The need to create balance within a political milieu and its undocumented realities have often time been the major focus of successive electoral reforms in most developing countries. The internalization of this framework is an issue of the government in power given the frequent structural and procedural changes in the way and manner elections are conducted within a given political system.
In Nigeria, the case is not different but the issue has been the inaction of successive administration to dully put to use most recommendations from the many initiated electoral reforms. A good appraisal of this fact is the dumped recommendations of the Uwais and Oronsanye Electoral Committees and an enclosure of their vast resourcefulness in tackling electoral deficiencies while having an evaluation of electoral reforms in NIGERIA against the bedrock of the current Ken Nnamani Electoral Reform Committee.
The culture of recurrent electoral reforms has gained notoriety in the nucleus of our democratic process due to the short sightedness of our constitution and the laxity on the part of our political elites as well as lawmakers to make laws that will not just accommodate the country’s present realities but also give rooms for future occurrences or the unboxed situations that may becloud our fragile political landscape as in the recent case of Kogi State.
In less than sixteen years of our return to the current democratic dispensation, the Nigerian National Assembly, just as it has been its norm in the passage of myriad of ineffectual laws, has passed more than four electoral laws some of whom were amendments of previous ones. The frequency at which these laws come after each election year and the geometrical decline in our electioneering fortunes suggest a pertinent lacuna and a psychological deficiency in our orientation especially as it relates to democratic governance. Given the fundamental political problem, it is only pertinent to unveil the matrix question on what is the country’s guiding philosophy on democracy as well as what could possibly be its reason or viewpoint towards a rapid replication of electoral reforms?
It is quite depressing that our constant reform on available electoral laws generates constitutional and logistical crises which presents a situation of total lack of confidence in the electoral process. More laws and reforms are not, and can never be, the answer to non-productive laws, but rather a holistic integration of existing and untouched reforms is needed to identify the deficiencies in reforms on one hand and prevailing societal and attitudinal inadequacies that stifle the application of reforms on the other hand.
Several recommendations of the Uwais White Paper report on Electoral Reforms recently made to the National Assembly during its alteration of the 1999 Constitution were rejected. The report provided for an infusion of credibility into the electoral process, securing independence of candidates and whittling down attractive incentive for fraud. Had that Report seen the light of day, elections in Nigeria, today, perhaps, would have become so error-proof and cases of gross manipulation, outright rigging, crass inflation of votes, and other instances of electoral malpractices would have been nipped out of our polity.
At present, a 24-member Committee on Constitution and Electoral Reform has been inaugurated by Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation acting under the directives of the president based on the latter’s desire to deepen the country’s democracy and entrench an unending culture of a viable electoral system that will serve the present and future generations. This action is a move geared towards restoring the confidence of citizens in the electoral system in Nigeria based on recent judicial decisions to that effect. That is the beauty of democracy and what makes it appealing most. It is the citizenry that determines what paves way in any democratic setting. As for the Constitution, that is another matter for another day, for it has been long agreed that the spirit and letters of the Constitution are anything but democratic. An interesting point of call was his advice to the Committee to look into the jettisoned recommendations of the Justice Uwais earlier Electoral Committee.
However, it is quite unfortunate that Nigerians would always be caught in the bomb blast mood of last minute preparations. At the last Olympic Games, revelations were that it was the unpreparedness of our athletes that accounted for their sorry performance at the games. Every outcome of governance in the country suggests also this unwholesome attitude of wait-till-it-happens approach to governance. An electoral reform after major elections in any socio-political system would have no breaking effect into the present political order. At best, it would serve as an indictment of the concluded elections. This action is just like a yawning disconnect between prevailing realities and the law.
The good intentions of President Buhari do not sync with the realities on ground and it’s an unnecessary duplication of past governmental actions amounting to a tantamount waste of resources. Past electoral reforms wavered on a pedal string due to lack of attention and this repetition of action is quite uncalled for as if you leave a leeway on a law to enable a short circuiting of the law, then what is the point of passing the law. It is rather disconcerting that we put in so much efforts and resources into reforming our electoral laws without a concomitant change in outcome.
Reform is a tool of social engineering and not just the flowly rhetoric of the law, hence we must address the tripartite pitfalls of our reform process by making subsequent recommendations subject to operation in our civil society system, as well as they being comprehensive and practical.