2023 General Elections: Statesmanship, Umpire roles in sticking to the rules of 2022 Electoral Act 

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As elections for another general political transition draw near with roving dynamics, it is important that the political landscape be regulated to have well coordinated processes. The significance of having election has also brought into play the necessity to ensure such is practiced within  reasonable limits of order. The definitive configurations of patterns to have well coordinated processes has come to place the demands for guildelines, enshrined institutions and legal codes, as frameworks and structures to moderate conducts in electioneering processes.

The construction of democracy as a system of order driven by rules of law, has placed the demands for every of its working parameter to be shaped in rational patterns of decorum, which election is not an exception. Hence, the demands to have a system of election falling within the perceptional embrace of order, has brought in the expectations of what has been tagged, “Free, fair and credible” elections as the acceptable standard for such.

Hence, since patterns must be coordinated to have same find expression, the establishment of structural formations and statutory frameworks have been on course. In Nigeria, developing structures over the years have brought into play structural evolution which presently culminated into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as Nigeria’s electoral management body. Since the body has to also carry-out functions by regulated patterns, the need has brought into play, legislative and legal formations to create statutory frameworks in the processes.  Works on the later recently brought into play, the new 2022 Electoral Act.

Although, the new Act is known to have undergone and apparently still undergoing contentious debates, the need to have codified standards of rules to guide and moderate conducts towards the 2023 elections remains pertinent. However, just as having such legal document remains paramount, obeying same and operating within the permitted limit of the framework is of utmost importance. In preparation towards the General Elections, INEC had on Saturday 26th February 2022, released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Election. The Timetable provides detailed activities, including the conduct of primaries, the nomination of candidates by political parties and other activities leading to the Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday 25th February 2023, followed by the Governorship and State Assembly elections on Saturday 11th March 2023.

The demands on the body as the electoral umpire to stick to the timelines and also monitor political parties’ primaries is of concern. INEC consequently has warned political parties in the Country against violation of electoral timelines as well as provisions of the new Electoral Act 2022 (as amended). INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye in a statement issued on Tuesday, 5th April, 2022, in Abuja had said, “All the activities are in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022. So far, two out of the 14 activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities have been successfully accomplished. The Notice of Election was published on 28th February 2022, while nomination forms have been made available on the Commission’s website since 1st March 2022 for political parties to download and issue to their candidates. The next activity is the conduct of primaries by political parties in line with the dictates of Section 84 of the Electoral Act for which the Timetable and Schedule of Activities provides a period of 61 days (4th April to 3rd June 2022). The Commission wishes to reiterate that parties must adhere strictly to the principles of internal democracy, drawing from their constitutions, guidelines, the Electoral Act and other Regulations and Guidelines issued by the Commission.  Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of the Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate shall not be included in the election for the particular position in the issue.

“As required by law, the Commission shall monitor the primaries of each political party that provides the required legal notice in line with Sections 82 (1) and (5) of the Electoral Act. Failure of a political party to notify the Commission of any convention or congress convened for the purpose of nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified in the Act shall render the convention or congress invalid.

“Primaries must be conducted in the various constituencies as provided in Section 84 of the Electoral Act as it is a violation of the law to conduct primaries outside the constituencies for which parties are nominating candidates.

The Commission will not monitor such primaries and their outcome will not be accepted. Political parties are enjoined to avoid acrimonious primaries that could result in unnecessary litigations that may lead to failure to nominate and field candidates for elections in some constituencies.”

Leaving the political landscape unmoderated would be unimaginably catastrophic for the Nation. Its resulting impacts from political to socio-economic, cultural, among others, would spell no small catastrophic consequences for the entire fabrics of the Country.

It is essentially indisputable that within the Nigerian climate, unless the implementation of the regulating standards are enforced with stringent force, complying to same would be a costly luxury. It therefore demands that following the recalcitrant dimensions of disposition in the Country’s political landscape, the custodians of State authorities become largely rational in statesmanship, putting before-hand national interests as utmost priority to see to the enforcement of the Electoral Act in highest sense of responsibility in guiding conducts towards the elections. This is just as It is pertinent for INEC as the management body to remain apolitical and justifiably firm in exercising its duties by playing as the umpire according to the rules of the game as permitted by the new Act.