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Election Primaries through the Lenses of the Law

Compiled by Mr Lazarus M.A, Miss Jerum Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Oobulu Esq

gavel-scales-justice2

Nigeria’s democracy is nascent and oscillates on a 4-year election cycle. As the present administration draws close to the end of its tenure, various political parties have conducted primaries across the Federation as stipulated by the legal framework regulating the conduct of elections in Nigeria. Political parties are legally saddled with the responsibilities of sponsoring their candidates’ campaigns for every political position for election.

The law perhaps is apt regarding the conduct of party primary elections regarding how a candidate can be elected. On this point, section 87 of the Electoral (Amendment) act, 2015 clearly lays down the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties which could either be by direct or indirect voting. The spirit of this section is in line with provision of section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria which guaranteed fair hearing. By direct election, aspirants are given the opportunity of being voted for by all members of the party present at the election venue, while in indirect primaries aspirants are voted for by delegates (the number is usually determined by the position contested for). Whichever procedure (direct or indirect) a political party decides to adopt, the aspirant with the highest votes becomes the representative of the party.

Despite this injunction, the Media, Civil Society and other stakeholders report that the recently held primaries fell short of the provisions of the ELECTORAL (Amendment) ACT 2015. All the major Political parties failed to adhere strictly to the provisions of the subsisting legal framework as shown in a range of malpractices that shadowed the primaries across the country.

The APC (All Progressive Congress) adopted the indirect primary election procedure in Benue State. This system as earlier mentioned makes use of delegates who elect candidates on behalf of the party congress. However, it is alleged that the procedure was not strictly followed in practical reality. For instance, it was reported that during the House of Representatives election for Kwande/Ushongo Federal Constituency, violence ensued because of protests from delegates who alleged that they were being impersonated. Allegations of vote buying and tampering with the delegates list were also rife and thrown at 2 of the aspirants.

Elections-Rally

The PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) which also adopted the indirect election procedure also failed to comply with the provision of section 87 of the ELECTORAL (Amendment) ACT 2015. It is alleged that the PDP primary elections at all levels and stages in Benue state were marred by violence, supplanting of candidates, vote buying and clear case of God-fatherism. In Otukpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency for election for example, candidates were alleged to have been substituted.

From the above it is clear that the spirit and tenet of the above section of the Electoral Act was violated in its entirety. In any case, elections, be they at primary or general stage require strict compliance with the provision of the electoral act to ensure peaceful, orderly and smooth conduct. Any deviation from these provisions is punishable under the Act if found guilty by the court of law. For instance, section 122 of the Electoral Act provides for the offence of impersonation and criminalizing same. The punishment paragraph under sub section (1) of the above section stipulates that, if found guilty the person shall be liable for a maximum fine of 500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) or 12-months imprisonment.

 

Other alleged offences also took place. For example, it is widely reported that the All Progressives Congress (APC) failed to conduct the required primary elections for the State House of Assembly; instead, party big wigs selected candidates of their choice for the elections over those desired by the electorate. This is a clear violation of the subsisting electoral law.

The above stated violations have their consequences in varying degrees and dimensions including the following:

The rights of both the delegates and aspirants who have the mandate to vote or be voted for have been fundamentally denied and breached by leaders of the various political parties.

Another serious consequence is the potency of derailing the forthcoming general elections and its credibility.

Another consequence is the breeding of grounds for violence and unrest in the political ecosystem.

Based on the foregoing therefore, the following are recommended:

  • That the Independent National Electoral Commission intensify its monitoring of Party Primaries, investigate allegations and sanction erring Parties accordingly.
  • Sensitize political parties and their officials on the need to adhere strictly to the provisions of the subsisting legal framework regulating the conduct of elections
  • The justice system actors including the Police, the Judiciary and other stakeholders should be sensitized on the need to closely monitor, investigate and sanction erring individuals and parties accordingly.
  • Power brokers should be told of the need to ensure peaceful elections by midwifing a free and fair process thereby providing a level playing field for all.

Leaders of thought such as the traditional and religious leaders should be encouraged to preach against the culture of vote-selling as it inhibits community development subsequently.

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Women Participation in Politics: 2018 Primaries in Focus

Compiled by Mr Lazarus M.A, Miss Jerum Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Oobulu Esq.

women in politics

Women are an integral part of the political process anywhere in the world including Nigeria and Benue State. Comprising of over 49% of the population of the Country, Women are a force in both number and impact in Nigeria. They have made remarkable contributions in all areas of our National life as exemplified by amazons like Dr. Dora Akunyili, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Mrs. Obi Ezekwesili, Prof. Grace Alele Williams etc. Closer home, women like Chief Elizabeth Ivase, Dr. Enyantu Ifene, Hon. Margaret Icheen etc. have contributed immensely in shaping the socio-political ecosystem in Benue State. Despite these recorded achievements, election of Women into key political positions remains at a very low level in the State. The 2018/19 general elections have not changed the narrative. In fact, things are getting worse going by the performance and conduct of the last primary elections in terms of Women participation.

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All general elections are preceded by a primary election which throws up candidates for different positions across the contesting political parties. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, party primaries were held, across political parties, between mid-September and first week of October 2018. However, a plethora of complaints show that the exercise left much to be desired in terms of Women participation especially in Benue State. Though there was a good turnout of women vying for office, few were able to clinch their party tickets. The State Governorship primaries featured no female aspirant this time, not on any party platform.

The National Assembly elections particularly, did not favor Women. For example, the Senatorial Primary Elections produced 1 female from Zone A of the State while the House of Representatives had about 5 candidates across all the political parties, of this number, only 1 was nominated as at the time of writing this report.  These women and their constituencies are as follows:

Dorothy-Mato

Dorothy Mato – Vandeikya – APC – House of Representative

Mimi-Adzape-Orubibi

Mimi Orubibi – Kwande – APC – Senate

Other female aspirants lost out not because of lack of capacity but largely due to the age long discrimination against Women in party politics. For example, in the Kwande/ Ushongo Federal Constituency elections under the All Progressives Congress (APC), the only female candidate that was chosen by consensus vote due to the inconclusiveness of the elections owing to violence was substituted by the party big wigs because owing to gender considerations. That same situation obtained in Otukpo Federal Constituency Primary elections under the Peoples Democratic Party. The female candidate that was the choice of the delegates was supplanted by a male candidate that was the choice of Party chieftains at the top.

Female Aspirants to the State Assembly fared no better. Under some political parties, no election took place. The few that did were characterized by irregularities such as vote buying, violence, intimidation, hijacking and supplanting of party delegates, etc. In all these irregularities, Women were the worst hit. At the end of the day, only about 3 Women emerged as flag bearers for the State Assembly elections across the over 90 registered political parties that participated in the primary elections in Benue State and across Nigeria.

In view of the above therefore, one can say that, the 2019 general elections do not favor Women Human Rights judging from the precedents associated with the primaries. One strong point that resonates loudly is that Women Politicians are still being considered second class and subservient to their male colleagues. This is disappointing and sad because women are not being given the encouragement, opportunity and responsibility they deserve by their male counterparts. This is the situation even as global conversations and actions are again tilted towards Women Human Rights. The much-acclaimed affirmative action which cedes 35% of positions to Women of which Nigeria is a signatory to has been sidelined, to say the least.  This is true in that so many of these women willingly came forth as party card carriers, showed interest to contest but were not nominated mostly based on gender issues.

Given the above scenario, therefore, we recommend the following:

  • That all Women Politicians who feel discriminated against and hard done by their parties at the just concluded primaries can challenge the status quo in Courts of law
  • That political party structures should review their policies towards female politicians and begin to see them as equal partners in progress instead of just making up party numbers
  • That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should increase its monitoring of political Party primaries to protect vulnerable candidates, especially women
  • That Media and Civil Society should intensify their reportage and advocacy on Women Human rights with focus on the electoral process.

 

In conclusion one can truly state that the issue of Women Rights and political participation, rather than improve, seem to be waning. It’s been the same story since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.  Despite their best efforts, very few women have been able to secure key elected posts in the country. According to LA research report on the last General Elections (2015), there was neither compliance with local, regional and international instruments aimed at promoting and protecting women’s rights and development nor an increase of women participation in the electoral process in comparison with the just concluded primary elections.

We believe that if women are carried along, they can act for themselves and influence development policies, actively participate in the political process and attempt to minimize factors in the justice system which negatively impact them.

 

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