Covid-19: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan urges AU, ECOWAS support to avoid election, constitutional crises in Africa

Former President and Chairman, Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has urged the African Union and other continent’s sub-regional organisations to engage African countries whose scheduled elections risk being shifted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This he pointed out as a means to avoiding constitutional crises on the continent.

Dr. Jonathan noted that there are already some indications of many African nations planning to reschedule their elections because of the Coronavirus pandemic.  To this end, he called on the African Union and regional bodies to help.

Dr. Jonathan shared his opinion while speaking during a webinar organised by the Kofi Annan Foundation last weekend.

In West Africa for example, Presidential elections are due to hold in the last quarter of 2020 in at least five countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso while Benin and The Gambia are due to hold theirs in the first quarter of 2021.

Dr. Jonathan noted that postponing presidential elections beyond constitutionally allowed limits could trigger citizens distrust and increase political tensions in many nations. He rather called on stakeholders for negotiated settlement required to avoid such crises.

“That is why I am suggesting that the AU and subcontinental bodies in Africa should begin now to warm up. They should start engaging those nations that have elections between now and September this year.”

The former President added that in cases that require some unusual measures to be taken to bring about postponed elections, the decision must involve all key stakeholders especially the political parties.

Dr. Jonathan also warned against what he called ‘resort to pseudo democracies.’ He stressed that democracy should be practised to the letter.

“Elections per se does not constitute a democracy. The credibility of the election, the transparency of the process and the issue of trust from the citizens are key indicators of a functional democracy.

“This is the time that many continental bodies must come up with their own minimum standards for any country going into election to operate. Otherwise  people who ordinarily would have loved to be dictators will now exploit the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic and do what is not in line with the laws of the land.”

Making a case for electronic voting, the former President said;

“One thing that is clear especially in Africa is that we must adopt electronic voting. This covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity and the need for Africa parliaments to take another look at the need to retool our electoral laws to bring an end to the analogue and manual voting methods which have now become problematic for the continent’s fragile democracies.” 

He added that with lockdown measures announced, credibility of many elections going on at this period may be questionable.

“For democracy to be acceptable, elections must be credible; the process must be transparent and observers must participate especially for presidential elections.”

He however pointed out that some countries have been able to experience some positive developments arising from their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance he praised the role being played by different levels of government, especially in Nigeria where he observed that the state governments are now being forced to leverage potentials they had previously ignored.

“We’ve seen the role played by the state governments, and some of the state governments are even looking post-COVID-19 era for a better management of the economy of their people.

“I have also seen what can be described as devolution of power  where governors are exercising the powers which ordinarily they have, based on the constitution, applying it to manage the affairs of their state. To me yes, the negative aspect on the elections are there, but there are also some positive things that can come out of it.”

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