Germany and Japan after the WW II; this is what is still happening in the Eastern European after the fall of the Berlin Wall with the support of the West – US and EU countries.
ADOPT UNIVERSAL PRACTICE
There is nothing unique in my proposal. The experiment that I pioneered in the past was not unique to Nigeria. It is a requirement in all democracies today. May I call attention of the Management of the Centre to the National Endowment for Democracy in the US, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in the UK and various Foundations in Germany . The US practice was older than the CDS and the CDS was older than the UK experiment. Compare the laws setting up the three institutions for their similarity. I will strongly advise that you pattern your activities with them. I can help in this area, if consulted.
DIDACTIC MISSION OF THIS CENTRE
What I strongly consider to be one major aspect of the didactic mission of the Centre for Democratic Research and Training as a way of paying tribute to the late Malam informed the subject of this lecture - “Your Vote Is Your Voice”. This is one area that we do not quite appreciate as the basis of democracy in Nigeria. The first generation Nigerian leaders had higher faith in the vote as the basis of grassroots democracy than the current politicians. Malam Aminu Kano devoted all his life impacting on Nigerian masses throughout the country that “Your Vote could change your life”.
My experience with Malam in the Constituent Assembly in 1977/78 taught me his abiding faith in allowing the masses to determine who governs our society. I was not surprised when General Ibrahim Babangida called me one day that I should incorporate Malam Aminu’s teaching with the philosophy of grassroots democracy. This is the basis of this topic. It is my plea that the Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Bayero University should follow Malam’s footsteps and continue with the political education of the masses. As an academic institution, you should continue in the tradition of devising ways to organise political education that empowers the masses. This is a neglected area. I was shocked that INEC whose business it is to conduct election now has a Training School at Asaba affiliated to the University of Ibadan. Why Asaba? Why attached to Ibadan? You are best suited to do training for INEC. You are best suited to organize political education programming for the generality of politicians from your excellent facilities and staff.
I still recall that one of the unresolved cases that I had to face as the Director-General of CDS was the defence I supplied in support of the decision of a ward congress in one of the parties to choose a tailor in the preference to a legal practitioner as the party’s legal adviser. In my inquiry into why that party congress acted the way it did, I was made to understand that the choice before the party delegates was between who would advise them on how to avoid litigation and one who would defend them in a court of law and the party chose the former. The party needed some one who would tell them the lawyer the party should contact and not one who would take up the case himself. The point that we should appreciate in such a matter is does the choice represent the voice of the people. To the people, a tailor has “a legal sense” not necessarily a legal training and this should be respected.
Your Vote is Your Voice is a slogan in mature democracies; it is a common refrain during voter registration in public places in the US. This was what I discovered during my sojourn in the US as a democracy promoter. It is sad that this is the least aspect of political education in Nigeria. This is what INEC should be preaching. To many in Nigeria today, democracy is defined as Government of Some People, for Some People and by Some People. Under this policy, the vote cannot be the voice of the people and it is the least mode of getting to power.
This is the way I see the third term debate. One observes that the protagonists of the third term are those who do not believe in one-person-one-vote. They are the architects of how to rig election or fix election result at the collation centres. Those who are pushing for the third term for the existing political order have no faith in the vote as the basis of filling the vacancy in the Presidential Villa. They work from the answer when they proclaim that there would be “no vacancy” in the Villa. One saw the way the PDP organized its party machinery to make that real. Its leaders do not believe in the saying that the vote of the people should be the voice of the people. Its leaders do not believe in a multi-party Nigeria. They do not have faith in the idea of one person one vote. This is just highlighting the problem before us that there is a lack of understanding of the relationship between the vote and the voice. They would need to be reminded of the relationship.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VOTE AND VOICE
Those who have studied the relationship between the vote and the voice have used the vote as the basis of democracy. This, for many years, was a neglected issue in Africa. It is a neglected issue of analysis among scholars of African politics until recently. We can deduce this neglect from the gap in the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights. Yet this Charter still forms the bastion of human rights in Africa. What do I mean? To answer this, let me compare the African Charter with other Human Rights Documents with respect to the Vote.
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 21, it is stated:
1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through chosen representatives.
2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public services in his country.
3. That the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of
government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine election which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. (Adopted 10 December 1948 by the United Nation General Assembly with a Vide 448-0-8)
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Right went further to state in Article 25 that:
(a) “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity without
any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 1 and without
(b) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(c) To vote and to be elected at genuine period election, which shall be held by, secrete ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.
(d) To have access on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
(Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and came into force on March 22, 1976).
It would be noted that governments between 1966 and 1983 failed to ratify it. General Babangida for reasons that became obvious later signed it on July 29, 1993 few weeks before he left office in August 1993. This will be dealt with in another forum.
This right to vote is also found in the prohibition of all forms of discriminations such as the Convention on Political Right of Women (Articles I – III), the Convention on Elimination of Forms of Discrimination against Women (Articles Ia - 1c), and in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discriminations.(Article1).
GAP IN THE AFRICAN CHARTER
Most African countries that subscribed to the above human rights treaty saw the Act as a “right of passage”. This was why they did not allow the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to reflect the right guaranteed their citizen in the above treaties. To buttress my point, I wish to refer to Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which says:
(1) Every citizen shall have the right to freely participate in the
government of his country, either directly or through chosen
representation in accordance with the provision of law.
(2) Every citizen shall have the right of equal access to public
service of his country.
(Adopted by the OAU June 26, 1981 and entered into force on October 21, 1986).
By 1986, democracy or government based on the vote was alien in Africa as most African States were of three variants of authoritarian regime – one party, military and Apartheid. None of these regime types was based on the vote as the voice of the people.
The African Charter makes no provision for the vital ingredient of the right to vote because vote was not part of their concept of participation. They did not pay regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenants and in other Conventions. Other regional human rights treaties in Europe and in America usually acknowledge these treaties.
The African Charter made no provisions for:
(1) The right to vote and be voted for at genuine periodic election;
(2) The right to universal and equal suffrage;
(3) The right to secret ballot.
These three issues that constitute the free expression of the will of the people could not be contemplated by the dictators who framed the African Charter in 1981.
These dictators did not come to power through the vote of the people, hence the voices of the people were not needed to survive in office. The African Charter makes no room for the use of the vote to determine the will (voice) of the people. This neglect of the vote as the voice of the people explains why African leaders were lukewarm to the idea of exposing the elections in Africa to bodies external to the exercise. This brings me to another issue – the use of domestic monitors and the International observers as the mechanism for according credibility to an election.
The mature democracies appreciate the distinction between “a free and fair” election and “a credible” election. An election could be free and fair and may not be credible. This distinction was made recently by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu when he received a delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He said that the 2003 was technically “free and fair” but that it was not “credible”. The need to make the vote become actually the voice of the peoples is at the root of a credible election. What Iwu was saying was that the 2003 election in Nigeria did not reflect the voice of the Nigerian people. Aren’t we seeing that today?
Mature democracies over the years device the use of domestic monitors and international observers as an integral part of the process of election. This still remains an unresolved issue in Nigeria in particular and generally in Africa.
I must confess here that the Charter of Paris for New Europe influenced me when I made a recommendation to the former President that the use of Domestic Monitors and International Observers should form an integral part of the process leading to the June 12 election. In the Charter, it is stated:
(1) “That the participating states consider that the presence
of observers both foreign and domestic can enhance the
electoral process of the states in which elections are taking place”.
(2) “That the participating states shall ensure that candidate who obtain the necessary number of votes required by law are duly installed in office until their law expire or is otherwise brought to an end in a manner that is required”.
This was a document adopted on November 21, 1990 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to govern the new Europe that was admitting new members after the collapse of Communism. The old Europe wanted to set a standard that the new Europe should meet. See Ian Brownlie (ed), Basic Documents on Human Rights, Oxford 1992, pp.474-486.
These two principles are still part of the credibility enhancing mechanisms that “Your Vote” would mean “Your Voice”.
Under 1, it means that democracy in one country is the business of other democracies in the world and Under 2, it means that all elections once conducted should never be cancelled or annulled.
I shall return to this in the context of Nigeria later during the Question and Answer segment.
UNIVERSALITY OF THE RIGHT - FROM DIVERGENCE TO CONVERGENCE
When the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was being considered by States in the 1960’s there seemed to be agreement on some aspects and disagreement on others. Henry Steiner provided five dimensional categories for understanding the debate among States during the consideration of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These are summarized as follows:
1. Negative Rights: Most countries whether democratic or not profess this negative rights that usually start with “shall not” and usually include such statements as, “shall not kill”, “shall not torture”, “shall not engage in human trafficking such as slave trade” or “shall not deprive any citizen his spiritual autonomy”.
2. Procedural Fairness and Protection: This is usually the due process clause in the national constitutions in many countries that is supposed to guarantee citizens right to court and humane treatment of prisoners. Most countries would process to guarantee citizens this right.
3. Anti-discriminatory Rights: Most countries would profess to convince the world that they do not practice any discriminatory laws on the basis
of race, tribe or gender etc.
4. Expressive Rights: Most countries wrestle with the issues in free speech, assembly and associations.
5. Participatory Rights: This consists of the right to vote and be voted for. Most countries disagreed on how to bring this about.
See Henry Steiner “Political Participation as a Human Right”, Harvard Human Rights Yearbook, Spring 1988 pp.77-134.
It should be noted that participatory rights or democratic rights or the vote was a highly contentious issue at the time the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was being initiated and discussed within the international community. In the end, it meant different things to different countries. As was conceived and understood today, the right touches on the “distribution and exercise of political power”, (Steiner p.80-84).
I had argued elsewhere that what Steiner called the “divergence over meaning” with respect to the import of the right to political participation in the ICCPR is gradually yielding place to what I call, the “convergence over meaning”. Are we surprised that the former Soviet Block countries that objected to what they called the liberal democratic import of the right to political participation under the ICCPR before the Fall of the Berlin Wall are today members of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, of the NATO, the EU and many other organizations? What we should note
is that the cardinal principle of these organizations is strict adherence to political pluralism and the right to vote and be voted for in a periodic election. This new meaning about the status of the vote now confers a universal consensus on the vote as the voice of the people. Unfortunately no organization in Africa, continental or regional is based on democracy – One Person One Vote for quite a long time.
USE OF THE VOTE IN RECENT TIMES
Traditionally, the mature democracies use the vote at periodic election as a way of throwing up new leaders and guaranteeing that leaders are accountable to the people.
This new universal meaning of the vote today confers on this right, the status of a right not only as fundamental, but also as critical to democratic transitions in authoritarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe Asia and Africa.
The UN is now using the vote as the voice of the people in all peace-making exercises in all non-self-governing territories, and in societies afflicted with protracted civil wars. Many cases of this use in Africa are the cases in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique, Liberia and Sierra Leone to mention a few.
All the foregoing demonstrates the primacy of the vote or the right to democracy or participatory right. We shall dwell on this in the next Section of this lecture.
PRIMACY OF THE RIGHT TO VOTE
The primacy of the right to vote is summed up by Justice Hugo Black in the following words:
No right is more precious in a free country than that of having
a voice in the election of those who make laws under which as
good citizens we must live.
and went on:
other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.
(In Wesberry V Sanders 1964 from Steiner p.77).
From the above, it is now well recognized universally that other rights or freedoms called first generation freedoms or rights are dependent on the right to vote and that the voice of the people can be guaranteed only by the vote of the people periodically. It is also universally acknowledged that democracies do not go to war with other democracies.
What we should note is that it is no longer the right of passage under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is now an enforceable right under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in other convention. It imposes on States certain obligation to adopt that positive measure to hold democratic elections.
The Human Rights Committee (HRC) points out that “Article 25 lies at the core of democratic government based on the consent of the people and in conformity with the principles of the Covenant”. According to the HRC inter alia the following principles should be observed in the process of regulation and implementation of the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs:
* Conditions which apply to the exercise of that right should be based on reasonable and objective criteria.
* Conduct of public affairs relates to the exercise of political power – legislative, executive and administrative.
* The allocation of powers and the means by which individual citizens exercise the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs should be established by the constitution and other laws.
* Citizens exercise their rights as members of legislative bodies or holders of executive office, as well as by participation in electoral processes.
* Citizens should be able to exert influence through public debate and dialogue with their representatives in conformity with freedom of expression, assembly and association.
* The right to vote must be established by law. The principle of one
person, one vote, must apply, and within the framework of each State’s electoral system and the vote of one elector should be equal to the vote of another.
* The right of persons to stand for election should not be limited
unreasonably by requiring candidates to be members of parties or of specific parties.
* Periodicity of elections must be established by law.
* An independent electoral authority should be established to supervise the electoral process.
(From Roman Wieruazewski; “UN Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures and the Strengthening of Democracy”, Geneva, Nov. 2002).
HOW TO ENSURE A CREDIBLE ELECTION THROUGH A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: ADOPT THE BANGLADESH FORMULA
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 the interplay of democratic political 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 of the Federal Republic or in the Constitutions of the parties. As was designed it was meant to apply to the system of nomination only and not the system of voting. This clarification is necessary today because of the confusion in the Media as to the meaning of Option A4. Let me repeat, it only applied to the nomination system. People confuse it with the system of voting called the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS) in the Decree. The closest to Option A4 in terms of allowing all and sundry to vie for offices is in the practice in Bangladesh that was adopted as the 13th Amendment to the Bangladesh 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 replicated anywhere in the Commonwealth. The relevant section in the Bangladesh Constitution is made part of this lecture 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 and adopt a variant of what I call the Bangladesh Formula.
Under this amendment, the general election in Bangladesh is usually held under NEUTRAL NON-PARTY CARETAKER GOVERNMENT. The closest to this was the Colonial Government that conducted the 1959 Independence Election and the Military Government that conducted the 1979 and 1993 elections. They were “neutral non-party governments”. The conductors were not candidates. The closest to this was the advice given by Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule warning Chief Obasanjo not to get involved with election of his successor. One hopes that the “third termers” should read this section of the lecture.
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 in the election in the country.
VOTER AS KING UNDER THE BANGLADESH FORMULA
For the first time, under the Bangladesh formula the voter would be the king by making his or her vote to be his or her voice. The third termers are oblivious to this as they show their contempt for the voter in many ways by declaring that there is “no vacancy in Aso Rock” despite the law, which says that the position shall be filled by competitive election. Thos is the way I see the recent resolution of the PDP National Executive Committee meeting that the President/governors shall have third term.
On 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.
The Nigerian people need to get back their lost right to vote freely and independently without the pressure of unelected party chiefs.
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. They lost that right in 1964, 1983 and 2003; it is certainly an issue today as we progress to 2007. It is even worse for the elected. You see this from the current debate: Senators are not free; Members of the House of Representatives are not free; Governors are not free. The Nigerian voters like the Bangladesh voters would want to say with joy that they are free to vote for whoever they like without any fear of recriminations.
Candidates are free in two ways:
(1) The fear of security agencies and EFCC intimidating would-be candidate challenging the office holders would not arise.
(2) 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 beauty of the Bangladesh plan is that 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 and candidates. 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. This is what we mean by the term the Voter is the King in a democracy. This is where the “vote of the people” can be the “voice of the people”.
The voters would for the first time be free to judge the records of the party of the former office holders with the other contenders. Put simply, the plan would take definite steps as follows:
(1) The party of the outgoing President through the new Presidential Candidate would have opportunities to challenge the claims and sell themselves. The voters as the KING would be the arbiters.
(2) Under the plan 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. All the candidates will have equal pportunity 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.
(3) Under the plan at the State level, the parties of the outing Governors would also have the opportunity to 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.
(4) For the Senators and others, they would also have to go back to their constituencies and face their challengers.
(5) Under this plan, all the elected officials including the President, the Governors and Assemblymen will have to vacate their official quarters immediately after the term of office. 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.
(6) Under this plan, all officials should also surrender the official vehicles.
(7) All the state security details would be extended to the presidential candidates of all parties. 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. This is what all candidates, political parties and civil societies should be demanding. This is how the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission can actually be guaranteed.
PARTIES WOULD HAVE MEANING UNDER THE BANGLADESH FORMULA
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 (Ministers, Commissioner, Chairmen of Boards) 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 in 2003 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 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.
The fear today is that if the third term issue were passed, President Obasanjo would be returned “unopposed” in the PDP National Convention as was done during the series of Congresses and Convention of the PDP in 2005. He will be elected President so planned by the third termers. How do they plan to do it? Any assumption that he cannot be defeated is not part of the plan of the third termers.
The situation is worse today as the country prepares for 2007 election. The party leaders have been working from the answer with such terms as “third term”, “term elongation” or “extension” without thinking of other aspirants in and out of the party. Under the Bangladesh plan this would be an opportunity to have political parties as we would want and not political parties that are tied to the apron string of the Executive or political parties that operate as arm of regional/ethnic organizations.
Under this plan, 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.
ALL PARTY INEC NOT FEASIBLE IN A MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM
The number of political parties makes the suggestion of all party affairs in Nigeria unacceptable. In the US, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is made up of equal number from the two political parties and the Chairmanship rotates between the two parties. Where one party produces the Chairman, the other party produces the Vice-Chairman. There is no way that this practice can operate in Nigeria. Hence the suggestion of the Patriot, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Senator Abraham Adesanya for an All-Party INEC would not be a solution to the issue of a level playing field. There are at the moment thirty-three political parties with a possibility of having more. With the best will in the world, a consensus cannot be formed around thirty-three 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 All-Party Government. But they can get it from a Caretaker Government, if we adopt the Bangladesh Formula or a variant of it.
THE THREE PRINCIPLES GOVERNING THE BANGLADESH FORMULA
It should be noted that it is not the specifics 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.
* That the party in power or the government in power should
NOT be entrusted with the organization of election while in
* That no person should double as an office holder and as a
candidates in any election. This means that the same Government officials should not be candidates in the election.
* 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 these principles to Nigeria? Let me make some suggestions. They are just suggestions and nothing more. Any suggestions within the three principles should be considered.
APPLICATION OF THE “BANGLADESH FORMULA”
What would be required are:
(a) That President and other elected persons at the Abuja and
at the State capitals should take themselves out of the
administration of elections.
(b) 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 vacate the offices and residences of the State.
(c) 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. They should allow the interplan of political forces to
produce other candidates.
(d) 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 modaility for setting up a Caretaker Administration after the end of the term office.
(e) 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 ad hoc body like the Partriot or the regional groups 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 as they did in 2003.
Under this plan from 2007, all office holders should vacate office at the end of the current term and they would not double as office holders and as candidates at the same time. This is just one part of the Bangladesh Formula. The second part is that the office holders should have nothing to do with the election at the end of their tenure of office.
Under this plan, the term of all office holders would end at 12 noon on May 29, 2007. Unless the Constitution specifies term limits, the present President or Governor would be free to seek (a) the re-nomination of their parties and (b) seek the votes 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 Governor? What about the Governors, who
have just done 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 Administration 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 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 controls the President exercises over the INEC in the performance of its function. The Caretaker Administration should direct INEC to conduct election beginning with the voters’ registration and the scheduling of election.
The issue of the number of political parties should be left to the interplay of democratic political forces. The politicians would sort out themselves depending on the offices and level in which they wish to participate.
A party that is interested in just the State government needs not be a national party. In fact, a party emerges 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; this 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 then 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.
SCHEDULE OF ELECTIONS
The schedule of election should be as follows:
State Assembly and
House of Representatives and Senate and
here is logic in the schedule outlined about. It would take care of (a) the separation of power and (b) division of power.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL ETHNIC GROUPS
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.
OPTION A4 UNDER BANGLADESH STRENGTHENS EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL
This was what we tried to provide for under a system of nomination for lack of name is called Option A4 which was picked out of 8 Options. This plan allowed all ethnic groups and states in the federation to put forward their favourite 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 is favorite son of Ogun State emerged from a pool of 30 candidates at the SDP National Convention at Jos in March 1993. This process was 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 also 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.
We are still confusing the Option A4 as a nomination system and the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS) as a voting device. I tried to make the difference clear, but it would appear that Nigerians are bent on calling MOBS Option A4. They do not mean the same thing from what was done in 1992. Both are still needed for a free, fair and credible election. The difference is well discussed in chapter 3 of my book, Omo Omoruyi, The Tale of June 12, 1999.
ELECTION AS A PROCESS
The mature democracies appreciate that election has three parts. Hence 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 to the post-Election Day activities. Let me itemize all the activities under the three stages.
The pre-Election Day activities are:
*The formulation of the Electoral Laws and Regulations;
*The Composition of the Electoral Commission;
*The Constituency Delimitation;
*The Registration of Political Parties;
*The Registration of Candidates;
*The Registration of Voters;
*The Voters’ Education;
*The Rules Governing Campaign, and
*The Rules Governing Campaign Finance; and
*The Rules Governing the Public Media
The Election Day activities include:
*The Security of the Ballot;
*The Security of the Voters;
*The Secrecy of the Voting;
*The Openness of the Voting;
*The size of the Voters at the Polling Booth;
The post Election Day activities include the following:
*The Counting of the Votes;
*The Security of the Vote;
*The Freedom of the Vote after he shall have cast his Vote;
*The Announcement of the Result;
*The Procedure for announcing the Results; and
*The Swearing-in of the winner of the Election;
Most elections are won or lost before the Election Day. Hence the pre-Election Day Activities are very critical if we are to have credible elections that would guarantee that the vote of the people would be the voice of the people.
DOMESTIC MONITORS AND THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS FAILED IN THEIR FUNCTION IN 2003
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 follow the interpretation of the election as a process that has three parts.
Those who served as the international observers and the domestic monitors unduly focused on what happened on the Election Day.
The EU, the US and the Commonwealth quarrel over 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 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 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 and the White Members of the Commonwealth said that the Zimbabwe election was “a flawed process”. They were not referring to what happened on the Election Day. This was why the white Commonwealth members wanted Zimbabwe suspended before the Election Day because it was their feeling that the election was flawed and rigged 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. If we want the vote to be the voice of the people, 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 during the three parts of the process. One would recall that the international observers were also given sensitivity training as to what to look out for in 1993. This was absent in 2003. 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. Maybe this can be done under the auspices of the Centre for Democratic Research and Training.
INSTALLATION OF NEW RULERS
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 Justice 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. These 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 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 on 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.
How do I conclude this lecture? I could summarise. I could recapitulate. To do either of these two things would be repetitive of what you heard before. What I intend to do is to draw your attention to the saying of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah – “Seek Ye First Political Freedom and All Other Things Shall be added Unto thee”.
Nkrumah who read Theology at Lincoln University must have drawn his inspiration from two sections of the Holy Bible about King Solomon in 2nd Chronicle and in I Kings.
I am referring to what King Solomon requested of God in order to rule over his people, many tribes of Israel with justice.
In 1 King Chapter 3 Solomon said in Verses 7 and 8 O Lord
My God, thou hast made thy servant King instead of David my
Father and I am but a little child. I know not how to go out or
come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people………..
that cannot be numbered ……….
Solomon asked of God in Verse 9. “Give me, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people that I may discern between good and bad”.
In Verses 11 and 12, God replied: “Because thou hast asked this thing, and has not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself nor hast asked the life of thy enemies but hast for thyself understanding to discern judgment”.
God went on:
“Behold … I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart” In addition in Verse 13 God said:
“And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked for both riches and honour.
This is the way I see what God did for one man in 1999. God gave the leadership of Nigeria to him in 1999, to this man to be President out of many deserving Nigerians. This man who professes Christianity should have followed the path of King Solomon. This man of God should have gone to God with one prayer “give me an understanding heart to discern judgment” and “give me wisdom to rule over the multi-ethnic society called Nigeria”. This man of God should have followed what King Solomon did and should have not commenced with the search for riches and honour from the international community.
In some translations, what King Solomon asked God is called Justice – a mode of governing the multi-tribal society too numerous to count. The people of the Oil Producing Areas are crying for justice; Justice demands that one Abuja or one Victoria Island can he created in Bayelsa. Why not?
This was what many groups in Nigeria had been praying for since the creation of Nigeria. Some had it and some were denied. Recently this is what the people of the Oil Producing communities have been praying for since the discovery of Oil in their Communities. Of course this kind of justice that successive rulers gave other communities should have been extended to them. The Niger-Delta deserve man-made towns like Port-Harcourt, Victoria Island and Abuja.
Lord Lugard created a new Port town and named it after Lord Lewis Harcourt in 1913; the Victoria Island was a creation of the 1st Independence Nigerian Ruler under Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and of course, Abuja, a dream of General Murtala Muhammed was made real by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Maybe the Marshall Plan promised by General Babangida would be the answer to the quest for justice in the Niger Delta. Certainly it is not in the “resource control. It is sad that the Presidents’ initiative since 1999, through the Niger-Delta Development Commission has become a partisan way of distributing wealth through the PDP functionaries in the Niger Delta. The 50 man Presidential Committee on Niger Delta headed by the President and reporting to the President cannot be a solution to the lingering problem of the Niger Delta.
It is my belief that just as God gave King Solomon a discerning heart and wisdom to rule over many tribes of Israel, God in his infinite mercy would have heard his prayer. If the Nigerian President did the right thing since 1999, God would have given him a discerning heart to rule over many tribes in Nigeria, and would have added riches i.e. the economy and international honour in the bargain.
The crave for economic reform since 1999 that enriches a few at the expense of the many who are being impoverished should not have been pursued devoid of a stable political order. What we are seeing in Nigeria in the name of reform is turning King Solomon’s prayer upside down. It ought to be clear since 1999 to the all knowing Nigerian Leader that the root of Nigerian crisis is political and not economic. Nkrumah was right. “Seek Ye First Political Freedom” in the rendition of King Solomon’s prayer.
Today Nigerians are not free, they cannot vote and be voted for. Since 2003 their vote cannot be their voice; it is a Government of Some People, for Some People and by Some People.
The Constitution under which we are to live as free people is being bastardized. Amendment to it is being pursued as a Party Constitution and in a partisan manner. Amendment to such a Fundamental Law of the land is being pursued with a view to empowering one person instead of the many. The envisaged amendment would deny voices to the people but would make one person the current President, the sole beneficiary.
OBASANJO SHOULD FOLLOW BALEWA
May I use this forum to call on President Obasanjo to follow the path of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who as the leader of Nigeria took two amendments to the House of Representatives in 1963 and got them through because they met two criteria: One, there was a national consensus around them and two, Balewa was not the beneficiary of either.
If the change from Monarchy to Republican Status made all Nigerians proud, it therefore met these two criteria.
The creation of the fourth Region also met these two criteria.
The third term; or “tenure elongation” or “extension”; the erosion of the Federal principles in the name of curbing the Governors of States and the zoning and rotation of elective offices do not meet these two criteria.
Let the President (as Balewa did in the early 60’s) take an Executive Bill on one subject only at a time to the National Assembly. This was what Balewa did after Independence. Balewa’s plan took three years (1960 - 1963) to materialize.
President Obasanjo should, as Balewa did, allow the country - the Nigerian people to appreciate why it is in their interest and in the national interest for such a measure to be accomplished. This is how a national consensus can be formed around an amendment to a fundamental law of the land called the Constitution. President Obasanjo should appreciate that there is nothing in the current debate about the “third term” etc that can meet the above criteria.
An Amendment to the Constitution is not like an amendment to an ordinary law that the members of the National Assembly can subject to the normal rules governing law making. This seems to be alien to the way the law makers are acting today. They do not seem to know that the Constitution is different from other laws that they could deal with under the law making power in the Constitution.
How many of us are old enough to appreciate the national pride that came to the Nigerian people of many categories with the change from “Monarchy to Republic”? How many Nigerians still know why we changed from the “Queen’s Own Nigeria Army” to the Nigerian Army? How many Nigerians know why Nigeria dropped the Knighthood for National honours? How many Nigerians know why Lawyers dropped the title of Queen’s counsel (QC) for the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)?
With respect to the agitation for the creation of new States culminating in the creation of the Fourth Region (Midwest in 1963) how many of us still reflect on the role played by the Prime Minister who until he took the Bill to the House of Representatives, the idea remained just a dream? The creation of more States under various military regimes and the agitation for more today in the South East show that the idea is good and in the national interest. This brings me to another issue that Nigerian patriots should be aware of. Nigerians should beware. Watch out for the fine prints on the Mantu Report. For example, the attempt to use the States in preference for ZONES or Regions is in the national interest. We should allow the Federal System to work.
The amendments to the 1999 Constitution now being proposed would kill the Federal System as we know it and inherited from Britain. The zonal plan is a plan to dismember Nigeria. States cannot secede but zones like the old Eastern Region can and survive. There are many fine prints in Mantu Report.
WHICH ARM SHOULD INITIATE AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION?
Who should initiate an amendment to the Constitution? From the examples cited in the 1st Republic, it should be the President and not the National Assembly. The reason is simple. This has to do with the arm of government that can lead in the evolution of a national consensus on any subject, the Executive or the National Assembly. It should be the Executive because there is “unity” in the Presidency. Certainly, the National Assembly cannot for obvious reason.
The National Assembly, no matter how it interprets its national status, still remains a “broken mirror” in the language of President Charles De Gaulle of France. A “broken mirror” cannot be used to reflect an image but images that are not meaningful. This is why the National Assembly through the Joint Committee which is another absurdity is completely alien to the process of bringing about a national consensus. We are seeing it already. President Obasanjo should call on the National Assembly to drop the plan. Based on the inability to form a national consensus the National Assembly therefore cannot and should not be used to originate an amendment to the Fundamental Law of the land - the Constitution. The product of such an exercise will only be a partisan outcome and would not generate a national consensus. This is a political issue and not a constitutional matter.
My view is that what we have today in the name of the Mantu Committee is alien to the process of generating a national consensus. The method the Committee is using stinks. Is the President behind the method being used to muzzle members to submission? Does the President know that the outcome of the Mantu’s Committee cannot be said to reflect the will of the Nigerian people? Why does he think that he can become President for the third time through this method?
Another absurdity in the process of amendment to the 1999 Constitution is the role of the PDP organs – the Board of Trustees and the National Executive Committee. The Chairmen of these PDP organs are overbearing; their conduct tends to give the impression that the 1999 Constitution is a PDP Constitution. They now make it obvious to the PDP Legislators that a vote for it is a vote for the President and the PDP. Why should they feel that the amendment to the 1999 Constitution should take a partisan approach? There is no reason why they should mobilize the PDP members in the National Assembly and the PDP Governors to buy a particular amendment because it is good for the PDP President.
The President on the other hand had never canvassed for the third term amendment. In Kebbi, he only canvassed for constitutional recognition of traditional rulers. If this is an issue that has the President’s backing, he should commend it to Nigerian people as an Executive Bill.
My view is that the process being adopted for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution is an erosion of what the Founding Fathers of the Constitution of this Presidential System had in mind. Malam Aminu Kano was one of them. I can vouch for that because I was one of them. This was not what we had in mind that one day the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would be treated as an ordinary law that can be amended at will by the National Assembly or as a PDP Constitution that could be amended by fraud, bribery and gift of land at Abuja. If the President does not know, this is what is going on today in his name. They are doing this in “President Obasanjo’s name”. Would the outcome be as a result of his prayer? What is going on today in the name of wanting to give one man “third term” or “tenure elongation” or “extension” cannot be the work of God. It is the work of the Devil.
BRING THE PEOPLE INTO THE AMENDMENT PROCESS
If there is any lesson that we can learn from the creation of the only democratically created Region – the Midwest Region was the use of Referendum to measure the voice of the people. This is missing under the current Constitution. We can restore the voice of the Nigerian people into the amendment process. Mr. President should, if he wants the Nigerian votes to be their voices should do three things in the national interest.
(1) He should immediately take to the National Assembly an Executive Bill for the amendment of the Constitution to make the people become part of the amendment process. We need a referendum for any amendment to the Constitution.
(2) Once No. 1 is done the President and not the National Assembly should proceed with the amendment to the Constitution.
(3) The President should take one issue at a time and allow the Nigerian people to discuss it and in the end form a national consensus. There is no way we can go to the Nigerian people with over 100 issues in a referendum.
ABANDON CURRENT EXERCISE IN NATION’S INTEREST
Would the President want to do this? If not why not? My advice to the President are as follows:
(1) President Obasanjo should lead the nations out of the
Current anti-people plan.
(2) He should formally address the nation and drop the issue of amendment to the 1999 Constitution;
(3) He should commence his journey back to Ota, Ogun State.
(4) He should leave the issue of amendment to another government after 2007.
If he does the foregoing, he (President Obasanjo) would have reclaimed his standing in Nigeria and in the international community and joined the lonely place occupied by Nelson Mandela today. Not to do this, he would join the crowded company of African dictators.
Any attempt to continue with the amendment via the Mantu Committee that has one person in mind is a recipe for a national disaster. President Obasanjo should see this from the paralysis in Aso Rock and the crises in the country. These are warning signs of an impending national crisis. Political analyst World wide would use the lack of “unity in the Presidency” and other crises in the country as arising from the self succession bid by the President as a critical data. The editorials of two major foreign papers (the New York Times and the Economist) are a reflection of the concern in the international community. A stitch in time saves nine stitches.
INSPIRATIONAL WORDS FROM GENUINE AFRICAN LEADERS
Let me end this lecture by invoking the inspirational words of two African greats – Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan.
Nelson Mandela during his trial in 1964 recognized the value of the vote for all Africans – white and black in the following words:
I have fought against white domination and I have fought
against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a
democratic and free society in which all persons live together
in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an idea, which
I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an idea
for which I am prepared to die.
He repeated these words when he was released from Prison in 1991. Can a Nigerian leader say he would defend democracy with his life? We only read of people who said they would die for Nigeria and for certain Nigerian military rulers but not for a democratic Nigeria where justice reigns. President Obasanjo would have been the second African leader to lay claim to democracy but for “the myth of indispensability” that he believes he possesses from God and not from the Nigerian people.
Kofi Annan advised African leaders including President Obasanjo as recently as December 2000 with the following words:
Poor people’s stomachs are not filled by rulers who impose
themselves by force, who do not submit themselves to the
people’s judgment or who do not allow the people to hear
the views of their opponents.
This is apt for Nigeria of today. The Nigerian leader is filling the poor peoples’ stomachs of Nigeria with platitudes of economic reform; the leader wants to elongate his rule without submitting himself to the judgment of the people. The latest act of the “Imperial President” is that he hates opposing views and political opponents who are being terrorized by security agents.
SHERATON HOTEL INCIDENT AVOIDABLE
One can imagine what would happen in the days after the third term issue is rigged in favour of the President. What happened in 1964 and 1983 would be a child’s play.
I was a student politician during the process leading to the 1964 Federal Election. I was a partisan politician during the process leading to the 1983 Presidential Election.
Every conduct of PDP administration especially the use of the Police in breaking up political meetings reminds me of the two episodes. The same Police that cracked down on opposition meetings allowed PDP leaders to storm the Presidential wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport to harass the Vice President. I am scared.
This would have been an opportunity to revisit the use of the Human Rights Committee to call on the Nigerian Government to live up to its Treaty Obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. One would recall that the International Community used it to deal with the Abacha regime after the extra-judicial execution of Ken Saro Wiwa. The Human Rights Committee in 1995 chastised the Abacha regime for the “fundamental inconsistencies between the obligations undertaken by Nigeria to respect and ensure rights guaranteed under the Covenant and the implementation of these rights in Nigeria”. Why should the human rights community and the Human Rights Commission not go to the UN Human Rights Committee to challenge the Public Order Act under which a democratic order is violating the obligations of Nigeria under the Treaty? (See Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committees, Nigeria U.N. Doc. A/51/40 paras 267-305 (1996).
In standard text on democracy, there are related and conditional rights that should be protected if the right to vote can be made the voice of the people. The Public Order Act in its present form should be abrogated if democracy is to survive in Nigeria.
Malam alone would have led in the fight against such a tyrannical order, an order that is devoid of a “discerning heart”.
There are empirical cases of how the people whose voices have been denied dealt with a tyrannical order. The “right to revolution” is guaranteed under the US Constitution; the Philippines sanction the “people power” and recently the Republic of Georgia adopted the Revolution of the Red Roses. Which one would Nigerians adopt, if faced with a tyrannical order?
Thank you and God Bless. May what Malam fought for not be in vain; May his spirit and word guide us that one day the “people’s redemption” will be taken for granted; that one day we shall join Bishop Desmond Tutu when he got his right to vote after 70 years and use the word of Martin Luther King in unison, “Free at Last. Thank God Almighty, Free at Last”.
27b CHAPTER 11A
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.