Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nigeria Election: Constitutional Amendment Debate

The road to Nigeria having credible elections in 2011 is an important one for the country and for the African Continent. The country will embark on a herculean task of creating a new voter registry that could represent some 65-70 million voters -- many of them new voters given that nearly half of the nation's 150 million people are under the age of 30. Transparent and credible elections have been a challenge for Nigeria in the past. There are a series of next step issues that remain pending. One key debate is on the status of the new constitutional amendments that will govern the conduct of the elections. Tied up in which way the debate prevails is when in 2011 the election will be held. The Debate: The polity and Nigerian legal scholars are in the throes of deciding if the new constitutional amendments to the country's electoral process requires an assent by the current Nigerian President to become law, or if by virtue of the passage by the country's National Assembly, they come into force.

Meanwhile the clock is ticking: toward an early 2011 election with no fixed election date; the need to create a new voter registry for nearly 65-70 million potential voters and begin voter education; and, fine tune strategic logistic election planning to cover a country of nearly 98K square kilometers. A number of African countries will hold elections from mid-summer 2010 through 2011But, 2010is the year that many African nations turn 50 - representing 50 years of independence - a seminal fact that President Obama is highlighting right now in Washington with a 3-day African Young Leaders Forum to look at the next 50 years for Africa Download file

The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria chose three young Nigerians to attend the Forum. I will do a follow-on event with them in Abuja on August 12, looking at what the election and the next 50 years means for Nigeria. Kenya's election is only a day away and all on the African Continent are closely watching what happens. The Global community cannot take these elections lightly. They are important as a marker for the next 50 years. The Constitutional Amendment debate or whether or not Nigerian President Jonathan has to assent to the amendments for them to become law or not needs to be decided soonest, so a date certain can be determined for the election, and the other hard tasks can begin in earnest like creating a new voter registry.

New constitutional amendments Factoids: key timetables: when voter registration has to end; when the voter registry has to be completed, and a range of days -- 150-120 days -- before May 29, 2011 in which the election has to take place.

This is one in series of several blog post focusing on the "Roadmap to Nigeria's 2011 Election," highlighting the progress and challenges along the way. (Related speeches: CODER; NIM Nigeria's Elections)