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Has Nigeria’s electoral process improved since Independence?

Has Nigeria’s electoral process improved since Independence?

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Even before 1999’s return to democracy; when the military allowed for political associations which led to the 1993 election, the electoral process was still in order. You remember the election of the Social Democratic Party which almost brought Moshood Abiola to power, it was still largely commendable. Abiola, then a southern Muslim, captured most of the votes in the North; unfortunately, he was not declared as the winner.

In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae both contested the presidential election and as southerners, each got a fair share of votes from the North.

The candidates enjoyed the support of all Nigerians and the process was fair.

However, when you look at the elections by late Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and now Muhammadu Buhari, you will see that the elections were rarely a resemblance of democracy. This is not about whether any one likes anybody or any political party or not.

What is happening in our electoral process – looking at Ekiti State election to the Osun State election – should be a serious source of concern to all Nigerians and our democracy.

Anyone who upholds democratic ideals should be genuinely worried, especially as we approach the 2019 elections.

A new system of rigging has surfaced such that election results of some polling units are deliberately doctored so as to increase or decrease a political party’s chance of winning an election.

This is not good for our electoral process and it is a bad commentary on the government of the day.

This obvious bias is a real danger signal for the electoral process as we approach the 2019 elections. My suggestion is that to outsmart these new rigging techniques, election results should be counted at the local government areas so that polling units’ results will no longer be removed or cancelled to favour any candidate. •Alhaji Tanko Yakasai (Elder statesman/ Chairman, Northern Elders’ Council)

My position is that notwithstanding the huge sums of money that have been invested in the process over the years, and the series of legislative interventions that have been brought into play with a view to ensuring that we have an ideal electoral process, not much has improved in practical terms.

You see, even in 2018, there is still the problem of inducement of voters, of compromised electoral process, the lack of trust in the electoral umpire and the ugly incidence of violence. All these things are still with us like they had always been from independence. Regrettably, we have not achieved much in terms of having a decent electoral process in the country.

I think our politicians should play the game according to the rules. We have fine legislations as things are in the country but the attitude of politicians wanting to win elections at all cost; I think, is the cause of our problem.

They know there will naturally be many candidates, but in most instances, there will only be a limited number of elective offices. Like in the state, you know at a particular point, that you can only have a governor. So, what has to be done is for politicians to orientate themselves to come to terms with the reality that all of them cannot win at the same time.

Most importantly, the electorate must take their civic responsibilities seriously by coming out to vote according to the dictates of their conscience.

The electoral management body, civil society groups and other non-governmental organisations have roles to play especially in the area of public enlightenment.  •Mr. Kehinde Eleja (Senior Advocate of Nigeria)

I can say categorically that our electoral process has improved from what it was at independence. We have improved because we have moved away from the things that used to cause problems. For example, ballot box stuffing, but the electoral umpire has solved the problem.

There was violence on a large scale especially on election days but that has drastically reduced now. The credit should go to INEC and the judiciary on this because elections have been nullified in areas where there is a threat of violence or where it actually occurs.

If you look at elections conducted before 2011 and 2015, they were characterised by violence and ballot box stuffing. ‘Ghosts’ used to vote during our elections but the innovations introduced by INEC have stopped that.

The introduction of smart card reader has successfully tackled the issue of multiple voting because voters cannot vote more than once in an election. Any voter that tries it would be exposed by the machine because it would detect such fraudulent people.  Underage voters have also been drastically tackled and substantial improvement has also been made in this area.

The result of this is that there has been general acceptability of election results because Nigerians now know that their votes count. That was why the All Progressives Congress which was in the opposition was able to defeat the then incumbent President in the 2015 presidential election.

The improvement noticed is also echoed by international observer groups because they give reports at the end of each exercise and there has been an improvement.

Technological devices such as smart phones have also contributed to the improvement of the electoral process because happenings at polling units and collation centres can be seen almost as they happen. People that are far away can know results of elections from each polling units immediately they are announced.

Despite the improvement noticed, there are still issues that we must successfully tackle to make the process better and one of such is vote buying. •Prof. Bolaji Omitola (Department of Political Science Osun State University)

I think we have gone many steps backwards. We were thinking that the electoral process was work in progress and would continue to improve with every election. But with what we have seen since the coming into office of the present administration, I am not so sure that we have made progress over what we had at the end of the last administration. That is the unfortunate part of it. Before now, we had thought that the introduction of the card reader, electronic verification and all that would substantially minimise, if not completely eradicate, election rigging.

It appears Nigeria has adopted another style just to defeat the card reader; with reports of vote buying, violence, militarisation of polling centres and intimidation.

The recent Osun State governorship election is a case in point. Instead of improving, we seem to be going backward. In a situation where INEC itself is crying out, the international community is crying out, contestants are not satisfied, independent observers are not happy; there is something definitely wrong with the system. First, Nigerians must take a collective decision. Unless we get our electoral system right, leadership will remain a challenge in this country.

In a situation where if you have the financial muscle, thugs are at your disposal, you have the security agencies and of course, you can compromise INEC to get whatever you want, the system will never throw up our best.

Once people get into office using those kinds of machinations, then you do not expect them to be loyal and honest to the country. This is because, at the end, whatever they have spent to get into office, the first thing they will do when they get there is to recoup their investment and seek to make profit after which they take more to prepare for the next election. •Mr Ede Asenoguan (Ex-Benin Branch Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association)

The electoral process in Nigeria has been evolving over the years but l cannot say for certain that it has improved. The hallmark of an improved electoral process is that it must be capable of ensuring a free, fair and credible elections at all times.

It is also one that guarantees the participation of all citizens who are eligible and show interest in the process without discrimination, intimidation, violence and all forms of malpractices.

It is one that can guarantee democratic consolidation. From what we have witnessed lately, l do not honestly think that the electoral process has improved.

We have seen an upsurge in incidents of vote buying, excessive monetisation of the electoral process, intimidation, and politics of brinkmanship by various gladiators bordering on desperation to grab power at all cost. All these do not point to an improved electoral process. •Lekan Oketokun (Peace and conflict resolution expert)

  • Compiled by: Success Nwogu, Samuel Awoyinfa, Femi Makinde,

Olaleye Aluko and Alexander Okere

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