The Senate on Saturday passed a motion to reinstate the voting rights of the 2k24 class that were being previously exempted from the electoral process. Up until Saturday, tradition has had it that just six classes vote in any UIMSA elections. This is because the elections are meant to come before freshmen are registered and before the final year students have their final exams. The 2017/2018 tenure started many weeks after the 2k21 class resumed; the 2k21 class didn’t vote, but the outgoing 2k14 class did. The 2018/2019 tenure started just before the 2k22 class resumed; the members of the 2k22 class couldn’t have been eligible voters and therefore didn’t vote, but the outgoing 2k15 class did. Also, the 2020/2021 tenure started after the 2k23 class resumed; the members of the 2k23 class didn’t vote, but the outgoing 2k16 class did. The establishment of this tradition has enabled a constant constitutional breach nobody has properly challenged until now.
Making the rounds on Tuesday morning was an open statement written by “concerned UIMSAite”, Honorable Obeya Mark of the 400l (2k19) constituency, to address the exemption of the 2k24 class from the ongoing electoral process. Prior to the release of this statement, Obeya had already tendered a petition to the Electoral Commission to address the same issues raised in the statement; the Senate was copied.
The petition raised valid points and pointed to the fact that the constitution was being breached pursuant to the sections referenced. The Electoral Commission, however, maintained its stance and responded to Obeya in an attempt to justify its decision.
The Electoral Commission in its response acknowledged the fact that members of the 2k24 class are constitutionally recognized members of the Association. However, its justifications for maintaining its decision to exempt the class involved were quite untenable.
“…it would be more than chaotic to allow all of them voting rights without considering the extent to which it would skew the election results.” This statement made by the Commission’s Chairman begs a rather serious question – skewed towards who? Was this decision in any way influenced by bias?
“A major change like this would require the electoral process halted…”. One would have thought that this exceeds the Senate moving a motion for reinstatement of the 2k24 class voting rights, and the electoral commission allowing them to register to vote and be voted for.
The 2k24 class’ concern about their disenfranchisement was more than enough indication that they have a substantial understanding of the Association. They resumed UI on Monday, January 31st, and they’ve been registered students of COMUI for well over six (6) weeks before the 60th Health Week. Even despite the strike, a number of them attended Health Week events. And as is customary, the 2k24 class have been developing a coordinated rapport with their immediate seniors for months before they even resumed. The justification that they haven’t observed the Association enough yet probably came from a place of negligence, or it was an excuse to willfully disregard the constitutional rights of these people.
Yes, this has happened many times, but nobody really took it up to speak up for aggrieved freshmen over the years. These historical occurrences would have been the appropriate precedencies to back the decision of the Electoral Commission, but these weren’t injustices that were adequately contested, debated or petitioned against, at least not to the point that it was taken to the Senate floor. And since when did we start allowing injustices on the premise that they had been allowed to occur before? That’d be a very wrong implication of customs. The three Cs of the Constitution, Customs and Common Sense are the guiding principles for decision making in the legislative arms of the association. Common sense dictates that the constitution supersedes customs at all times, except for cases where the constitution is subject to various interpretations; this exception doesn’t apply to this case.
Taking into account the sensitivity of the issue, it wasn’t a person’s decision to make; it was a decision that the Senate should debate. So, when the Electoral Commission Chairperson, Ibukunola Enitan had a conversation with the Senate Chairman, Ebubechuckwu Eriobuna, one would have expected that they would come to the conclusion that this was an issue that deserved to be heard by the Senate. But according to Ibukun, the Senate Chairman said the Senate felt they would have to restart the electoral process. Our conversations with some members of the Senate revealed that the Senate Chairman spoke for the Senate without consulting the Senate, as she never discussed the petition with them at that time. Although the final decision was made by the Electoral Commission, the Senate, or perhaps, the Senate Chairman, had an influence.
When the Electoral Commission realized that Obeya wouldn’t budge, they wrote to the Senate to request a meeting to debate the petition. Or perhaps, a realization that they might be in the wrong influenced this decision. The Senate Chairman, at this time, now thought it necessary to bring up the issue on the Senate’s page. She tried to explain why the disenfranchisement was reasonable. It seemed Eriobuna had taken her stance and was trying to justify it. If Senator Babalola of the 500l constituency didn’t gather enough signatures to request an emergency meeting per Article XIV, Section 13 (c) of the UIMSA constitution, a motion for the reinstatement might not have seen the light of the day, and the unfair tradition could have continued.
As a consequence of these developments, the Senate, on Wednesday called an emergency meeting for 8 pm on Saturday where the issue of the 2k24 class was debated, and their fate was decided. After arguments both for and against the motion, their voting rights were eventually reinstated. The 2k24 class can now vote, and be voted for in the coming elections. This was a big step in the right direction, and a traditional aberration has been corrected. The elections timeline remains unchanged for other classes, but the deadline for submission of electoral forms and voters’ registration is Thursday, 28th April 2022 for the 2k24 class.
This might not be the only tradition broken this month as we might also have the first-ever female UIMSA President on Saturday.