The power of the people in a democracy

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Colloquially, democracy is defined as a system of government for the people, by the people. A more academic definition from thelawdictionary.org defines democracy as, that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens; as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy. According to the theory of a pure democracy, every citizen should participate directly in the business of governing, and the legislative assembly should comprise the whole people. But the ultimate lodgment of the sovereignty being the distinguishing feature, the introduction of the representative system does not remove a government from this type. However, a government of the latter kind is sometimes specifically described as a “representative democracy.”

From the above definition, it is safe to say that what we have in Nigeria is a representative democracy. We, as citizens, are represented at the governing table by those who we elect into power as our representatives to further our desires and work towards our collective interests. Democracy does not always equate to equity and justice because the will of the majority will dictate the direction of the government; and the majority can be wrong, holding unjust ideals. Despite its shortcomings, it still affords the people to express their wishes in how they want to be governed and in which direction they want to move the country.

In Nigeria, the representatives in the legislative houses and in the offices of President of the Federation and Governor of a State, are elected by the people. All Nigerians of 18 years or above who are registered to vote in the constituency in which they intend to vote, have the right to make express their choice in selecting who their representatives in government will be.

Unfortunately, sometimes the people we elect to represent us turn out to be a big disappointment. For certain offices, we do not have to live with the disappointment until the next voting cycle. The people have the power to change their minds and this power is in the process of a recall, provided for by the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

Section 69 of the constitution provides that, a member of the Senate or of the House Representatives may be recalled as such a member if-

  1. there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission a petition in that behalf signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member; and
  2. the petition is thereafter, in a referendum conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission within ninety days of the date of receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency.

Section 110 of the constitution provides that, a member of the House of Assembly may be recalled as such a member if-

  1. there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission a petition in that behalf signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member; and
  2. the petition is thereafter, in a referendum conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission within ninety days of the date of the receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency.

Section 103(1) of the Electoral Act provides that, the conduct of elections into the offices of Chairman, Vice Chairman and a member of an Area Council and the recall of a member of an Area Council shall be under the direction and supervision of the Commission in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

Section 116 of the Electoral Act provides that, a member of an Area Council may be recalled as a member if- (a) there is presented to the Chairman of the Commission a petition in that behalf signed by not less than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member and which signatures are duly verified by the Independent National Electoral Commission; and (b) the petition is thereafter approved in a referendum conducted by the Commission within 90 days of the date of the receipt of the petition by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency.

Basically, there are two steps in the recall process: (1) A loss of confidence in an elected representative by at least half of the people that he represents; this loss of confidence is expressed in a petition signed by at least half of the registered voters in that constituency, which is submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); (2) INEC conducts a referendum (a process that allows voters cast their votes on a particular issue) within 90 days of receiving the petition; the recall is successful if a simple majority of the people registered to vote in that constituency approve the petition through their votes.

For those elected into the office of President of Governor of a State, we have to rely on our elected representatives in the legislature to commence impeachment proceedings to remove them from office.

The people in Kogi West Senatorial District are trying to exercise their powers against their representative in the Senate, Dino Melaye. The process was stalled by a court action instituted by Melaye, but the court has now ruled that his action was without merit and the recall process can continue. It is now up to INEC to organise and conduct a referendum in the Senatorial District.

These are interesting times. I have nothing personally against Dino Melaye, but I am happy that the process has been allowed to continue. These actions are the only way that we can test and develop our democracy, and hold our elected representatives accountable to us.

So, we watch to see if the voters in Kogi West can sustain their petition for recall in the referendum.

Copyright PUNCH.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]

(Visited 67 times, 18 visits today)
Facebook Comments

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *