CISLAC of Lagos ‘note with great concern the tendency of some political parties and politicians to flagrantly disregard the provisions of the Electoral Act in the run-off to the April 2011 elections’ in Nigeria.
We note with great concern the tendency of some political parties and politicians to flagrantly disregard the provisions of the Electoral Act in the run-off to the April 2011 elections in the country. This worrisome state of affairs has resulted in creating uncertainty around the upcoming elections, with the much-desired free, fair and credible polls assuming more and more the semblance of a mirage. We observe with apprehension that, barely 22 days to Election Day, several political parties are still yet to fully resolve who their candidates for some elective offices will be.
The cause of this is because many of them, in violation of the Electoral Act and their own constitutions, have ousted the course of internal party democracy and have engaged in underhand practices of selection or the imposition of candidates. The results of these are the over 700 court cases involving the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and related to the replacement or substitution of candidates for election and the violence in some places leading to the assassination of candidates, thereby heating up the polity and creating insecurity. This scenario negates the kind of atmosphere conducive for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
We are also alarmed at the manner in which campaign finance is deployed by political parties and politicians. We consider the strange patterns of donations, proliferation of support groups and unusual strategies for promoting candidates' and parties' visibility dubious means of circumventing the provisions of the Electoral Act as it relates to party funding and campaign finance. This is in addition to obvious violations of the principles of full disclosure and spending limits. This is unhealthy for our democracy as it abets corruption, makes the political space skewed in favour of some parties and provides room for the use of state funds for individual and party purposes. This is illegal and totally unacceptable.
We also find deplorable the abuse of the power of incumbency to deny the opposition access to the media and use of public places for campaigns, the destruction of campaign materials of opposition candidates and the vandalisation of property belonging to opposition parties.
We condemn the refusal of some political parties to sign the code of conduct for political parties on 8 March 2011. The code was the culmination of a process involving all the 63 political parties. We are aware that the process entailed the review of the 2007 version by an international technical team followed by a retreat at Tinapa, Calabar, during which political parties, including the concerned parties, were invited to participate, to harmonise thoughts and validate the code and the date for signing was set. Afterwards all the parties were given four additional days to turn in observations and input for incorporation.
The code was meant to serve the purpose of moral suasion to regulate the conduct of political parties participating in the April 2011 polls to conform to basic standards of party behaviour that will ensure free, fair and credible elections in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and equity.
It was disappointing that at the signing ceremony, the presence of the concerned parties’ representatives was uncertain. Even more so is that on the final count, out of the 49 parties that appended their signatures to the code, the concerned parties’ signatures were conspicuously missing. We find this disheartening, disturbing and sad.
It is appalling that a party that has ruled Nigeria for 12 years and prides itself on being the largest party in Africa could display such disdain for collective resolution and concerted self-regulation. It is unbecoming of a party that seeks the trust and mandate of Nigerians not to be willing to accept an arrangement that only requires that it practices what it is preaching.
We find the claims by the parties concerned they were not included in the development of the code spurious and untenable as records show that they were invited to be part of the process at every stage of its compilation. Besides, the principles in the code are meant to equally apply to all 63 and can only be considered unfair by a party which has plans other than being part of a fair and credible process.
We consider it an aberration that a party that should ordinarily provide leadership can be involved in a process, contribute to the development of a code, attend a retreat at the expense of taxpayers' monies and agree to a code of conduct, only to refuse to sign to it and commit to its implementation. We view this as a lack of respect for consensus and a demonstration of lack of commitment to credible elections in April 2011.
We are aware that parties have used their power of incumbency to flaunt several provisions of the code, such as allowing the opposition access to the media, non-destruction of opposition campaign materials, non-use of state resources for party purposes and excessive deployment of mysterious campaign finance. This refusal to sign the code only reveals an intention to continue to perpetrate undemocratic actions going into the elections, such as the use of the security operatives to accompany politicians, making them available to intimidate opponents and electoral officers and possibly manipulate the electoral process. We condemn the parties' refusal to be part of this collective effort to reassure Nigerians of their commitment to credible elections.
We want to remind the parties concerned that irrespective of their sizes, they are not better that 49 other political parties in the nation and that with 77 per cent of the number of political parties signing to the code, the 50 per cent required for it to be binding and take effect has been surpassed. These parties are therefore expected to abide by its provisions, whether they sign it or not. Their refusal to sign is not only immaterial but also indicates the quality of their character.
We call on the INEC to be unrelenting to ensure that all these parties do not violate this code and in the process subvert the electoral process and discredit its rising reputation.
We also call on all security agencies to be vigilant, play their constitutional roles and impartially perform their duties to guarantee security of all participants and materials throughout the electoral period. They should refuse to be used as tools of power-hungry politicians and desperate political parties. We call on the inspector-general, police and the heads of all security agencies to withdraw their operatives attached to politicians during the period of elections and deploy them to duty posts other than their present locations.
We call on CSOs (civil society organisations) and the media to view the parties' refusal to sign the code as a declaration of an intention to subvert the electoral process. We must continue to insist on issues-driven political campaigns and a level playing field for all parties. We should not relent in educating and mobilising the electorate to defy intimidation and come out en masse to vote for candidates of their choice and peacefully defend their votes to make sure they count.
We remind all politicians and political parties that Nigeria is greater than any party or individuals and Nigerians would settle for nothing less than free, fair and credible elections come April 2011.
1. TRANSITION MONITORING GROUP (TMG), PRO Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
2. NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS (NLC), Secretary Political Emma Ogbaja
3. CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC), Uche Hilary
4. CENTRE FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT (CDD), Director, Dr Jibrin Ibrahim
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