A senior lecturer at the Nigerian Law School, Nelson Ogbuanya has faulted the decision of the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission, to schedule the 2015 Presidential Election for the 14th of February which is popularly known as Valentine’s Day.
Speaking on Sunrise, the legal practitioner said elections for the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly should hold first, followed by the governorship elections and finally, the presidential election.
Mr Ogbuanya said fixing elections for a day when people generally want to celebrate love may be opposed by some persons based on their social rights. He also stated that the arrangement is not the best in terms of structure.
“If you want to cure rigging, you must look at the structural aspect,” he said.
Ogbuanya who predicted issues in the arrangement averred that it will overheat the polity. He further explained his position by saying that the governors are very powerful as they influence elections at the grass root levels which goes a long way to determine who emerges president.
He added that elections into the National Assembly and State Houses should be first as they are representatives of the people. Such arrangement, he explained, would be devoid of external influence because the new governor is yet to be determined.
This will also ensure that senators and representatives are elected based on their popularity.
“We don’t want the governors to determine who becomes elected into the Assembly,” he said.
Speaking about the timetable of the election, Ogbuanya said the success of the time table would be determined by INEC’s ability to follow it religiously. “I think the time table is feasible to the extent that it is religiously followed.”
Although he was of the opinion that “INEC ought to have brought the calendar earlier than now” as early release would ensure speedy corrections if need be.
He further called on the electoral umpire to be careful in dealing with pre-election matters because if that aspect is poorly done; it would affect post-election matters, which would cause set-backs.
Commenting on arguments that election disputes be sorted before candidates are sworn into office, Ogbuanya said speedy justice doesn’t guarantee quality. He posited that if election tribunals are rushed, it draws focus to the time and not the quality of the judgment. “It affects true justice,” he added.
On why there are usually several litigations after elections, Ogbuanya said politicians lack the spirit of sportsmanship.
“Nigerians are bad losers,” he said, attributing the struggle for position to selfish interests. He however said that “If you are popular and you are rigged out, you have a case.”
While speaking about violence and intimidation which results in rigging, the legal practitioner called on the government to pay close attention to the smuggling of illegal arms. “Intimidation is a major element of rigging,” he said.
He stressed that the government must curtail the trend of illegal arms as this would discourage voters from participating in the elections out of fear for their lives.
He highlighted a few issues INEC would have to deal with concerning the voters’ register. He said that the problem with the voters’ register is database as there is no way to cross check the status of the electorate. Also those who have newly attained the age of 18 would not be able to vote.