WADOO!!NEWS: Elections Like No Other
NO two elections are alike, but the 2015 general elections would defy compartmentalisation in more ways. We have two presidential candidates who have clawed their ways into the consciousness of an electorate that thought it had seen it all.
There are at least another 12 candidates on the log. Nigerians are so consumed by the ultimate price that they may forget hat today, we would also vote for 109 Senators, and 360 members of the House of Representatives, together they should rein in the President. What are these legislators telling us? Are their positions less important than the presidency? Are our eyes on the ball for the money or the menu? I am assuming there is a difference.
Whatever it is, we are discovering bold campaigns in their fullness – form, format and formation. It would appear we are living in a new Nigeria, on our way to a newer Nigeria. If we thought we knew a thing about corruption, for instance, the stridency in condemning it, and some of the raised voices fluster Nigerians. We seem not to know ourselves enough, or during elections we become new beings for new reasons.
The campaigns of name calling became remarkable for naming the looters of Nigeria, no longer in familiar innuendoes. How much could have gone into these campaigns and the sources of the funds bother discerning Nigerians. Desperation for power shows in ways that foreclose adherence to the Electoral Act which places a ceiling of N1 billion on the campaign expenses of a presidential candidate.
According to Section 91 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (amended), “The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall be one billion Naira (N1, 000, 000,000).” The amount could not have covered cost of only television messages for the major candidates, though the law excludes costs of the primaries. Vehicles, staff, mobilisation, logistics, and security cost billions of Naira, even for governorship candidates, who are entitled to a mere total expenditure of N200 million!
Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should monitor campaign expenses. INEC does not, nor does it execute its 397-word mandate in Sections 225 and 226 of the 1999 Constitution (amended) for INEC to present annual audit of party finances to the National Assembly. These laxities have their places in today’s remarkable contest of contrasting approaches in which bounds both sides found shared values in breaking the law with incremental recklessness.
Who would believe that Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution (amended) exists? It states, “No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.” Associations, groups, unions – most purposely formed for the elections – have made their voices heard. They lead the campaigns and most times drown the candidates. Again INEC has ignored these groups, ignored the law and egged impunity to higher decibels.
Evidences of the pollutions from the groups include usurping political spaces and successfully helping candidates to break the expenses the law imposes. There are also further damages to the environment through millions of handbills, posters, banners, and billboards that litter Nigeria, preaching “change” and “transformation”.
“Change” and “transformation” have been elevated to such timbre that there are minimal concerns about the content of their promises, if any. The frenzy of waiting for the winner has overtaken considerations of the shape in which Nigeria would limp to the finishing line of this long race by May 29, the terminal date for all administrations that have ruled us since 2011, a year some remember for the uniqueness of its elections.
It was the year that marked, with huge hues, the beginning of last minute election postponements in Nigeria in an embarrassing scale and saliency. While some Nigerians were voting, Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman, was announcing the postponement of the election on national television. The postponement of the 2015 elections, blamed on other reasons, has evoked fears of contraptions that could mar democracy. Hopefully, the votes would address them.
These elections were postponed by six weeks, yet they are all built only on hope: that INEC is ready, that the card readers would work, that the results would be credible (meaning that the losing party would accept them), that conduct at the poll booths and after would be peaceful. Hope is all that we can do, as INEC has managed to shift the blames to all, including voters.
Finally, INEC is conducting the election that reflects what Jega has been telling Nigerians since he arrived at the job in 2011. He called stand alone elections he conducted in Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Cross River, Kogi, Imo, Ondo, Osun, and Plateau States experiments. The ultimate experiment holds today with the permanent voter’s card, the card reader, and the aside (which could be a major determinant of the results), the incident form.
INEC, parties, candidates, experts, and voters have only “guess” knowledge of how these apparatuses of the election work.
The fate of Nigerians is locked in this experiment and all they can do is pray, hope, and wait for the outcome of the most expensive experiment (not just the billions of Naira) in our history. It is not for nothing that these days we resort to generous use of the refrain, “There is God o,” which someone, who should know, donated to our national repertory, maybe, for times when hope, in all its expansiveness, is inadequate.