From Ayodele Samuel, Lagos
Legal scholar and constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay yesterday warned Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega to immediately review the order of the impending 2015 general elections, saying the timetable released by the commission is dangerous for the country.
Sagay confronted Jega in Lagos yesterday at a public policy lecture organized by the Lagos state chapter of the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru.
He said INEC must reverse the order of the elections by holding the presidential poll last.
Delivering a paper titled "Building Credible Electoral Process for Democratic Sustainability", Sagay said holding the presidential election first would spell doom for the country.
"One other action by FEDECO, which revealed that it had become an uncritical agent and ally of the NPN was the reversal of the order of election in 1983. In 1979, the presidential election came last. But suddenly, without cause or explanation, the Commission decided to make the presidential election the first in the series of elections. The intention was to engineer a landslide victory for the NPN flag bearer, President Shagari, and thereafter, create a bandwagon effect that would overwhelm the opposition. They did so and succeeded. With the exception of the governorship elections, the opposition virtually lost interest in the subsequent elections, thus creating fantastic NPN majorities in the various legislatures. In all the depredations of FEDECO, the Nigeria Police was a close and vicious collaborator. Armoured vehicles were imported into the country for the police, shortly before the elections, in order to intimidate and over-awe the opposition.
" In commenting on the 1983 elections, Richard Joseph, the political scientist, was particularly struck by the impact of the reversed order of elections, i.e., holding the presidential elections before the others, contrary to the normal and conventional order.
"An NPN victory in the first vote of 6 August – giving it the next presidency, and thus the central government – would enable it to go on and rack up landslide votes in the other elections, because of the discouragement of opposition party supporters, the willingness of electoral and police officers to serve the wishes of what was already going to be the next government, and the desire of many candidates to be part of the bandwagon rather than risk being cut off from the largesse of the central government for another four years. The complete reversal in the order of the elections gave NPN strategists the opportunity to use their control of the various instruments of government, in a concentrated way, to keep their opponents off-balance and to arrange a massive vote total for Shehu Shagari by a combination of legitimate and illegitimate means.
"It thus becomes clear why the whole electoral process and the 'government' which emerged from it were enveloped and buried in a heavy pall of illegitimacy, leading to its inevitable crash and unlamented demise three months later.
"In this regard, we must once more draw attention to the INEC Order of elections for 2015. Once again, the Presidential election has been brought forward to the 1st part of the elections, thus once again employing the "Ovie-Whisky Formula" for guaranteeing the victory of the Ruling Party through inevitable manipulation which is automatically followed by the bandwagon effect. This is an unnecessary land mine primed to explode in 2015. Fortunately, there is still time to reverse this clearly perverse and mischievous decision. I hereby call on the Jega led INEC, in the interest of peace, order, stability, justice and democracy, to reverse the announced order and make the presidential election, the last," he further said.
The luminary therefore called on the Jega led INEC to, "in the interest of peace, order, stability, justice and democracy, to reverse the announced order and make the presidential election, the last."
Sagay said genuine, free and fair elections constitute the threshold or doorway into a democratic, stable and progressive society. Without free and fair elections therefore, he stressed, there cannot be democracy.
Tracing the history of elections in the country, Sagay said the last time a presidential election came first there was crisis in the country.
However, Jega who tactically waved the call during his presentation, said plans were in top gear to make the next elections remarkable in the history of credible elections in the country.
Part of the plans, he disclosed, include the electoral body's efforts to bring in more distinguished professionals from different trade bodies and associations to participate in the collation of the 2015 general elections.
"As the 2015 election approaches, we are determined to improve on the gains of the 2011 general elections. Nobody can say credible people are only in the academia. We used only those in academia because they were the ones readily available to us at the time.
"As 2015 elections draw near, we are looking at other constituencies. We are going to be working with professional associations in identifying and working with credible people who are not partisan and who have sufficient integrity and are willing to do voluntary electoral duties", Jega said.