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Election timetable for 36 years -Daily Trust Editorial

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently announced dates for general elections in the country for the next 36 years, from 2019 to 2055. The elections include presidential, gubernatorial and national and state houses of assembly. INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu announced the dates at a consultative meeting with leaders of political parties in Abuja. He said the move was to engender certainty in our democratic system.

Yakubu said in 2019, the dates for the various elections are Feb. 16 and March 2; in 2023, Feb. 18 and March 4; in 2027, Feb. 20 and March 6; in 2031, Feb.15 and March 1. According to him, in 2035, it is Feb. 17 and March 3; in 2039, Feb.19 and March 5 and in 2043, Feb. 21 and March 7. “In 2047, it is Feb.15 and March 2; in 2051, it is Feb.18 and March 1; in 2055, it is Feb. 20 and March 6,” he said. Prof. Yakubu said in other democracies of the world, periods of elections were generally known and were not topics for speculation. He said the aim was to ensure certainty in the election calendar and allow for long-term planning by the commission and stakeholders.

We agree that it is good to have certainty in an electoral system, especially in a young one such as ours. The difference between what INEC did by announcing some probable dates for the elections and what obtains in the United States, for example, is that their election date is written into the Constitution and cannot be influenced by the interest of any individual or political party.
Election Day in USA is backed by law which was enacted on January 23, 1845, over 173 years ago! At that time, the 28th US Congress passed “An act to establish a uniform time for holding elections for electors of President and Vice President in all the States of the Union.” The act selected the “Tuesday after the first Monday in November” as the day on which all states must appoint electors. 

This standardization, according to findings, greatly increased the speed of presidential elections and others without recourse to the convenience of any individual or group of persons. No wonder that INEC rolled out this elections timetable at a time the National Assembly is trying to change the sequence of 2019 elections. The legislators have already amended the Electoral Act and re-ordered the election arrangement in such a way that that of the National Assembly would come first and the presidential election last. Many groups have already faulted the reordering of the election, accusing the legislators of a self serving voyage. 

Also citing relevant sections of the Constitution, INEC through its chairman also said it would go ahead with its initial timetable for the 2019 elections with put presidential election first at a time the amended bill is before the president for assent.  From all indications, it is only the courts that would resolve the impasse in the event President Buhari declines to sign the amendment into law. INEC’s 36 year election timeline, coming at such a time, elicited varied reactions.

Announcing election dates so far into the future, especially when they are not backed by law, is a curious act and in the end many of the dates may not stand the test of time.  The most important thing to do at this time is to institutionalize the process with legal backing which would only come into effect when the Constitution is amended.

Rather than show-casing dates for elections far into the future which could be altered by other leaders of the electoral empire in the future, INEC should initiate a bill with a proposal that presidential election should hold on a certain day in a certain month in the election year.

For now INEC, National Assembly and Presidency should work together and resolve the issue at hand which revolves around which election should hold first next year. Time is not on our side.

Daily Trust

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