opinionBy Umar Ardo
As we celebrate 13th Democracy Day today and over two years of the Goodluck Jonathan's presidency, it is pertinent to take stock of 'the state of the nation's democracy under this regime'. Let me say from the onset that, based on what I saw happened in the PDP, INEC and the Judiciary, and my personal experience trying to vie for the office of Governor of Adamawa state, what we have in Nigeria today is civilian and not democratic rule. Yes, democratic tenets, principles and values are espoused by our political leaders in lectures, conferences and public addresses, but none are practiced. Although ordinary Nigerians are committed to entrenching real participatory democracy so as to attain good governance in our polity, several actions or in-actions of the ruling party, INEC and leadership of the country have been inconsistent with the democratic wind of change presently blowing across the country, nay the continent.
Although PDP prides itself as the largest party in Africa, it cannot claim to be the most democratic party in Nigeria. As once said by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 'the democratic practice of a nation is a reflection of the democratic maturity or lack of it of the political parties in that nation; and the maturity of a political party is measured by the level of its internal democracy, which comprises basically two key elements, i.e. the election of party EXCOs by members of the party in a free, fair and transparent manner, and the nomination of Party Candidates for elective public offices by party members also in a free, fair and transparent manner'.
These two elements constitute internal democracy. Their entrenchment in the electoral process automatically vests all powers in the hands of the people at all levels of the party organs, while also guaranteeing fairness, level-playing field and justice to all its members and aspirants in all manner of elections within the party. Conversely, where these elements are lacking, there is no democracy. With all due respect for my party, the PDP, and in all honesty, these two critical elements of internal democracy have been lacking in the party before and since the advent of this regime. In my view, this is centrally responsible for the inability of the PDP regime both to capture and retain the support and confidence of our people, and manage the democratic society on the principles of transparency, due process, accountability, consultation and the rule of law. Consequently, fundamental rights of citizens are abused, the independence of the Legislature and the Judiciary are violated and the supremacy of political parties compromised; giving way to corruption, impunity and lawlessness in the polity at the expense of national unity, stability, growth and development.
Few illustrations will suffice. First is the party's compromising stance on its constitutional provision on zoning. Although I personally do not believe in zoning, the fact that it is provided for in our constitution, makes us duty bound to comply. The failure of the party to comply negates the principle of constitutionalism; a fundamental element of democracy.
Secondly, both elements of internal democracy as outlined above have been lacking in the PDP. Since Goodluck came to power as president, PDP's leadership has been unstable, and many undemocratically constituted. Within a period of less than two years the party had three substantive Chairmen (Prince Vincient Ogbuolafor, Dr. E. Nwodo and Alh. Bamanga Tukur) and three Acting Chairmen (Dr. Bello Haliru, Dr. Bello Haliru and Alh. Kawu Baraje.) Ogbuolafor was removed untowardly and replaced by Dr. E. Nwodo without being elected. Nwodo himself was removed giving way to long successive Acting capacities of Haliru and Baraje. Bamanga was subsequently put into office in very undemocratic manner. All these, singularly and collectively, compromised elective element of internal democracy within the PDP.
Also, the second element of internal democracy, i.e. democratic nomination of party candidates, was not spared. On this matter, both the provisions of the Electoral Act and Party Guidelines were completely ignored. For example, let's take for analysis the party's nomination of its presidential candidate. A close look at the process will show that President Jonathan did not win the contest as stipulated by the Party Guidelines in a free, fair and transparent manner. Indeed, the integral nomination processes leading to the election at the Eagle Square were characterized by fundamental electoral flaws and frauds, which were so many and so serious as to render, in my opinion, the whole procedure a charade and a mockery of democracy.
From the provisions of the Electoral Act, it is clear that the nomination exercise is not a one-day event but a chain of events that ultimately led to the emergence of the Flagbearer. However, in the case under review, incontrovertible facts clearly illustrate that the nomination processes have subverted the law, the Party Guidelines, thus rendering the entire exercise at the Eagle Square a monumental fraud now being hailed by some elements as a victory for democracy; thus creating the basis for a repeat exercise in the general elections of April, 2011.
Section 87 sub-Section (7) of the Amended Electoral Act 2010 states as follows:
'A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting, in addition to delegates already prescribed in the constitution of the party'.
In conformity with the provision of this Law, the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) approved and released its Electoral Guidelines for the Primary Elections 2010. Part 1 of the Guidelines stipulates for the election of a National Delegate in the following manner:
For the purpose of nominating the Party's Presidential candidate, each of the 774 Local Government Party Chapters shall produce one National Delegate to the Special Convention through Special Local Government Congress;
The Party's Executive Officers at the Ward, Local Government, State, Zonal and National levels shall, by virtue of their respective offices in the Party, be automatic delegates to the Local Government Special Congress. Other automatic delegates include: the LG Council Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Councillors, members of the National and Sate Assemblies, members of the Board of Trustees, President/Vice President of the Federal Republic, State Governor and Deputy Governor who are members of the Party from the LGA.
These were to congregate and elect the National Delegate for that Local Government. Investigations reveal that this procedure was never enacted to elect any National Delegate in all the 774 Local Government Areas across the country. Instead, individuals were simply short listed by Governors, Aspirants or Party Officials and presented as 'Delegates'. On this score, I challenge any and all of those so-called National Delegates who participated in the Presidential Primaries, officers of the Party from Ward to National Chapters, all the Automatic Delegates to the LGA Congress and INEC Officers of the 774 LGAs who are by law supposed to monitor and report on these elections, who dispute my claim to bring forth any proof of the conduct of the election of any National Delegate as outlined above. Such proof as date, venue, time, accredited delegates, aspirants, agents, electoral officers, number of votes cast, vote counts and scores at the LG Congress election and name(s) of INEC Monitoring Officer(s) and INEC's Check List Forms to contradict my claim. The truth is it is non-existent. This explains why the Published Delegate Booklet contained no single name of National Delegate. Instead, the shortlisted names were presented on separate papers (some of which were hand-written) at the election venue. In Adamawa State, for example, no date was even fixed for the conduct of the National Delegate election and no such election took place at any time and in any Local Government. This, I also know for a fact, happened in many States and so distorted and rendered the entire process inauthentic and illegitimate.
There was also a deliberate refusal on the part of the PDP's NWC to avail aspirants other than the President with the list of Delegates in spite of repeated demands in writing up to the point of entering the venue of the election. An aspirant is by right entitled to the list of delegates long before the date of election - or else how could an aspirant canvass for votes if he/she did not know who to canvass from? To underscore the importance of this point (i.e. availing Aspirants with list of their electors), the amended Electoral Act 2010 provides in Section 15 compelling INEC as follows:
'The Commission shall cause a voters' register for each state to be printed, and any person or political party may obtain from the Commission, on payment of such fees as may be determined by the Commission, a certified copy of any voters' register for the State or for the Local Government or Area Council or registration area within it'
I spoke with Atiku who confirmed to me that he never was availed with the list in spite of repeated demands. This naturally eroded a level-playing ground for such aspirants in the contest. Also, the participation of Ministers, Advisers and even non-party members in the convention as Delegates constituted a major flaw in the Primaries.
Furthermore, the labelling of Ballot Papers (including the voting, counting and announcing of results) on State by State basis was a deliberate undemocratic ploy to expose the election pattern, thus, compromising and subverting the internationally traditionally honoured sanctity of 'Secret Balloting'. As a proof to this assertion, the labelling of the Ballot Papers was not made a uniform policy throughout the PDP Primaries across the country. This obviously explains why the Ballot Papers in the Legislative and Governorship Primaries were not labelled on Ward by Ward or Local Government by Local Government basis.
There was also the ominous secrecy shrouding the signing of the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act which had direct regulatory bearing on Political Party Primaries which called to question the integrity, sincerity and credibility of the President in the conduct of the Party Primaries. The amended Bill was signed by the Clark of the National Assembly and forwarded to the President on the 29th December 2010, and the President assented to the Bill the same day, but was never made public till 12th January, 2011 - one week after House of Assembly, 5 days after National Assembly, three days after Governorship, but a day before the Presidential Primaries.
The critical question is what is the rationale behind the President in hiding the coming into force of this critical Act until after the conclusion of all other Primaries except his? The answer is obvious - support the President's candidacy or face the wrath of the Law.
Also pertinent to this matter is the resignation of Dr. Nwodo as Party Chairman. Although there was a Court Order restraining Nwodo from parading himself as PDP Chairman, the man was at the convention venue. Though Nwodo was forced to resign afterwards, it however did not eliminate the confusion and therefore the illegitimacy his action created at the Eagle Square on the day of the convention. The fact that an Ag. Chairman was appointed at the middle of the event means that all previous events including Opening Prayers, National Auditor's Report, State of the Party's Report, the Rules and Procedures of the Election Process outlined by the Chairman of Election Panel and the addresses of the two Aspirants, Mrs. Sarah Jibril and Alh. Atiku Abubakar were delegitimized. Certainly, the de-legitimization of these, most especially the last three events, are serious enough to call to question the standing and legitimacy of the succeeding events, principally the President's address, the election proper and the counting and announcing of results.
On its part, INEC did not stand up to its responsibility in advancing and protecting the nation's democracy. It is a fact that between 2008 and 2011, INEC wrote four letters to the PDP deploring the unconstitutional and undemocratic manner in which the party conducted its congresses in 8 states of the federation. In those letters, INEC declared the EXCOs in those states are illegal and requested the party to reschedule and re-conduct lawful congresses. PDP ignored INEC's directive and continued with those unlawful EXCOs. Paradoxically, these same EXCOs produced and submitted to the same INEC candidates for elective offices and INEC accepted and filled in these candidates for general elections, ditto with Bayelsa governorship candidate. Almost all of them are today elected into public offices. With such acts from INEC, constitutionalism, rule of law and internal party democracy were subverted by the very body that is supposed to protect, defend and advance them.
In the final analysis, therefore, these actions and inactions on the part of the President, the PDP and INEC, have destroyed rather than advanced the course of democracy and democratic rule in Nigeria in the past two years.
Dr. Ardo is former Political Adviser to then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and PDP governorship aspirant in Adamawa State.