Unguarded Optimism About Electoral Act Shocking

NIGERIA consistently defies logic because whatever is done returns to a stalled starting point. Call it running in circles, motions without movement, living the past blissfully in the present, you will not be too off the mark.

The unguarded celebrations over the amendments to the Electoral Act affirms that Nigeria has arrived at its utopia with elections. Everyone is applauding it.
Nobody thinks things could go wrong because there is a new law for elections, in Nigeria, among Nigerians, by Nigerians. I am at a lost about the applauses for a legislation that is just a law, like other laws that we make a point of not obeying.
Are there provisions in the Act to change Nigerians? Will it be a different Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that will conduct the elections? Exactly what are we celebrating?
Some are under the impression that the Act will stop rigging. Do they understand that rigging starts from unavailability of voters registration materials, through the number of voters cards released, to the late arrival or low quantity of voting materials on election day?
How do we take care of hundreds of thousands of professionals who have created value chains from rigging? Do we believe they will lose their jobs quietly? Does the new Act forbid rigging in any way different from the previous one?
Will our ears and eyes be spared the woes of those who would provide evidences that they were rigged out of the 2023 elections? People are trying to convince me that electoral officers can no longer be compromised because results can now be transmitted electronically.
In simpler terms, INEC officials, party chieftains, elite, thugs, touts, security agencies, the judiciary, will become saints in tune with the dictates of an elixir called the Electoral Act, as amended. We have decided to deceive ourselves again.
Section 65 of the Electoral Act states that INEC can review results declared under duress. What does “review” mean? Which meaning of “duress” will we accept? Why is it no longer adequate for the judiciary to deal with these matters?
Are we moving from “as the court pleases” to “as INEC pleases”? Have we opted for another road block on the trip to electoral victory?
Section 84 that stipulates that anyone holding a political office – ministers, commissioners, special advisers, and others – must relinquish the position before they can be eligible to participate in the electoral process either as a candidate or as a delegate, was one of the parts that President Muhammadu Buhari did not like.
The applauses for the President, like the abilities being conferred on the Act to bring confidence to our elections, are mere Nigerian penchant for accommodating minimal standards and then promote them to irreverent importance.
It took the President rejecting the Act seven times before he signed. The delays were clear indications of the unimportance he accorded the Act and a failure to understand the implications of the delays for our elections in 2023.
Like anything that Buhari has managed to do, he is being praised as if appending his signature to the Act had wiped away all challenges Nigeria faces. Shouldn’t he have signed the law before his own re-election for it to be tested with him?
Some of the individuals that Section 84 excludes from the electoral process are the ones noisily driving the process whether for themselves or their cohorts. Of course their irreversible actions will affect the 2023 elections.
The numerous factions of the parties flow from the influences office holders, Section 84 listed, are exerted. They use state resources to harrass others out of participation in the process. Who knows whether their interests accounted for the delays in signing the Act? The President wants the Section amended in the interest of political office holders.
Section 3(3) intends to guarantee the financial autonomy of INEC. It expects all funding required to be released to INEC a year in advance. A more important independence – political – is lost to the import of Section 8(5).
Political neutrality of all electoral officials is important as long as they disclosed their political affiliations. Failure to make the disclosure will attract a two-year jail term or a fine, or both.
Unlike earlier provisions that forbade appointment of politically affiliated persons into INEC, making a disclosure is now deemed adequate. Will the loyalty of INEC commissioners be to Nigeria or their political parties?
The Senate was upfront with the implementation of this provision when it confirmed Professor Rhoda Gumus, a registered member of the ruling All Progress Congress, APC, as an INEC national commissioner. Gumus claimed to have resigned from the party but a current copy of her APC membership card made rounds of the social media.
Those who celebrated the new Act could have ignored this.
How would the new Act be different? Enforcement of sanctions in the Act is the only way to lay new foundations for our elections.
Nigeria has earned a notoriety for slack implementation of laws. Electoral offences are treated with extraordinary levity.
Am I the only one wondering how this wonder legislation will turn Nigerians to law-abiding saints overnight?

Finally…
MINISTER of Petroleum President Muhammadu Buhari is on two-week medical vacation in London at the height of fuel scarcity that government keeps denying with “we have enough supplies”, and blaming Nigerians for impatience. The President in almost eight years has not built a hospital suitable enough to treat him. Before the President-Minister returns, the impatient queues would have gone. Maybe another achievement.

UNIVERSITY teachers are still on strike. Nobody will listen to them as has become the case. The only important future is elections.

SAFETY of children in schools keeps dipping. They are badly beaten, killed, molested, yet no consequences. More jeopardy for the future.

.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

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