Fundamental role of INEC in democracy

on   /   in Viewpoint 12:34 pm   /   Comments

NIGERIA  is a large country in West Africa with a growing population of 160 million people. She occupies an area of 923,766 square kilometres in the tropics. She is extremely rich in multicultural diversities, traditions and has many languages.

Nigeria is beautiful, peaceful with a very warm and friendly climate and has the largest concentration of Black people in the world. She is immensely endowed with vast human and natural resources, including oil and gas. It is difficult to find another country as complex as Nigeria elsewhere in the world. A great country that will become a prosperous nation is a duty for all Nigerians to build through collective and individual efforts.

As a federation of people with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds and origins, the basis of continued unity and peaceful co-existence presupposes that political power and authority should rotate among the various ethnic groups without prejudice to competence, merit and national interests. Nigeria is the engine of Africa and should diligently create Africa’s leading economy. The advent of democracy in 1999 threw up an inept and irascible political leadership that has consistently put Nigeria on a steady decline in all parameters of governance.

Government has, time and again, unconsciously left the generality of Nigerians in a constant state of denial that neglects the basic needs of many citizens. Leadership and governance in the world are serious matters that are consistently handed over to and handled by the most patriotic, best informed minds and brightest brains for accountability, responsibility and prosperity to be accomplished.

Our perverted presidential system is preposterously wasteful. It is more costly here than in America from where it was borrowed. A parasitic political class which constitutes an outpost of Nigeria’s political decay majorly peculates her wealth. It is a class of charlatans, reprobates, unrepentant rabble-rousers and political liquidators.

Misrule by the elite has greatly consigned a vast majority of Nigerians to a life of despondency with the attendant misery and abject poverty. Our democracy has not failed but many of our politicians have actually not fared well. The tenure of many of them is an anathema being vastly unsuitable and grossly incompetent.

Democracy is participatory governance, often traditionally established through partisanship and the instrumentality of the people. Democracy, widely embraced as a form of popular governance in most parts of the world, is not the best form of governance but it involves large scale participation of citizens.

Democracy is for all citizens where majority determines the winner but majority is not always right. There are numerous iniquities in partisanship which produces democracy. Nigeria’s democracy would have fared better had many credible, competent and knowledgeable electees occupied strategic positions in governance.

Politics has been hijacked by wealthy but mainly people of unrefined minds and untamed passions. Doing for the citizens what they cannot do ordinarily on their own for themselves is the very essence and justification of governments at all levels.

Nigeria has gone on a tangent far from the blissful future once envisaged for her economically, educationally, ethically, morally and politically. Nigeria has seemingly lost political direction. She is unconsciously but rapidly descending into anarchy, despondency, financial and moral infamy. She is currently in a state of anomie.

Government is entrusted in Nigeria mainly to undeserving people; as a result, integrity is lost and citizens suffer untold hardships.

The failure of a country begins when her policy continuously fails to guarantee security and create jobs for educated, patriotic, strong and productive citizens. Our clime is one of blurred vision, blackmail, culture of frivolity, impunity and failure of a system. Our current system feeds directly into a culture of corruption, frivolity, ineptitude and impunity.

It majorly and rapaciously drains resources. When representatives become government with interests opposed to the represented, the government is separated from its citizenry and thus effectively disenfranchised.

Nigeria’s democracy exists for those in government and the business class excluding the vast majority of Nigerians who see themselves in pernicious inter-generational-poverty. Nigeria does not need a bi-camera legislature. Parliamentary system is better, simpler, less costly and more accountable.

Ours is the world’s most preposterously wasteful and most recklessly expensive democracy. Some politicians officially earn more than N50 million individually quarterly (in three months) in Nigeria where poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment have greatly decimated our despondent masses. We have expensive leaders regardless of our poor economy and weak currency.

This sad practice of callous financial indifference is largely at variance with the general demands of most citizens. In nine years, Federal Government, states and local councils consumed N80 trillion. However, N56 trillion out of the amount was for salaries and allowances of public office holders, mainly politicians. Currently, government seemingly ignores primacy of merit principle, abhors constructive ideas, jettisons knowledge and abandons experience.

Nigeria wants suitable Nigerian men and women who are healthy in integrity, creative, competent, disciplined, patriotic, productive, resourceful and strong in intellect in positions of authority in whom the future of the country will be entrusted.

One major problem in Nigeria’s democracy is the existence of an unhealthy electoral body called the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC. The commission is largely NOT independent.

Every successive election conducted by INEC after 1999 suffered loss of credibility. Two major national elections conducted in 2003 and 2007 produced the most controversial, highly discredited, notoriously unreliable and widely cancelled results in Nigeria’s political history. Governors, senators, House of Representatives members and state assemblies lost their victories at the various tribunals.

The 2011 national election did not witness a major radical departure from the floppy parody of the past. Sadly, each election was most often seriously marred by INEC’s poor organisation, widespread procedural irregularities, lack of essential transparency, significant evidence of fraud during the collation of results, disenfranchisement of voters at different stages, lack of equal conditions for contestants and numerous incidents of violence. Violence affects the integrity of an election because it undermines constituted authority and its legitimacy.

Elections did not live up to the hopes and expectations of most Nigerians because the process was largely not credible.

Candidly, a credible electoral body is an inevitability as a fundamental requirement for genuine democracy, competent leadership, sustainable development, growth and international respectability. Properly conducted election will be free, fair, peaceful and transparent.

Such election is made possible by a well articulated modality of vigorous publicity, creative and dependable leadership, incisive enlightenment, mass mobilisation, adequate logistics and strong financial support for INEC as well as an impressive and ubiquitous security arrangement.

It will produce credible results that are largely and truly acceptable to Nigerians. In consequence, post electoral litigations if any will be minimal.

The time table recently released by INEC for 2015 general elections is timely. It is clearly a radical departure from the procedure followed since after 1999 election. INEC decided for some strange reasons to climb the tree from the top.

This is a parody of nature. INEC fixed the presidential election for 2015 to come first before others. The election of a president in favour of any political party will greatly influence the pattern of voting of other elections that will progressively follow particularly the governorship election. This position is politically unhealthy as it will not accurately reflect the political reality on the ground in the country.

Indeed, there will be desperation as each party in the state will do everything possible to produce a governor in the party that has just produced a president. Most governors would want to be in the president’s party. INEC should hold brief discussions quickly with party leaders and revisit the time table rationally in national interest.

The election of the president should come last to ensure equity, fairness and justice. INEC must avoid anything that will precipitate anarchy. INEC must work assiduously and must be so seen to work in public interest, national interest and in the interest of justice. The conduct of Anambra State recent election is an indication of lack of serious preparedness by INEC with its confused voters’ register.

The names of many people including a major participant were conspicuously missing from the Voters’ Register. They could not vote. They were disenfranchised by INEC. Names of some who are not resident in and are not indigenes of Anambra State were found in the voters’ register. “It was like a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Properly conducted election will produce the right calibre of leadership.

The delay, belated or late arrival of electoral materials at designated places and points on election days has remained a recurring and an embarrassing national problem. It has not been diligently addressed with a specific sense of national commitment. There is no logical, tangible or strong reason for this recurring slip.

INEC must seek knowledge widely. Elections were conducted even in States with difficult terrains and no materials arrived late at the designated places. Taraba and Oyo are good examples to emulate. The appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as INEC chairman inspired Nigerians who then greatly applauded the Federal Government.

There is no doubt about his clarity of thoughts and boldness of vision but what he strongly needs is indomitable courage and impeccable political will to perform his duty. Now, he deeply understands and strongly appreciates that policy practicals are radically different from academic theories, otherwise, he should forget any optimistic result that could be considered better than the detestable records of some of his predecessors. S

ome highly placed officials in the Commission who often surreptitiously play ignoble role must be quickly identified and removed because evil communications corrupt good manners.

Dr. AMEN OYAKHIRE, OON,  former Military Administrator of Taraba and Oyo States wrote from Benin City.

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