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Sanitizing Nigeria’s Democracy : Must Do For The National Assembly And INEC

 

The Oasis Reporters

July 18, 2018

Voting on the electronic machine during the Kaduna Local Council elections that produced online, real-time results.
The sudden disappearance of Returning Officers allegedly led to ‘changed’ results that looked strange.

Imperfect as Nigeria’s democracy is, some progress is being made along the path of improvement given the conduct of the Edo and the recent gubernatorial elections in Ekiti States. Our people are gradually beginning to come to terms with the urgent need to reject violence in the lead up to and during the conduct of elections as violence benefits nobody. Central to the uselessness of violence in politics, is the obvious fact that the characters you are putting your precious life in danger for, may not after all be aware of the risks or sacrifices you think you are making for them.

INEC the national electoral umpire is proving that it can indeed conduct free, fair, transparent and therefore credible elections. One masterstroke that INEC pulled is the introduction of the card reader. The card reader removed the wind from the sails of master riggers because at the time of elections before the 2015 general elections the specialist triggers thought it was going to be business as usual where there usually was multiple registration and by extension voting.

Is anyone surprised now that there are bundles of PVCs begging for collection without their owners showing up? Let’s consider the Ekiti situation where if the records are correct, a little above 900,000 would-be voters registered for the PVCs but only a little above 400,000 voters were accredited for the election. The over 500,000 PVCs are still lying there uncollected. The message from this is that there were multiple registration and with the introduction of the card readers those who were involved in the multiple registration cannot now go to collect the PVCs. The practice before the introduction of the card reader used to be that politicians were in the habit of buying up voters cards which were presumed to translate to votes. The message has been preached in Churches, Mosques, Shrines and in other public gatherings throughout this country for people of voting age to go register and collect their only weapon in a democracy ( the PVC) and to be ready for the elections when the time comes.
In the circumstances, INEC must destroy all the PVCs yet to be claimed by anybody. The importance of the PVC is becoming obvious in our day to day life to the extent that there is no need to appeal to anybody anymore.

In the 2015 general elections there were allegations of underage voting for which Kano State was the chief culprit. The problem here if any was during the registration process. If the officers who conducted the registration turned a blind eye to the requirement that a person presenting himself/herself for registration must be 18 years and above, it amounted to criminality if anyone under the required 18 years were registered in Kano or any other State for that matter.
At the point of voting, it will be difficult to prevent someone with a valid voter’s card from voting. More contentious though is that given the literacy rate in Kano that all the votes cast in that election were all valid.
I had to bring this point to the fore in the light of the recent vote in Ekiti, a State with one of, if not the highest literacy rates where there were many invalid votes. The Kano situation still remains very much suspect. If a recount was ordered, you can bet that thousands of votes would have been found to be invalid.

Another solution would have been the use of the National Identity Card for elections if the project was well managed. This card would eliminate the perennial problem of multiple registration and will allow the holder to vote wherever he/she finds himself/herself within the territory of Nigeria. Much money, time and other resources will be saved if the national identity card is adopted for election purposes. This will help in enhancing the sanctity of elections in this country.

One problem which has consistently constituted an albatross to our democracy is the delegate system. Because, contestants have to distil from the delegate system, the elections are usually deliberately manipulated to produce delegates who will in due time cast their votes for the candidate who funded the manipulation. Most of those emerging as delegates usually will vote for the highest bidder as it is the money that concerns them not the quality or character of the candidates.

Listening to the news from Osun State on 16 July, 2018, my heart was lifted up with the news that instead of the usual delegate system producing or deciding the flag bearers for the forthcoming governorship primaries, they are rather going for the direct primaries option in which the electorate will vote to decide the flag bearers of all the political parties. Considering that many desperate despots like the one in Kaduna State will do just anything to manipulate the system to achieve their narrow self interest by defrauding the electorate when they simply would sit down and draw up the names of their favourite people as having emerged victorious in phantom elections, the Osun formula is an attractive option. Let the voters take part in deciding who their candidates in elections should be. Going along this path will free the system from the corruption which characterizes the delegate system.
The National Assembly will need to urgently give careful consideration to this fantastic idea contemplated in Osun State.

There is also the vexed issue of vote buying by politicians, how this is executed is unclear to me. How can a politician possibly buy someone’s vote when the actual voting is secret?
While it may be easy to hand out cash during the election, there can be no guarantee that the recipients will vote for that candidate. I belong to the group that encourages anyone offered cash during an election to happily collect such monies but to vote their conscience. This will discourage the deployment of money in elections.

 

Written by Col. Gora Dauda (rtd), R-APC Chairman in Kaduna state, North-West Nigeria.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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