By Osobu Suuru Alexander
The 2019 general election has taken place in Nigeria even though the process has not generally ended as many states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano Plateau and Sokoto) ended inconclusive and results collation suspended in Rivers state. This arguably might be seen as a step to strengthening a democratic process where all electorates’ voices or votes matter to determining the outcome of election especially where election is keenly contested and in the real sense of it, election should not just be a walkover through the processes of manipulations, mutilations of results sheets, snatching of ballot papers and boxes, political thuggery, assassinations etc.
However, the overall electoral processes in Nigeria is still largely characterised by these social vices of manipulations, thuggery and assassinations which is largely caused by monetisation of political offices, poor security institutions and its misuse by desperate politicians and officers within its ranks, general belief of the political class who see election as a ‘do-or-die’ affairs in Nigeria, lack of independence of electoral institution amongst others.
The 2019 general election has not actually seen any major improvement from what we saw in 2015 under Attahiru Jega and this does not necessarily mean that the head of the umpire; Yakubu Mahmood is less brilliant but it suggests in a way that the political class in Nigeria is still ever desperate to acquire and retain power even with million lives and blood of Nigerians. Between 2015 and 2019, like never before we saw money bag-politics where bags of money was practically moved to polling booths and electorates were made to show their ballots papers strategically to political parties agents and get paid. This was witnessed in the elections in Ekiti, Osun and other states where elections have been conducted recently.
Nigeria has also witnessed misuse of security apparatus which has been since 1999 when we returned to democracy, but a serious democratic nation would have reduced this menace but unfortunately, it happened in 2019 because people in power irrespective of political parties benefitted immensely from it and the implication of this is a broad day light invitation for coup.
We saw how soldiers and other security agents took over streets and even INEC’s office in Rivers state and other states where heavily militarised under the watch/command of federal or state Governments officials as the case might apply. The obvious implication was the political apathy recorded across the states of Nigeria as Nigerians were hell-scared to die even though they would eventually die by the stray bullets of soldiers and hoodlums on the pavement of their houses under the supervision of Governments officials.
Blood flowing on the streets of Nigeria in the name of election, many Nigerians died including a serving Hose of Rep member; Tope alias ‘Sugar.’ Before the election, we have had killings and reprisal killings especially in Kaduna state where ordinary misunderstanding between two market women could easily degenerate into religious war because everything about the state ranging from human interactions to Governments’ relations is determined by religion. The killing spree continues even after election as this is gradually becoming a way of life and none of these killings takes place without political undertone.
Violence is gradually becoming an essential ingredient in our political life in Nigeria as hardly could we conduct any election without perpetration of violence even in the LG election that is expected to be the smallest tier of Government. Eventually blood flows and lives are lost!
All these are pointers to the desperation for power by the Nigeria’s political class who don’t mind killing all the citizens except their immediate family members to acquire and retain political power. And here we are after they have acquired the political power!
To every sense of developments, be it social, political or technological there is always room for evolution that is improvement/moving from one level to another and a typical example is technology where a phase is seen as analogue and today, we are in the era of digital even though we don’t know where Nigeria is sitting. The umpire; INEC has carried out many electoral activities such as new voters registrations, transfers of voters’ cards, political/electoral education etc with the aid of budget which is the people’s tax.
Therefore, 2019 general election was generally expected to be a great improvement from what it used to be unfortunately, the reverse is the case even though the institution; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) tried its little best in terms of policies and social arrangements but we saw that some of these policies and arrangements somersaulted as they were not fulfilled. A good example is the failure to meet the promises to the physically challenged people, Albinos etc and this affected the participation of these groups of people who are also entitled to perform their civic responsibilities without disenfranchisement.
Besides, the umpire also gave room for some of these manipulations as some of its personnel are on the payroll of these desperate politicians. How could we explain people being recruited as ad-hoc staff of INEC without formally undergoing the necessary trainings but got on the list because the LG Chairman, Governor or one Minister has forwarded the name while those who were initially shortlisted and attended trainings were shocked to see their names removed on the hour of reporting for assignment in order to collect both sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials.
In 2019 general election, most of the international observers have spoken and the statements have all been pointing to the fact that there were irregularities. These are obviously seeing in the high militarisation, violence, ballot box snatching, killings etc and this is gradually defining us amongst the comity of nation.
The choice is in our very hands as this level of desperation by the political class must be totally eliminated in order to have a democracy where lives are sacred, where elections outcomes are the true reflection of the people’s wish, where security agents are more professional in the conduct and exercise of their roles, where political parties see governance as a clarion call to serve people and where electoral body is truly independent of unnecessary interference.
- Adopt modern technology, it is easier said than done, the fact remains that going fully digital in our electoral process won’t be an easy task as it requires huge amount of money, the data management and right expertise to manage it is another area that must be put into consideration. The type of technology and the technical knowhow is as important as the election itself. But I have always believed that if some countries in the world are doing it then we could and Nigeria as giant of Africa must as a matter of fact go technological!
One bitter experience people had in this election was the untold hardship they suffered from the sudden February 16th postponement as many as travelled to their villages to vote but if we have modern technology this would be avoided; accidents that claimed many lives in the process of travelling for election would be avoided; money would be saved; adopting modern day technology would make us have our elections in one day instead of using one month and paralysing the nation’s economy; wastage of materials would be avoided, imagine over eighty (80) million ballot papers printer and less than thirty (30) million was used as a matter of fact it is unimaginable.
Going fully digital would make us avoid violence, thuggery and snatching of ballot boxes because it would be useless to snatch the machines as data would have been saved on the central database.
- Demonetisation of the nation’s politics is a step that must be taken and prior to 2015, all hope was hinged on Buhari as the man that could do this! We are still waiting patiently for him to take the step even though I know it a process of the laws that requires other arms of government but he must initiate the bill to that effect.
Still a mind-boggling matter what people holding political offices take home every month that’s why people would do anything including taking lives to acquire and hold onto power otherwise check out the reason people would swore on their graves that their business associates, friends, sons in-law etc would be the ones to succeed them in office.
- Electoral education must be taken serious in Nigeria and I should as serious as the election itself. All relevant institutions must be committed to this assignment starting from INEC to National Orientation Agency (NOA) to political parties etc.
- The legal framework of the electoral process must be strengthened, regrettably, Mr. Buhari refused to sign the electoral act before the 2019 general election hinging his reason on closeness to election period even though, it’s a public knowledge that the document was returned back on several occasions to the National Assembly
- Training and re-training of electoral personnel is an integral part of electoral process which helps capacity building and administrative comparison especially when it is international training and networking.
- Knowledge and information sharing should be a constant practice and culture within the electoral umpire. This was more pronounced under the leadership of Attahiru Jega probably partly responsible for the level of success he recorded.
- Involvement of stakeholders is also important, bringing expertise who are knowledgeable in this act is important and it must be said that international observers are part of the stakeholders who help build electoral process as their recommendations in most cases are genuine and useful.
Osobu Suuru Alexander