Thisday newspaper of Wednesday 23rd September 2009, reported that former Nigerian military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida has called for the re-introduction of Option A4 electoral system in Nigeria. This is a welcome development. It is also an indication that he wants to be part of the solution to the problems he caused. He annulled the June 12 1993 presidential election, which was judged by national and international observers as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria history. By annulling this election, he also annulled the system (Option A4) that produced it.
Babangida’s comment did not come as a surprise to me because I was actually expecting it. The only surprise to me was that, this comment came a little bit late. In February of this year (2009), I wrote an article which was specifically directed to Ibrahim Babangida himself. The title of the article was; IBB, This is My Response to You. The article was published on my web blog (http://briefsfromakuta.blogspot.com), including some other media outlets. In the said article, I made some comments, part of which I have quoted below.
“However, no person is above mistake. Many world leaders have at one point or the other made mistakes. In your own case, a window of opportunity exists now for you to redeem the mistake you made in 1993. That window of opportunity is for you to use your influences to campaign for electoral reforms. Nigerians will forgive you and be more glad if you could help to reintroduce Option A4 Electoral system in Nigeria. Option A4 system was your brain child, therefore you need no explanation that it should be the best system for Nigeria. Nigeria has derailed largely because of our corrupt electoral system. I am appealing for your support in this campaign for the reintroduction of Option A4 system”
There are many benefits that Option A4 can give to Nigeria, at least it guarantees openness, transparency, fairness etc. But one of the greatest advantages of Option A4 electoral system is the fact that, post electoral litigations are avoided or reduced to the lowest minimum. It’s too frustrating when people have to undergo lengthy litigations before claiming their mandates. In Edo State, it took Adams Oshiomhole 18 months to reclaim his victory. I did a write up on this issue as well. It was titled; Post Electoral Litigations In Nigeria, Which Way Forward? It was published on my blog (http://briefsfromakuta.blogspot.com) plus other national and international media outlets. I wish to share some interesting points from that article. I have quoted those paragraphs below;
“Only God knows the legal costs of all these litigations. The time wasted on all these cases cannot be captured on monetary terms. The setbacks to the nation as a result of these cases cannot be quantified. This is also a serious threat to our democracy and nation at large. It is an unwanted distraction on the part of government. The effects of all these are that the masses are denied the dividends of democracy. Government abandons its primary responsibility and only face litigations”…, “Without doubts, an average Nigerian is simply too tired for this kind of setbacks. The solution is simple, adopt the Option A4 electoral system and we will have a smooth, transparent and fair elections. Nigerians are yet to see a system better than Option A4”.
Following the manner that some Senators spoke against the attempt, to introduce a bill for the establishment of electoral offenses commission at the national assembly on Wednesday 30th September 2009, it becomes imperative to seriously consider the option A4 methods. From the debates on the floor of Nigerian Senate on 30th September 2009, it became obvious that some senators were not comfortable with the proposed bill. This can be avoided using Option A4.
Now that Ibrahim Babangida has called for the re-introduction of Option A4 electoral system, the next step should be how to actualize this noble idea. This would have been easier for him to achieve under his military regime by using a decree. But since we are in a democratic dispensation, it will involve a lot of political lobbying, media campaign, sensitization of the Nigerian masses, debates etc. Campaigning to re-introduce Option A4 will require total commitment. Therefore Ibrahim Babangida should come out and lead this campaign with all his might. Am aware that he still has some influences over some political elites and some law makers, therefore the National Assembly will be a good place to start mobilizing law makers towards actualizing Option A4 electoral system.
Next will be to organize debates, symposiums, lectures and sensitization of Nigerians on the need to go the way of Option A4. As a follow up to the above, I will advocate for a formation of Option A4 political party or the merging of some existing parties to form Option A4 political party. The singular purpose of this party (Option A4 party) should be to seek power only to re-introduce this system back to our statute books. Some parties exists overseas mainly for a particular purpose. In the United Kingdom, the Green Party exists mainly to promote social and environmental justice. The seek power through campaigns and electoral processes in order to actualize their main purpose of existence. Many Nigerians have argued several times for the re-introduction of this system back to our electoral methods.
Babangida could also use his influences to convince his state government (Niger State) to introduce the Option A4 electoral method into their state electoral commission. This might be easier to achieve. Besides, charity begins at home. If Niger State can adopt this method, chances are higher that other progressive states in Nigeria might copy them. By canceling the freest and fairest election in Nigeria and by extension the Option A4 system, Babangida became heavily indebted to Nigerians. His pay back time starts when he sincerely commits his time and resources towards working for the re-introduction of Option A4 system to Nigeria.
He (IBB) and Humphrey Nwosu (former National Electoral Commission Chairman during the 1992/93 elections when this method was used) are among the top qualified people in Nigeria to lead this campaign. I have said so because; introduction of Option A4 method was their brain child. Since Babangida has spoken in favour of re-introducing this method, Humphrey Nwosu should please make a comment on this as well. The truth should always be spoken. Thank goodness that Babangida has at least spoken the truth.
Our group (Support Option A4, Leicester-UK) will be willing to partner with Ibrahim Babangida only if he is ready, to lead the campaign in Nigeria, for the re-introduction of option A4 electoral system. Am sure other groups might be ready to join forces to actualize this electoral method. Transparency and fairness is what we need in our electoral process. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK