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PATH TO GENUINE ELECTORAL REFORM

By: Rahaman Onike
 Published June 7th, 2010

The acceptance speech read by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan shortly after taking oath of allegiance as President and Commander Ė In Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria sequel to the death of President Umar Musa YaríAdua has raised the hope of an average Nigerian about the future of our democracy. In fact, the speech assures that the new administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan would be totally committed to the process of good governance, electoral reform and the fight against corruption would be pursued with greater vigour under the new dispensation. In lending credence to his political reform agenda, President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to enshrine the best standards in the nationís democratic practice by ensuring that all votes counts and are counted in the upcoming general elections.

Jonathan;s inaugural speech as the Nigeria fourth executive President portrays him as a leader being sensitive to the peopleís yearning for a better electoral process, even though he was equally a product and beneficiary of 2007 sham elections, the outcome of which necessitated the call for a genuine electoral reform.

With Maurice Iwuís relief as the INEC chair, President Jonathan has created an impression that he is serious in his efforts to enthrone an enduring political reform. The problem with our political system is however beyond Maurice Iwu. Now that Iwu has taken a final bow as the nationís chief electoral umpire, the verdict of history on his tenure is that is the most unpopular INEC chair to date, in the annals of Nigeria political system.

As the 2011 is beckoning, the question that agitates mind is that what should be the qualities that the would be INEC chairman should possess. In my own view, the next INEC chair must be a person of integrity and honour. As Dr. Jonathan searches for Iwuís replacement, he needs to consult widely to be able to make a wise choice. Indeed, his choice of INEC chair will determine, to a large extent, whether or not the next yearís elections will be free and fair.

The electoral umpire Nigeria deserves, in our match to genuine democracy, is a person who can serve as credible, fearless, impartial and independent chief Electoral Officer irrespective of his gender, religion and ethnicity. More importantly is the challenge of institutional dysfunctioning which is a bane of the nationís democratic process. Of course, Iwuís score card shows fundamental flaws in our electoral system and it attracts attention to failures of the nationís political institutions.

Obviously, a panacea to the inherent contradictions in our political system is full implementation of report of Justice Muhammed Iuwaiz political Reform Committee which is yet to be passed by the National Assembly. Unfortunately, the crises of values and method which currently confronting our political process has become aggravated by the institutional dysfunction of the nationís electoral system. Similarly, the present structure of INEC remains an object of criticism, for it has been considered incapable of guaranteeing successful national election. Without doubts, any reform of the electoral process which does not find a way to strengthen the political institutions, ensures compliance with letter and spirit of the constitution and satisfies the provisions of the nationís Electoral Act will not only be a ruse but unrealizable. The danger inherent in the structure and colouration of the current political system is of corrosive dimensions. Apart from the challenge of institutional dysfunction that is plaguing our political system, violence which is often being employed by the political elite has become a strategy to gain upper hands during elections contrary to the tenets of democracy.

Also, we should be worried about the character and orientation of INEC in its present shape, the body seems to be more interested in contract awards than conducting credible polls. With the nationís past political experiences, the call for urgent unbundling of INEC becomes imperative as this would guarantee efficiency of the nationís electoral body. There is also the need for more emphasis on training and retraining of the INEC officials to increase their capacity development opportunities.

Again, there could be no meaningful electoral reform without addressing the contribution of the police to the electoral woos of the nation. Quite often, the police had virtually become an instrument with which the ruling party manipulate, subvert and undermine the electoral system. Predictably, the possibility of recording credible election come 2011 is low except the roles of the police during elections are re-defined and their men are re-directed towards a more positive roles. Right political socialization, attitude and behaviour as enviable norms need to be given due attention as ingredients of sound political education for the citizens in charting the course for a better electoral system for the nation.

The widely reported unauthorized 2.8 billion withdrawn from INECíS account few days after Iwu has been asked to proceed on terminal leave needs to be carefully investigated and the Commissionís Finances between 2005 to 2010, the period during which Iwu was in charge of the nationís electoral body equally need rigorous audit.



ONIKE RAHAMAN
PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST
CELE AREA, OYO TOWN , OYO STATE .



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