Much ado about election reordering
In recent time, the polity has been inundated with the hue and cry of the plan by the National Assembly to reorder the sequence of voting in the 2019 elections.
Many are wondering what the whole apprehension about this proposed change could be. After all, the mantra that brought this government into being was predicated on change.
But a brief historical incursion into how elections were conducted in the recent past will put things in proper perspective. Nigerians need to be reminded that the election that brought in Shehu Shagari in 1979 was structured on the National Assembly, governorship elections before the Presidential election which came last. In that election, there was nothing like a bandwagon effect as the election was adjudged free and fair to some extent. Why was the election adjudged free and fair? The ruling National Party of Nigeria that won the presidential election had only seven states out of the whole 19 states while the remaining political parties shared the remaining states with a party like the UPN winning five states! The UPN, it must be recalled, won in then Gongola State in the far north, clearing all the three senatorial seats. In fact, because of that, the NPN could not muster enough seats to form a majority in the National Assembly that they had to coopt other political parties like the NPP and the GNPP to form a coalition and government of national consensus!
Having seen the handwriting on the wall, the NPN changed the order of elections in 1983 that made the party win the so-called “landslide victory” by making the presidential election to come first before other elections. Of course, we know where that led the country into as that was one of the reasons that led to the truncation of the Second Republic by the military.
Since that time, elections have been virtually ordered to follow the pattern of presidential election coming first and others following suit. The implication of this is that invariably federal legislators and governors are coerced to work for the electoral victory of the president or else their own election will be in jeopardy. So, whether the incumbent president is performing or not and whether the presidential candidate is good or not, they have no choice but work for his victory if they actually want to be elected.
The reason being that the victory of the president will pave the way for them to win their election. This is in the sense that if the president and the party did not win at the presidential election, it may have a negative effect on subsequent elections.
Also, there is this thing called bandwagon effect. That simply means that once a president emerges, the political party that wins will have a sort of sweeping effect on other elections as voters may be inclined to queue into the winning party for them to reap the benefits of mainstream politics of the central government.
Little wonder the uproar that greeted the recent move by the National Assembly to change the pattern of voting come 2019. For now, it seems that both legislative chambers have passed the bill. The fear of the legislators is that if they successfully work for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, it may boomerang on them as the President and his hatchet men may turn the tide against them and ensure that they are not re-elected. The reason for this is not far-fetched as the current legislators have not really worked harmoniously with President Buhari.
The argument against this proposed law is that the cost of elections will be too much on the country’s fragile economy.
All this brings us to the pertinent question of what’s the fuss about the change of election timetable. If a President or political party is performing creditably well, it doesn’t need to entertain any fear if its election is coming first or even last.
Which brings us to the campaign and clamour for a single term for all elected officers in the land. In a situation where we have a single-term arrangement of six years, all this political brigandage and fighting as well as desperation for a second term and the insistence on having presidential or governorship election first so as to have a comparative advantage over others will not come in.
What will ensure electoral victory for anybody or political party is sterling performance and not necessarily the order of election timetable.
Austine Uche-Ejeke is Publisher, AGENDA Community Newspaper firstname.lastname@example.org