The term tenure elongation has a bad odor and a bad taste for many Nigerians. It was made so by the former president Olusegun Obasanjo when he tried to secure a third term. That was four short years ago. In spite of its distaste to Nigerians, I am proposing it in 2011 to include all politicians: the presidency, both Houses, State Assemblies and governors. Nigeria will be the better for it, I promise. The alternative is to rush the 2011 election and transition to a new administration by May, 2011 just seven months away. The elections would cover over a thousand races in a country with severely damaged infrastructure, low literacy levels, poorly disciplined security forces, ambiguous political parties and no national goals.
Consider where the nation is now. The status of the second amendment to the constitution and the first amendment of the 2010 electoral act is in doubt. These are the instruments that would govern the elections but if the legality of these documents are in question, how could one expect a good result from documents of questionable legality? Has the president signed the documents? Should he? These questions need immediate answers and none is available.
To proceed without clarity on this matter is absurd.
Consider the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) charged with conducting an election that is free and fair. Consider where INEC is on this day, the middle of October. The Chairman Mr. Attahiru Jega says that he needs more time. INEC has not yet awarded the contract for the purchase and the manufacture of the machines for registering voters and many other equipment that would be used in the exercise. The electoral workers have not been hired, trained on the use of equipment and their duties and responsibilities are yet to be determined and assigned. Worse there are no solid concrete preparations that one could point to that exists on the ground. Most of the counselors are new and their staff while older is not ready to go because of low morale.
Consider the political parties preparedness. Party nomination has yet to start and without proper register of voters would not start any time soon. Candidates who intend to run are merely making noises. Not one has stated clearly what he or she intends to accomplish while in office, which issues would get their attention. There has not even been a debate of the nation’s needs. In other words apart from bill board pictures of potential candidates there is nothing to show that a new president could be installed in seven months Political Parties have yet to educate the public and to differentiate themselves. The biggest political party in Africa has not come to agreement on what its constitution says about rotation of offices and the other parties are mired in leadership questions as well. The parties are not ready.
This October Nigeria is in a position where the status of the constitution and the electoral act are in doubt, INEC that would run the election is not ready and the political parties are in disarray. Each of these factors on its own is capable of derailing the electoral process but together makes contemplating one insane.
This election must be moved to late 2011 and early 2012 if the goal is a free and fair election.
But there are serious reasons working against such a move. The first and perhaps the most formidable is the constitutionality of the move. The terms of office of the incumbents ends in May and to go beyond May, may require a constitutional amendment, a difficult procedure even at the best of times. The second is the mood of the country. Many people are tired of the existing officers and want them out and any move to stay a day longer would not be seen as patriotism.
Given Nigeria ‘s reputation for electoral shenanigans a hurried up election would merely add to the distrust of the public of electoral process in the country and might lead to despondency and apathy.
If the election is pushed out further and conducted in a manner that would enhance the public trust that would be a much better outcome.
But that comes with a big “IF.”
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
October 13, 2010