By Okoi Obono-Obla
I cannot decipher the stout opposition of the Progressives Governors Forum (APC Governors Forum) to the assent by the Electoral (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari. How can a supposedly progressive forum opposed to a progressive law such as the Electoral Bill, which is meant to democratize and return the people to the choice of candidates to fly the flags of political parties sponsoring them? Are political parties not composed of people in the first place?
Are members of these political parties not people? Is democracy not about people deciding on who is to represent them in the parliament or govern them? I don’t get the argument of the governors that the Electoral Act would usurp the right of political parties to determine how they elect their flag bearers. This line of argument is difficult to follow. It is nebulous and indeed tenuous and incomprehensible. What is a political party?
A political party is an organized group of people or bodies who seek to capture political power through an election to run the affairs of a country. Political parties often sponsor candidates to run public office. So if this is the case, why are the governors creating the impression that political parties are not made up of people? Are the governors suggesting that political parties are made of barons, cabals, oligarchs, or select elites? If that is the case, then political parties are not democratic institutions but something else. That certainly cannot be the case.
Let power truly return to members of political parties, which is the people to be involved in the nomination of candidates that will run elections, win and get into public office to represent or run the government on their behalf. It should not be barons or oligarchs sitting in the dark corners or rooms unilaterally deciding on who will run the election and in the process rendering the people mere passersby.
Suppose the selection of candidates for the election starts with the people through their various political parties. In that case, the political space will be open, competitive, expanded, transparent, and vibrant for democracy to flourish and thrive.
Or are the governors contending that the people are no longer the sovereignty, the will, the repository of democracy again?
There will also be accountability as those who have been given the mandate by the people who do not take the people for granted will be responsive and more conscious to fulfil the covenant they had entered with the people they go to them during the electioneering campaign to seek their mandate and votes. They would be the prevail disconnect we see between those given the mandate and the governed.
Why do Nigerian governors want to arrogate all powers to themselves? Why do they carry on as potentates? They want to control the legislature, judiciary, civil service, local government, political parties and decide who to be candidates in the general election! What exactly do governors want to do with all these plentitudes of powers? Is it for self-glorification or what? It beats me hollow!
Let the governors withdraw their opposition to the assent of President Buhari to the Electoral Bill because it is undemocratic and attempt to dabble into law-making, which the framers of the Constitution in their wisdom have vested on the national assembly. The governors went into sleep at the time they would have lobbied members of the national assembly not to pass the law, that time has passed. Anyone unhappy should wait for Mr. President’s assent then go to court to seek a judicial review. A challenge to the law’s legality after it comes into force is what the governors should be contemplating.
* Obono-Obla, a lawyer, is a member of the APC