In what could be described as the formal commencement of electoral activities for the forthcoming general elections and in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the time-table, which is now generating controversy. Series of events have been lined-up such that February 14, 2015 has been fixed for presidential and National Assembly elections, while February 28, 2015 is for governorship and state houses of assembly elections.
The contending issues deserve to be examined. In the first instance, with the scheduling of the presidential election ahead of governorship and state houses of assembly, many observers believe it is a plot by INEC to hoodwink Nigerians into voting for a President that is not their choice. It has been argued that the governorship election is very important and should rather come before the presidential election so that people would not be encumbered to vote for whoever they wished as president.
Secondly, the dates for the presidential and governorship elections are not too far from the date of inauguration, which is May 29, 2015. By this date, all election petitions and litigations are expected to have been concluded. If there are rerun elections, those elections can only be conducted in March, given the litigation period. If these lapses are not tackled, it could mean that those elected wrongly would have fed fat on our collective wealth before being kicked-out of office. Unless INEC is so certain that its logistics will be so efficient as to assure that the president and governors would emerge after the first ballot, it may be necessary to review this timeframe to avoid mix-up that may erupt in the event that whoever become president and governors are not determined in the first ballot.
Thirdly, the inability of INEC to announce specific dates for campaigns and dates for primaries and submission of party candidates is not helpful because the release of the time-table by INEC would ordinarily spur politicians into starting vigorous campaign. Adversely, this will take its toll on governance in the sense that many public officials would jettison serious governance and look for every means to amass wealth, to get re-elected. With the released time-table, there should ordinarily be no reasons to fret about scheduling of elections in the country but our experience in the past, prevailing high incidence of corruption, tribalism and the unbridled desperation by politicians to get into power should give us the basis to do a flashback.
In 1979, the governorship election was held first on July 28 followed by the presidential polls on August 11 but in 1983, the controversial ‘bandwagon effect’ was introduced into the nation’s political history when the presidential election was conducted first on August 6 while governorship polls came up a week after on August 13. The elections were the bloodiest because of widespread rigging; an excuse the military cited to wrestle power from the civilians. On return to civil rule in 1999, local council elections were held on December 5, 1998, followed by the governorship on January 9, 1999 and the presidential election on February 27, 1999 while in 2003, there was a marked departure from these two patterns. In this case, the gubernatorial and presidential elections were held on the same day and time, which was on April 19. In 2007, governorship and state assembly elections were held first on April 14, while the presidential and National Assembly elections were held on April 21. In 2011, the presidential polls were held on April 16 while the governorship election took place on April 26.
Which option is therefore suggested under the current dispensation? Going by experience, holding of the presidential election ahead of the governorship is likely to sway other elections in favour of the political party that controls the central government at the expense of other parties. The second option of holding all the elections on the same day is capable of causing chaos for INEC, in terms of logistics. The third alternative of holding both the governorship and state houses of assembly before the presidential and National Assembly elections seems more acceptable to many Nigerians. INEC should toe this line by revisiting the time-table.
This fear is borne out of experience whereby whosoever is elected as president influences other levels of elections in the country. This was the point raised by many people, including the Kano State Governor, RabiuKwankwaso, when he accused the Presidency of influencing the electoral umpire to fix the presidential election first, so as to create a ‘bandwagon effect’ in subsequent elections in favour of the ruling party. If and when this is done, it will address the problem of ‘bandwagon effect’ and voting for the wrong presidential candidate. The Bandwagon Effect in this case occurs where some people vote for those candidates or parties that are likely to succeed.
We should be sincere with ourselves by realising that with our kind of presidential system, it will be difficult to draw a clear line between what the Presidency wants and the shape of things to come at all levels of our polity. It is the outcome of the presidential election that will invariably determine the fate of other elections. The AttahiruJega-led electoral umpire should go the extra length to convince Nigerians that it is capable of conducting credible elections. This is necessary going by the several knocks received for the conduct of the last Anambra governorship poll.
Kupoluyi wrote from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. Email: [email protected], Twitter, @