Electoral Malpractice in Nigeria and the Way Forward
Electoral Malpractice in Nigeria – Misconception of Politics for Violence :The term “politics” means many things to many people. Its conceptualization depends on the inbuilt of individual idiosyncrasies centered on political ideology. For instance, Harold Laswell defined polities as “Who gets what, when and how”. David Easton on his own, perceive politics as “an authoritative allocation of power and resources”. Some people see politics as a means of exercising political power. To others, it is the exploitation of the poor masses at the expense of the rich.
However, politics is too encompassive, dynamic and elaborative. It cuts across all human endeavors, relationships and interactions. Hence, Aristotle affirmed that man by nature is a political animal. Again, politics is centred on power which manifests with influence, either positively or negatively. The fact remains that the way you understand politics will determine the way you will practice it or apply the principles.
In view of this, politics is not a dirty game, a survival of the fittest, a do or die affairs. Neither shall it be equated with the Machievelli’s principles of “ End justifies the means” because politics is a means to an end but not an end itself. Reacting to the misconception of politics for violence in Nigeria as presented by John Odey in his book titled, “After the Madness Called Election 2003, pp44-45, Wole Soyinka Posited that all that passed for the 2003 election left the oppositions reeling and international observers in awe at the sheer effrontery of it all. In terms of violence, it takes its place among the most bloody since independence. The scale and manner of ballot robbery, as revealed day after day, reveals a lightly centralized operation, not a sporadic series of electoral violations. Gani Fawehimi added; “ Obasanjo has murdered sleep, so he cannot sleep again. That is why he invited isrealis to guard him at the inauguration. He does not trust his own security again because he used them to rig elections.
Electoral Malpractice in Nigeria: Non-Tolerance of Oppositions
My believe that oppositions is a stepping stone towards success as it provides can area or areas of concentration has been undermined by the negative reactions of political parties and individuals to their oppositions, especially in the Nigeria Political administration.
It also contradicts the assertion of Frederick Douglas as in the book, After the madness called Election is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecates agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground, they want rain without thunders and lighting. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Men may not get all they pay for in this world but they must certainly pay for all they get. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress”.
Though, this intolerance of oppositions was witnessed nation wide in the political administration of Nigeria right from the first republic, it was more obvious during the 2003 general election, following the dominion of the assumed almighty one party system known as “People’s Democratic Party” (PDP). Odey (Opp cit) continued, Prior to the madness called election 2003, Adamu Ciroma, President Obasanjo’s Campaign Coordinator was quoted as saying that if their party did not loose the elections when it was conducted by the military, it was certain that they could not loose now that they were the ones conducting the elections. Hence, they resorted to the use of the army, the police and political thugs who were given definite instruction to intimidate and compels Nigerian to bow to their demolishing antics. The president and his party brought in the army and the police, not to supervise the elections for us but to terrorize us into submission.
To X-ray the reality of non intolerance of opposition in the political administration of Nigeria, president Obasanjo on December 6, 2001 signed into a law a fraudulent electoral act which tactically banned new parties from taking part in 2003 state and presidential elections until 2007 when he might have exhausted his second tenure.
In reaction to the electoral act fraud, Gani, a well known Nigeria legal Luminary argued that it “is paving a way for one party state and civilian dictatorship”. He warned that the electoral act is unnatural, unscientific and must be resisted. Ken Martins, the then PDP publicity secretary described it as an “ugly and awkward development and added that “ it was only ridiculous and utterly discomforting to note that a government that preaches so much transparency, anti-corruption could flagrantly abuse the due process of the law and selfishly refused to come out with clean hands. Wherein lies the moral responsibility?. Dim E.O. Ojukwu described it as a rape of democracy and daylight robbery. He further said that there is no armed robbery worse than the armed robbery of governance. However, he later achieved his selfish political aims through the use of brutal and intimidating means. But it is worthy to note that the above criticism led to the abortion of the conceived electoral fraud act.
The fact remains that Nigerian should learn to tolerate opposition in politics because because its acts a watch- dog in a political administration and enhances good governances.
Electoral Malpractice in Nigeria : The Need for Political Unity and Participation
A way forward out of electoral malpractice in Nigeria is to embrace political unity and participation. “Unity they say, we stand”. In line with this, there is need for political unity and to enhance political participation by encouraging peaceful political administration in Nigeria and its environs. Accordingly, at the heart of the democratic idea, is the notion of participation which entails, the extend to which individual members of the society, thus, democracy cannot be conceived in theory or created in practice without the creation, recognition, encouragement and expansion of the opportunities for participation (cited in an unpublished mimeograph on political parties and pressure groups). In modern society, participation takes three basic forms:
- The form of election or selections, when people seek to participate in societal affairs through elected or selected representatives.
- The form of routine individual or group involvement in the day to day affairs of the society and,
- Through the shaping of public opinion on issues, events, affairs and personalities of the day (Op cit).
Aristotle generalized that every man is a political animal. As a political animal, he engages in political activities either for himself, for others and for society at large. Therefore, the general level of political participation in a society is the extent to which the people as a whole are active in politics.
On the other hand, Egwu, J.U. (2003; 83) maintained that non-participating or subjective political culture, foster attitudes of passivity, isolation, indifference and citizens withdrawal. In Nigeria, the type of political culture that is in existence or was exhibited during the 2003 general election may cause the emergence of a largely non-participatory attitude or political apathy in the country.
Conclusively, we should develop a political culture and administration where countries have the culture of participation, individuals display great enthusiasm for politics, show a high degree of pride in national political institutions and have a high sense of political efficacy and civil duties.
Forms of Electoral Malpractices in Nigeria
Historically, we have seen how, from 1964, “rigging” has grown steadily worse and more daring and how the 2003/2007 general elections has been described by independent observers as the worst even by Nigeria’s notorious standards in electoral matters.
According to Yemi Osinbajo (2009) as quoted in an internet material titles “Elections and Electoral Malpractices in Nigeria”, the out come of the elections conducted in 1983, 1999, 2003 and 2007 has been so fiercely contested that the survival of the democratic order has been compromised in many ways. The result has therefore been the subversion of the democratic process rather than its consolidation. The objective of this sect therefore, is to focus on the forms of electoral malpractices and conflict in Nigeria and to suggest solutions for a better democratic consolidation.
Jibrin Ibrahim (2007) Maintained that the 2007 general elections did not live up to the hopes and expectations of the Nigerian people and the process was not considered credible. However, it marked the first peaceful transfer of power between civilian government in nigeria’s history. Nevertheless, and far from improving on the 1999 and 2003 elections, the conduct of the election was perceived as the worst. Charges of corruption, vote buying, vote rigging, lack of transparency and other voting irregularities abound. The various electoral malpractices that characterized.
a.) Inclusion of fictitious names in the voter’s registers. Often times, politicians mobilize their supporters heavily during voters registration exercise. Besides ensuring that their supporters have the franchise through the voter’s card, politicians used crooked means to register “multitude of voters” sometimes with fictitious names or the names of family members leaving in the towns and cities or even abroad and those that are even dead just to achieve undue favour.
b.) Illegal compilation of separate voters lists. This a crucial step in the entire dragnet of rigging. Politicians solicit the “co-operation” of appointed electoral officers right from the level of the electoral officers at the polling boots to the resident electoral commissioners. The deals are often mapped out neatly well ahead of the polls. On the day of election, it will be to fulfill all righteousness and give it the veneer of a democratic conduct.
c.) Illegal printing of voters cards: Desperate politicians in a desperate bid to sweep polls engaged in criminal acts of printing electoral materials like ballot papers or result sheets after “sighting” the specimen model copies from the electoral body. Such politicians, after voting, cooked up figures and manipulated the election result to their own favour.
d.) Illegal possession of ballot boxes: where a candidate feels that in a free and fair contest, he may not be able to defeat his opponent, he may resort to thuggery mainly to scare the supporters of his opponents so that they will either withdraw their support or be so sufficiently intimidated to an extent that only his supporters will have the “security cover” to go the polling stations on the elections day.
e.) Multiple voting: Multiple voting involves the issuance of more than one ballot paper to a voter several times within the voting period. This was done with the active participation and connivance of the electoral officers. The purpose of ink painting the thumb of a voted person during polling is aimed at checking this possibility, but it was ineffective in the face of the deliberate ploys used by electoral officers to pervert the system. There are other forms of electoral fraud but time factor and the limited resources are my constraints.
If Nigeria want to attain sustainable democracy, government must be able to ensure that the citizens are to exercise their civic rights in free and fair elections and to hold their leaders to account through democratic means. Election to political office must be less dependent on the strategic deployment of corruption and violence. If this process is to start, then future elections must be seen to be credible, less violent, better organized and more reflective of the actual decisions made by voters than all previous elections. Finally, if the cycle of violence and corruption that pass for political competition in Nigeria is to be broken, credible free and fair elections are the proper starting point. But as long as electoral malpractices continue, democracy will never be the government of the people by the people and for the people.
How to Undermine Electoral Malpractices in Nigeria Politics
It may seen paradoxical according to William Shakepeare’s aphorism that cowards die many time before their death., while the valiant never taste death but once until people begin to see the reality of it through practice. The reality of the aphorism will be achieved only if we can join our voices together in this crying of liberation and freedom according to Odey, O. (2003: 13-14) and opted for:
Exposition of Evils: As long as politicians continue to turn political elections into a kind of civil war where young people are denied all decent opportunities and are conscripted into the burgeoning and money-spinning industry of political thuggery where they kill and maiming the soc called political opponents, I will continue to write and denounce these ills. As long as our leaders close down public educational institutions, send their children to private institutions or overseas and then turn round to convert the children of the less privileged to political miscreants, give them guns and send them out to kill and endure that they keep ruling us against our collective will, only to dump them after they have accomplished their dirty and heinous deal to write and declare that this way of ruling people is not good.
Readiness to die always for truth: as a priest or Christian who like Christ, should be ready to give my life if the need arises to ensure that other will live and live human beings, if I am arrested, hurt or killed in the process, I will have nothing to lose. Rather, I will regard it as an honour which I do not deserve, a blessing to the church to which I belong and a glory to God who became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, took the identity of the poorest and lowliest people, raised them from dungeon of oppression and despair and gave them hope. If I am killed in the process, I know many Nigerians will be able to say that they killed me because I tried to speak for those whose voices will never be heard. Then, I will thank God wherever I may be that my earthly sojourn has not been in wasted and that my little efforts has not been in vain.
Fear not: unnecessary fear, when one is fighting a just cause, fear when one is fighting for a better human society, is not only the greatest manacle holding people as slaves of other, but also a curse on man. To help people overcome such fear, Jurgen Molteman once wrote “The power of the Powerless lies in … liberation from fear, in their laughter at the expense of deified rulers who are nothing after all but dolled up dwarfs. People who are no longer afraid… can longer be ruled with ease, although of course they can be shot…,
Freedom begins when men suddenly find themselves to be without fear…, all liberation movements begins with a few people who are no longer afraid and who begins with a few people who are no longer afraid and who begins to act differently, from what is expected by those who are threatening them. “Biblical, Jesus Christ warned his disciples not to be afraid of those who will kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather to fear he who alone can destroy both body and soul in hell.
Arise and shine: as long as people summon the courage to say no to evil while the evil lasts, there is always hope that some day, goodness will triumph over evil since the truth still remains that evil carries the seed of it’s own destruction. But once the people, for whatever reason under the sun, learn to adjust to evil, every all the chances it needs to reign an reign supreme. Nigerians must not allow such to happen. Those who fight for justice in the land must not relent because the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance has long been exhausted. We therefore, have every right to resist the current democratic tyranny.
Finally, we should say no to political thuggery, political Fatherism, political bribery, political intimidation and all sorts of political and electoral malpractices. Let us stand firm and say no to evils, fight for ideal democratic principles bearing in minds that Nigeria and its environs belong to all of us and that all law-abiding citizens of this country have the right to be given a chance to live and survive. This is the time to make amends.
The Role of the Present Government to Consolidate Democracy in Nigeria
It has been affirmed that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. In line with this, president Yar’Adua/Goodluck and his component governors are trying their best in their attempt to reform the political system and electoral administration of Nigeria but the loopholes are still predominant in president’s reform agenda.
Democracy is said to be government of the people by the people and for the people. In other words, the people would constitute the government composed of the very people freely chosen by them and whose sole priority is to work for them. That is they would work for the well being of the people that have chosen them. But then, ten years Nigeria has trodden path of democracy but what have we to gain from it, the very yoke of poverty and other social inconveniences have continued to be the lot of the ordinary Nigerians. According to the citizens advocate, July 15, 2009 pg 10, Chief Silas Ilo, the former commissioner, national Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) and former minister of state for Health, Commented on some issues in the president’s Reform Agenda when interviewed.
1. Appointment of (INEC) Chairman:
The chairman of INEC by law is a very powerful person even in the commission itself, invariably, his view prevail. So it is a very critical position. Therefore, it is a healthy debate on who should appoint the chairman, I believe and feel strongly that the president should not continue to appoint the Chairman of the commission. I support the views of those who said that the process of appointment of chairman should not be outside the control and direction of government because, simply, put, an adage says that the man who pays the piper dictates the tune. The fact that the government appoints the chairman of the commission, the chairman is directly and indirectly under the control of the government. So the chairman should not continue to be appointed by the president of the country.
2. Institutionalization of electoral Reform:
I want to believe that Mr. President is sincere in appointing and electoral reform commission but, that is not to say that the commission was properly appointed or have done a good job. Following the reactions of the last election that brought him to power, he knows as a person that the process was seriously flawed and so, he said let us have a commission that will bring about some reforms in future, to that extent, I think he was sincere. The question remains, how fare has the commission itself gone in bringing about the good intention of government. In the membership of the commission, I saw social critics, intellectuals, judicial officers but really, I did not see much of the political practitioners or even old members of the civil service, old members of the electoral who have practical experience on how elections are conducted, how elections are declared and how elections are rigged.
3. Multi-Party System:
When Nigeria decided to expand the political space using the language of our politicians from five political parties to fifty, I think it is wrong whether it is intentional or mistake I don’t know. I don’t think it is genuine desire to open the space for everybody. But in my judgment, political party structures in Nigeria should not be less than three but not more than five. The argument goes far four parties or five but beyond five becomes unwieldly counter productive and corruptive in the sense that there will be all kinds of alliance during elections and money are shared to those who are doing nothing in the political space. That is why it has been possible for PDP to dominate the entire political space because fifty political parties, how do you even organize election for them?. It needs a rethink and a lot need to be done to respond to manageable level.
4. The problem of Niger Delta:
The question I always ask is what has Niger Delta Leaders done with the money given so far, you see corruption everywhere. The leaders collect the money and channel it to their private pockets and leave the problem of their people. But on the other hand, I will say that the money the federal government has put into Niger Delta is certainly not enough to solve the problem of the people of Niger Delta. I also disagree with anybody who thinks that force can be used to solve the problem or use force to suppress a determined people. The more, you kill, the more you create bitterness, anger, frustration in the mind of those you have not killed and the more they would want to rebel to fight on. So, the answer to the problem is continued dialogue with both the leaders and ordinary people of Niger Delta like:” Students, women and youths. Again, government should also do something that is practical, they can see which will improve their life.
5. The Re-Branding Nigeria Project:
Prof. Dora Akunyili deserves commendation as a virtuous woman, Patriotic, Transformer, reformer and rebrander. But the issue of rebranding is not her idea, it is an inherited policy. As a minister in the government, she has to implement policy inherited. I don’t know or see what they are rebranding. If a product is bad, that product is already bad. You may either reproduce or reform it or make it better not rebranding by renaming it. I think that Nigeria instead of spending energy talking about rebranding Nigeria, they should spend the same time, money and energy in what I call ethical revolution. Let Nigerian learn to be better human beings more honest and dedicated to their country. You must be really be respected among the rest of the people within and outside, then, you would have rebranded yourself when you have changed your character to something acceptable. Unless you change your character, people will know you for what you are.
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