The Electoral System and Elections in Nigeria: problems and prospects by Henry Madubuike

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in accordance with the United Nations’ charter, emphasizes that the will of the people is the basis of the authority of Government. The respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections are the essential elements of Democracy.

Do note, in line with the spirit of this discourse, the words, PERIODIC and GENUINE, as they shall form the nexus and fulcrum of this piece, whole and entire.

Also, political and public participation are essential to democratic governance, social inclusion, economic advancement, rule of law and the general entrenchment or advancement of all human rights.

Participation rights are important in empowering individuals and groups, which are crucial as well as essential to eliminating marginalization and discrimination. These rights are also inseparably linked to other human rights, such as right to peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression and the rights to education and to information.

Election, simplicita, is a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a particular office or position, or the process of voting to choose someone to be the political leader or representative in Government.

Put in another way, election is the fact of electing or being elected. Thus,to elect means to select or make a decision.

Gradually narrowing down to the crux of this piece, a very critical moment in a country’s socio-political span is the electoral circle, which is not limited to electoral campaigns or even the election proper. It begins well before and continues between elections.

Following the above, one would opine that a democratic process is based on a lasting dialogue between the population and it’s representatives.

The citizens on their own part must be armed with accurate and verifiable information in order to make an objective electoral decision, so much so that their understanding of social and political issues must be top notch, so as to make their voices and concerns adequately heard, in order not to be viewed from the prism of rabble rousing or mere dust raising. This will make the people to be viewed from a serious perspective and taken into account by those who desire to represent them.

The media, civil society among others must also up the ante, functioning independently to contributing to setting the agenda for the political class, presenting accurate, complete and balance reportage.

Thus, the electoral system, being a set of rules that determine how elections and referendum are conducted and how their results are determined, become an indispensable part of the democratic process, given the fact that the political destiny of any people is hinged on it’s outcome.

Electoral systems, in politics are used to elect governments, while non political elections may take place in business, non- profit organizations and informal organizations.

These rules, via the electoral system, govern all aspects of the voting process; when elections occur, who is allowed to vote, who can stand as a Candidate, how ballots are marked and cast, how the ballots are counted, how votes translate into the election outcome, limits on campaign spending, and other factors that can affect the result.

Thus, political electoral systems are defined by Constitutions and electoral laws, are typically conducted by election commissions, and use multiple types of elections for different offices.

Research affirms that all the above are ideally correct but there are still yawning questions begging for answers as electoral umpires, particularly in the Nigeria situation are obviously enmeshed in a sort of macabre dance that can only be punctuated through a kind of extreme force and it’s format, instead of going overdrive to self destruct, reconfigured and reset.

In Nigeria, the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission has consistently being under fire, following the outright lackadaisical or straight hogwash it churned out in the name of election results and declaration of winners because of the obvious control of the body by a seeming ghost cartel that influence who gets what, either by hook or crook. Truth be said, that there is fire on the mountain is an obvious understatement.

With the return of Democracy in Nigeria circa 1999, electoral reforms had been introduced and in theory, a roadmap or route to a kind of rejig, set up and targeted towards a change in strategy for the electoral institution because the word, ‘independent’, seemed violently aborted and it’s foetus eaten raw by marauding anti democratic vampires.

Between same 1999 till date, staggering monies had been sunk into INEC but expected results of an upgrade in character seem obviously sabotaged also by same INEC who change goalposts in the middle of each game, to reach a predetermined end.

Sad as it is, many Nigerians are presently of the view that the electoral institution now operates as an appendage of whatever ruling political party there is, and most times, misleading politicians who seek political office by leading them on and still abandoning them to maroon in the middle of the sea.

A case in chief among others is the I-Rev, which was configured originally with the sole intention of releasing and/or delivering election results online, real time but same INEC, in a shameless backpedaling, twisted self made norms to favour whoever is seemed a sacred cow in various States and different categories of elections.

Since 1999, INEC has remained an experimental Guinea Pig, so much so that the mantra of ‘go to court’ was couched as an escape route to cover glaring inadequacies or outright sabotage by same Institution.

Even with an existing Legal Department in the body, they are glaringly, constantly goofing, knowing legal implications of their actions but still lure power seekers into the abyss of political oblivion.

Pre election, election and post election logjams would not have been a matter of energy sapping litigations, which many have rightly or wrongly argued, to be mere academic exercises, if the electoral body lived up to their bidding by being fair to all concerned. Nigeria has consistently being put on the wrong side of public optics world over because of the oddities of INEC and this calls for urgent concern.

However, the solution is not far fetched as conducting a free, fair and credible election is no rocket science, since the main aim of it’s set up is midwifing elections which reflect the collective will of the people.

The electoral institution must be truly independent in letter and spirit with it’s leadership manned by apolitical individuals of proven integrity, not members or cronies of political party heavyweights, whose bidding, they must do.

Also, for INEC to be truly independent, it’s existence, administrative and financial, must not be within the apron strings of the Executive, which simply makes them ordinary appendages.

The Institution must be so fortified that it can at any time, rein in the excesses of political gladiators and their shenanigans, thus entrenching the true meaning of independence, building confidence in the psyche of the citizenry towards exercising their rights to choosing who they want and making their choices count.

Contributions and criticisms are profoundly welcome.

HENRY ONYEMA MADUBUIKE
(Public Affairs Analyst)

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