Postponement of Elections as a Culture, by Eric Teniola
Annulment of elections, violence before, during and after elections, banning of candidates and postponement of elections are gradually becoming part of the Nigeria culture. There is just one word to describe the situation, sad. Last Saturday’s postponement was not the first that would be experienced by both General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON. In 2015, Nigeria’s Presidential election scheduled for February 14 was postponed till March 28 by Independent National Election Commission then headed by Professor Attahiru Jega. General Muhammmadu Buhari was involved in that election. In October 1999, Atiku Abubakar and Dr. Bala Takaya were vying for the SDP gubernatorial ticket in Gongola state now part of Adamawa state. Two days before the election, General Ibrahim Babangida banned the two candidates from the gubernatorial contest. Dr. Bala Takaya who later became the Chairman of Middlebelt Forum died on May 27 last year at the age of 66. He was from Mabuguva near Mubi in Adamawa state. We are always told by the Independent National Electoral Commission that all arrangements have been concluded to hold a free and fair election but only to be alerted at the last minute that election has been postponed. But last Saturday’s postponement was the worst in recent history. The INEC informed us at 300 a.m. on Saturday morning that the election have been postponed till next Saturday. It is unfortunate.
In 2011, the similar elections were postponed in some states. National Assembly elections were scheduled for April 2 2011 and had commenced smoothly in Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu when Professor Jega announced the sudden postponement. On June 15, 1991, delegates’ elections into Local Governments and State Congresses were postponed till June 30 1991. On October 19, 1991, governorship primaries in all the states were delayed because of irregularities. On October 26, 1991 also, the SDP Gubernatorial run-off elections in 10states including Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Niger and Imo state were inconclusive. On November 5 1991, the government of General Babangida disqualified nine gubernatorial aspirants from nine states and ordered fresh elections. The government thereafter banned the following politicians. They were Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Chief Lateef Kayode Jakande, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, Alhaji Maitama Yusuf, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Christian Chukwuemeka Onoh, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Abubakar Olusola Saraki, Chief Solomon Lar and Major General Shehu Yar’adua. On December 2 1991, the government detained them.
On May 19 1992, General Babangida banned all associations formed along political, tribal or religious line. They include the Middle belt Forum, the Council of Unity and Understanding and others. On June 26 1992, the NEC disqualified some politicians from taking part in the July 4 National Assembly elections. They included Chief Sam Mbakwe, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Wahab Dosunmu and others. On August 1 1992, the first round of staggered Presidential primaries were held in Katsina, Bornu, Kwara, Abia and Delta states. But on August 7, 1992, the Presidential primaries were suspended and a time-table announced. On September 23, 1992, ten SDP Presidential aspirants withdrew from the Presidential primaries scheduled for Satuday September 26. They claimed that the SDP leadership under Alhaji Baba Gana Kingigbe was bent on imposing Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua on the party. They also called for the dissolution of the SDP executive. The SDP Presidential aspirants were Chief Olu Falae, Olubiyi Durojaiye, Arthur Nzeribe, Alhajis Datti Ahmed, Mahmud Waziri, Lateef Jakande, Drs Olusola Saraki, Patrick Dele Cole, Layi Balogun, and Professor Jerry Gana.
On October 6, 1992, General Ibrahim Babangida cancelled the result of the Presidential primaries of the two parties. He later banned all the twenty three Presidential aspirants. He rescheduled the Presidential elections for March 1993. Those banned included Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Chief Olu Falae, Mahmud Waziri and others. On June 23 1993, he annulled the June 12 1993 elections. He also declared that “the Transition to Civil Rule Political Programme (Amendment Number 3), Decree Number 52 of 1992 and the Presidential Election (Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provisions) Decree Number 13 of 1993 are repealed. All acts or omissions done or purported to have been done, or to be done by any person, authority etc, under the above named decrees are hereby declared invalid.
The National Electoral Commission is hereby suspended. All acts or omissions done or purported to have been done by itself; its officers or agents under the repealed Decree number 13, 1993 are hereby nullified”.
General elections were held in Nigeria for the first time on 20 September 1923.The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) won three of the four elected seats in the Legislative Council.
Elective democracy had been introduced in Nigeria in May 1919, when the Townships Ordinance gave the right to vote for three members of Lagos Town Council to some men. The first elections to the council were held on 29 March 1920.In 1922 a new constitution (known as the Clifford Constitution after Governor Hugh Clifford) was promulgated, which introduced four elected seats to the Legislative Council, three for Lagos and one for Calabar.
The 1922 Nigeria (Legislative Council) Order in Council provided for a 46-member Legislative Council, of which 23 were ex-officio officials, four were nominated officials, up to 15 were appointed unofficial members and four were elected. The 23 ex officio officials included the Governor, the Chief Secretary and their deputy, the Lieutenant Governors and secretaries of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Attorney General, the Commandant of the Nigerian Regiment, the Director of Medical Services, the Treasurer, the Director of Marine, the Comptroller of Customs, the Secretary of Native Affairs, together with ten senior residents.
The franchise was restricted to men aged 21 or over who were British subjects or a native of Nigeria who had lived in their municipal area for the 12 months prior to the election, and who earned at least £100 in the previous calendar year. The right to vote was withheld from those who had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to death, hard labour or prison for more than a year, or were of “unsound mind”. Only around 4,000 people registered to vote in Lagos out of a population of 99,000, whilst just 453 registered in Calabar.
All eligible voters could also run as candidates unless they had an undischarged bankruptcy, had received charitable relief in the previous five years or were a public servant. Candidates were required to obtain the nomination of at least three registered voters and pay a £10 deposit. Electoral regulations were passed on 1 June 1923, setting out details of how the elections would be carried out, including the creation of an electoral register. The term of the council was five years.