By Festus Ogun Let me begin this piece by congratulating…
By Kurtis Adigba
Let me concede from the onset, that members of the National Assembly are empowered to make laws for the good, order, and stability of the country. That power, extends to the amendment of any existing law(s) to bring it to speed with current or existing realities. The Electoral Act, is one of such laws the NASS, can amend. That is not in doubt. However, the power of the NASS, to make or amend laws, must not be abused, or targeted at conferring specific advantages on members of the NASS.
In seeking to amend the Electoral Act, for the purpose of re-ordering the sequence of elections as announced by INEC, the NASS, argued that the order announced by INEC, which puts the holding of the presidential elections first, will have a bandwagon effect in favor of the party of the president; and will depress voters enthusiasm and turnout in subsequent elections.
As popular as these reasons maybe, it is my considered view that there cannot stand up to critical scrutiny for the following reasons:
- There is no data to show that bandwagon effect was responsible for the victory of one party, and the loss of another.
- President Buhari, was not the incumbent at the time of the last elections. If the bandwagon effect theory is of any validity, it should have been to the advantage of the incumbent president, Jonathan and his party, the PDP, not his outsider challenger, Buhari, that had been defeated in three previous elections. The truth of the matter, was that there was a massive waves of discontents with the PDP by the voters. They simply wanted a change from the party, and it happened that Buhari and the APC, were the candidate and party, speaking to their anxieties, and promising them inclusive prosperity. It wasn’t so much about bandwagon effect.
- It is an admission albeit inadvertently by majority members of the current NASS that they were not elected on their own merits but by a spurious bandwagon effect. The question then is, are they now tired of being swept to power by the bandwagon effect? Or, have they now gathered sufficient political capital to stand on their own?
- The claim of bandwagon effect, is hinged on the erroneous thinking that Nigerian voters are ignorant of the issues in elections, and do not have valid reasons for voting for some candidates and parties. The voters, will vote for any candidate running on the ticket of the party of the president. This is not true, and there are no data to support this claim. Parties and their candidates, performed to their strengths and advantages in the last elections. And there is no stronger evidence than the fact that the results were close.
- The argument against bandwagon effect, can also be made against the proposal by the NASS. If we accept that the Nigerian voters do not understand the issues in the elections, and will just vote for the party with the advantage, it can be argued, and justifiably too, that the voters, will vote for the party with the majority in the National Assembly elections. The voters, will pour out, and vote for the presidential candidate of the party with the majority of elected members of the NASS. This is not true. People vote for parties and candidates for varieties of reasons.
- If the bandwagon effect claims are true, do you think the majority members of the NASS, will be willing to jettison their advantage? Not at all.
The attempts by NASS to amend the Electoral Act, and re-order the sequence of the elections are selfish, and motivated by narrow political considerations, not national interests. INEC is empowered by laws to regulate its internal activities, and for the NASS, to seek to emasculate that power, is a dangerous descent to legislative rascality. If allowed, the NASS, will be in the position to prescribe to INEC the number of people it should engage to conduct elections, as well as their religion, ethnicity, height, and weight.
In the face of mounting national emergencies, how does re-ordering the sequence of elections become the most important pursuit and goal of the NASS?
Kurtis Adigba is the Principal Partner at Kurtis Adigba and Company.