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Who funds Nigerian elections?

By Morenike Taire
CONDUCTING credible elections come 2011 is on top of every mind at this time, not least of all because the polls in 2007 were nothing short of a complete mess.

Of course, that mess could not have been made possible without the events leading up to it, mainly the steering of the nation’s politics ever more closely towards being a one party state, by hook or by crook.

And by most accounts, it was more by crook. The rash of election petitions that were to follow proved both unprecedented and welcome. At once, it exposed aspects of the judicial system that were less than wholesome and served as outlet for necessary fury.

The number of political murders has reduced, and the culture of following due process in the resolution of political and other conflicts is being nurtured.

Still, it is doubtful if all the election petitions in the world, assuming they are credibly conducted, can shovel up all the mess dumped on us in 2007.

The resulting further dysfunction in our system is a direct and necessary result of the dysfunctional elections we all participated in conducting.

The quality of our lives has never been poorer, and though there is no evidence at all that things might have been better if we had another lot being declared as winners of the last elections, we love to think they might have been. This is the audacity of hope (no offense, Barrack Obama).

Our Independent (supposedly so, and this must be stressed at all times, lest we forget) National Electoral Commission has been so disgraced and disrespected in the last two years that it is a wonder its leadership is still talking in public.

When the public shows you a vote of no confidence, it is time to quit if you are a public official. There simply are no two ways about it.

If the lack of independence of INEC has been blamed for electoral fraud, no where is this lack more obvious than in funding.

Yet, funding affects our elections in more than one way. Apart from those paying the bills holding the sticks in other words, there is also the other matter of inadequate funding.

An inadequately funded electoral commission will hire inadequately motivated personnel, who are insufficiently trained in the use of technology necessary in the conduct of successful elections in the21st century. This is assuming, of course, that the will to conduct credible elections is there.

Needless to say, the present constitutional review efforts (another in a long line of efforts) of the National Assembly will not be successful if something substantial is not done about the question of electoral fraud, and the issue of electoral fraud cannot be dealt with unless the question of funding is first dealt with.

From former presidential aspirant and former Babangida man Chief Olu Falae, to former Labour leader turned Edo State governor (himself a beneficiary of election petitioning), to PDP vice president turned AC presidential aspirant Atiku Abubakar to- needless to say- various members of the human rights community, there have been calls for the legislature to keep elections in mind while fiddling with our troublesome constitution.

The easiest way to do this is to deal with the question of funding, not only of the electoral commission, but also of individual contesting politicians.

It was unforgettable, the drama last year of the Nigerian team which arranged a fund raising for the campaign of American presidential candidate Barrack Obama got to a head when the said campaign team issued a statement dissociating itself from the charade.

Election campaign teams in their country do not receive funding from sources outside of it. The very first step to conducting credible elections is to put a tight regulation on who is funding the campaigns of individual politicians and even political parties.

This additional function cannot be INEC’s, as this will not only make it overextended but also create more opportunities for corruption.

A separate body- perhaps a committee of carefully selected ordinary but proven individuals who are not members of any political parties, will have to handle that. The funding of INEC has always been done by tax payers’ funds. If only tax payers knew it!

The rest can be solved by good use of technology, and of course the will of the rest of us who must reject being lorded over by people we did not vote for.

It has been said that if the 2011 elections are massively rigged again, Nigeria as an entity might not survive. This is doubtful. The people in whose interests Nigeria exists will ensure the continued existence of Nigeria as we know it. But will Nigerians survive?


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.