What Hope For The People
By Chinedu Bosah
Faced with profound condemnation of the 2007 election that ushered him into power and associated unpopularity of the government, President Musa Umaru Yar’Adua inaugurated Electoral Reform Panel led by Muhammadu Uwais, former Chief Justice of Federation. The 2007 general election was so massively rigged that it was awarded the most farcical general election in the history of this country; the international observer said that it fell far below acceptable standard. This was an election that was characterised by ballot stuffing, killings, late voting, harassment of political opponents with thugs and security agents etc. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) even went further to award non-existing votes to members of the ruling political parties. The 23-man committee has so far toured 4 geo-political zones and visited at least 15 towns across the federation conducting public hearing, which has turned to an adventure. So far, most of the visits by the panel were visits to political office holders (governors etc.,) who in themselves are beneficiaries of the 2007 general election. Equally, most of those who presented proposals are those who benefited. The 23 man committee travelling across the country is a huge drain on public purse. Its recommendation, no matter how beautiful, will still be at the mercy of those who cannot do without rigging elections since they cannot win popular vote. Reports of local government election and various bye-elections are a testimony to the desperations of the ruling class to cling to power at all cots. The Local government election in Osun State and elsewhere witnessed a more crude electoral manipulation compared to the general election.
A lot of proposals and submissions have been received by the panel such as: option A4 to be introduced; Open Ballot system; passing the recommendation as law; for INEC to be under the control of National Judicial Council (NJC) including appointment of INEC chairman; punishing those who take part in election rigging including barring them from seeking office etc. Let us even assume that the panel came out with beautiful reforms that are eventually passed into law, rigging will continue considering the desperation of members of the ruling elite whose source of power and wealth is depended on how much they short-change the people. We have seen many panels that have not seen the light of day e.g. Oputa Panel, Christopher Kolade Panel, Okigbo Panel etc. This is because no ruling elite will like to undertake a mission that will undermine their existence as looters and exploiters of the people’s wealth.
There is no section in the 2006 Electoral Act that gives credence or encourages election rigging, although it allows some undemocratic actions within parties, but it never sanctioned snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes, intimidation of voters etc., which have become the grand norm. The 2006 Electoral Act makes provision for serialisation of the ballot papers but this was in most cases jettisoned. An election that will be carried out at “gun point” and under the supervision of those who are in power for their selfish interest can never be free and fair election.
Election rigging is a function of the desperation of the self serving thieving elite who owe their status and wealth to the massive looting and exploitation of the people. These are people who benefit immensely from anti-people policies such as privatisation that have witnessed massive conversion of publicly owned properties to themselves at giveaway prices. So the ruling class cannot give up power just like that and the only way to do it is to continue rigging and manipulation of elections from the lowest to the highest level. Predictably, the 2011 general election would be worse than the previous ones considering the trend.
It is only the working class people, mobilised in action to defend their votes, that can stop election rigging. But this is only possible if they have vested interest in political power with their own political party. Therefore, leaving the present self serving ruling class to reform the election process and equally run in the election is like expecting the leopard to do away with its spots. In that light we call on NLC, TUC, ASUU, civil society to get organised and build a mass, fighting working class political party that will struggle for power.
Beyond preventing election rigging, such working class party should usher in a workers and poor masses’ government that could commit public resources to provision of infrastructure and basic needs of the society. This will require the party to carry out nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under working masses control and management.