The decision of the National Assembly to amend the 2006 Electoral Act by listing the order of elections in 2011 has been causing ripples among progressive forces who not only see this action of the legislature as a self serving measure but also, a usurpation of one of the functions of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

In its recent amendment to the Electoral Act, the National Assembly listed the order of elections as follows: National Assembly, Presidency, State House of Assembly and Governorship.

To close observers of the nation’s fledging democracy, this is an unwarranted usurpation of the function of INEC and a disregard for the people.

To those who believe in due process and strengthening of democratic institutions, the power to decide the order of elections should be the exclusive preserve of the electoral body charged with the conduct of elections.

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As the legally constituted and recognised body to conduct elections in the country, INEC and other stakeholders like party executives should have been given the opportunity to decide the order of holding elections in the country. We support the stand of the Progressives in this regard. We share in the belief that as an independent body, the legislators should not be seen to be dictating to INEC.

To ensure a credible election and avoid a situation where the electoral body will be mandated to conduct elections as dictated in the Electoral Act, it is our opinion that INEC should be given a free hand to arrange the elections in a way convenient to it.

Democracy by its simplest definition is the government of the people for the people and by the people. Any order of election that does not take the interest of the people into consideration should be condemned. In ideal democracies, power flows from the bottom to the top, but our own experience has shown that power flows from the top to the bottom. This should not be so because in an ideal democratic setting, the government is in place by the wish of the people.

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Any order of voting that fails to take the people at the grassroots into consideration should be jettisoned. Election as a means of selecting  the representatives of the people should start from the people themselves. In other words, elections should start at the local government level to the state houses of assembly, House of Representatives, the Senate, governorship and the presidency. Holding elections in this order will ensure grassroots participation and promote order.

By dictating to INEC on the order of holding the 2011 elections, the National Assembly has infringed on the function of INEC and this should be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction. Members of the National Assembly should be told in clear terms that they have no business listing the order of elections for INEC to conduct. They should be made to understand that legislative duties do not include meddling in the operational activities of institutions established by law.