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Towards Credible Elections, Improved Democracy In Nigeria

The conduct of elections free from violence or irregularities has been a mirage in Nigeria. Election after election, Nigerians have continued to hope for a better process that would produce leaders who are truly the voice and desire of the people. Sadly, this has not always been the case.

With avoidable deaths and crisis trailing each electoral process every four years, voters apathy seems to have taken the centre stage as many Nigerians fail to come out in their numbers to perform their civic responsibilities of electing leaders of their choice. With a mindset that votes do not count, it makes it even more difficult to convince the masses that an electoral process was credible, free, fair and transparent. The integrity of the process has long been drowned into the mud.

Learning from mistakes Committed to fostering a transparent, inclusive and efficient electoral process in Nigeria, the Electoral Hub, an organ of the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD), recently unveiled a book to serve as a guide for credible elections and an improved democracy in Nigeria. The book, “Electoral Management Bodies in Nigeria Since 1958” with support from Open society Foundations, showcases the distinctive contributions of each Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) to the progression of Nigeria’s electoral system in the past five decades and six years.

In a review of the book, Prof. Adele Jinadu noted that the “diabolic” environment of Nigeria’s competitive party and electoral politics has been characterised by electoral violence and hate speech. He said this scenario was largely responsible for the inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) to conduct unproblematic elections.

He said: “This partly explains why, for example, despite the internal administrative and financial reform and the deployment of ICT to sanitize the country’s voter register and unwholesome practices to steal elections during the accreditation, voting and collation processes on election day, since 2011 by electoral commissions under Attahiru Jega and Mahmood Yakubu, serious operational and related logistics problems continue to raise serious questions about the credibility of elections.

“It is hardly asked why these operational problems persist. This is because it is easy to place the blame on the electoral commissions. But the problems persist mainly because they are inherent in the interrelated intersection of the country’s culture of diabolic politics and massive human and structural problem of underdevelopment. “It is the reason also why institutional failures persist generally in the country’s public services and why there are few pockets of efficiency in them.”

Jinadu expressed worry that the abuse of the power of incumbency for partisan political party and the interference of “election observers,” now portend danger signposts for future elections. He insisted that the manner of research studies by Electoral Hub on the subject matter was rare to find, noting that it was a significant piece that sheds light on the challenges of the electoral governance since the introduction of the system of responsible and semi-cabinet government and the establishment of INEC.

The book reviewer said there was an urgent need to develop a strong think tank or research unit within INEC, adding that NEC’s Electoral Institute should be strengthened to play that role. He also called for a public debate for a policy to contain the activities of election observers in the country.

Legitimacy of elections

The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, noted that the legitimacy of any government can not be distanced from the credibility of the electoral process that brought it to power. He added that the sovereignty in any democracy lies with the people electing their own leaders. The IMEC boss, represented by Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, said the book on EMBs will provide Nigerians with the opportunity to assess the various democratic leaderships, recruitment processes and their impact on the process of governance.

“Simply put, the legitimacy of any government lies in the credibility of the electoral process that brought it to power. Herein lies the significance of credible Election Management Bodies (EMBs). “It is in recognition of this fact, that INEC, as the Election Management Body , places high premium on ensuring that the electoral process in Nigeria is free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent and most importantly verifiable,” he said. A former Director of Information and Voter Education at INEC, Festus Okoye, noted that the book will serve as a guide to navigate through the various challenges associated with elections in Nigeria.

Okoye who called for the sanitisation of the electoral processes in Nigeria to address vote buying, frustration and dangers encountered by corp members posted to collation centres, advocated a reduction in the number of ward collation centres “The commission must review the 8890 INEC ward collation centres. The 8890 ward collation centres is too much and we must abridge them so that we can have a situation where we can move them out when there is peace flight.

“If election ends at 5;00pm or 6;00pm in the forest and we have significant number of forests,.how can you move them out so they begin to panic and certain things go wrong,” he said. Okoye who enumeratef other environmental challenges encountered by election officers,.disclosed that a good number of politicians and political parties were ignorant of the guidelines for elections and it’s processes.

“There is lack of knowledge in terms of some of the things we do and I think that civil society organizations, political parties and organizations and political parties, including the election management bodies must do a lot of work in terms of sensitization and education so that all of us will be at par in electoral processes and procedures,” he said.

Neutrality

National Chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yusuf Dantalle who described the book as a collector’s item on election management bodies and the elections they conducted that shaped the nation’s democracy since 1958 in spite of military interventions, said Nigeria has witnessed a slow, rocky, stormy and steady democratic journey since 1960.

Dantelle, represented by the Deputy National Chairman, IPAC, Dipo Olayoku, stressed the need for a neutral, non-partisan, independent, unbiased and impartial election management body to conduct free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections. “The integrity, quality, credibility and acceptability of elections are directly related to the expertise, capability and competency of the electoral body that conducted them. “The ongoing Constitution and Electoral Act review provides another opportunity to strengthen the nation’s electoral system.

“IPAC advocates for an independent body to appoint INEC Chairman, National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners. This will move the powers of appointment from the President to a neutral body subject to confirmation by the Senate. It is inappropriate for the President who participates in an election to appoint its umpire,” he said.

Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, said the book offers an opportunity for Nigerians and other readers to take stock of the country’s electoral management governance system, to reflect and learn lessons. “The electoral process has evolved and today the pre election, election, and post-election phases of the electoral cycle have become more inclusive than was the case many years ago.

This would not have been possible without the commitment of stakeholders across board,” he said. Director, IRIAD – The Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels, noted that the book was aimed at stimulating interest and collective action towards improved electoral governance for credible elections in Nigeria. According to her, the research examined the actions of successive election management bodies and their contributions to the evolution of the electoral process, including aspects such as gender, age, and regional inclusiveness within EMBs.

He said the book also explored the legal frameworks, landmark judicial decisions, and other influences that have shaped the functionality of EMBs “The study we are presenting today, “Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in Nigeria since 1958,” was conducted with the support of the Open Society Foundations.

“This public presentation has three interrelated objectives, to share insights from the research with a broader audience, garner perspectives of experts and stakeholders on the experiences within EMBs in Nigeria. “It is to also stimulate interest and collective action towards improved electoral governance for credible elections in Nigeria,” she said.

 

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