By Fredrick Odorige
THE hue and cry towards the 2011 elections has come to the fore due to our rough election experiences since 1999. One event that has lowered our national prestige in recent times, among the comity of nations is the ridiculous pattern of our elections which has given rise to misfits in power.
Right from the party primaries, we experience selection instead of election. Within the same political party, aspirants resort to violence to gain supremacy. Few leaders are â€œsettledâ€ and they begin to sing the victory songs of their prefered candidates instead of bringing together all aspirants for mutual settlement and understanding.
They do this because they have given their candidates conditions to meet when he finally comes into power. Most of these conditions are rather selfish and do not represent the interest of the society.
The huge amount of investment in our elections and the expectation to reap millions and billions of naira through greed and corruption is the impetus for election rigging. During elections, people are killed, election materials hijacked, opponents blackmailed, ballot boxes stuffed and results manipulated.
Many debates have been going on in various circles on how to achieve a free and fair election in 2011. After a detailed look at the menace of our elections, I wish to use this medium to suggest to our law makers and the Federal Executive Council, with all sense of patriotism, that the best way to have credible elections in Nigeria for now, is to apply what I refer to as forensic election.
By this, I mean that when INEC commences the compilation of voters register for the 2011 elections, every person registered should thumbprint beside his or name. This will prevent the compilation of fictitious names. It is on record that the name of Mike Tyson appeared in the voters register of one of the South West states of Nigeria in the last election!
This cannot happen when voters are made to thumbprint during registration. On the day of election, voters should also be made to thumbprint beside the space provided for their prefered candidate as we usually do. Every state in Nigeria should have these forensic machines under the custody of INEC supervised and operated by independent personnels who are not accountable to INEC.
Before results are released, the system should compare the thumbprint of a voter on the voters register, with the thumbprint of the same voter on the ballot papers.
Thumbprints that do not match should be declared as invalid votes before the valid ones are counted. It is the result of the valid votes that shall be counted . A system such as this might necessitate voting on various days in the six geopolitical zones.
In other words, elections for, say the Senate, should hold at different dates in all the zones. This will give opportunity for effective policing and monitoring, while at the same time making use of less machines. The effect of this is that elections are not held simultaneously and results are not released at the same period all over the country.
With a system like this, Nigerians will have the opportunity of voting for the candidates of their choices, god-fatherism will collapse, and the cost of election by candidates will reduce. With this system, aspirants will do the job of joining the government to encourage and mobilise voters to register.
On election day, Nigerians will troop out to vote without fear of molestation. Thugs will have no need to intimidate voters and opponents. Ballot boxes will not be snatched because there will be no sense in doing that. Results are not declared until the forensic system filtersÂ match-make the thumbprint of the voters register with that on the ballot papers .
Some aspirants and godfathers have no alternative to rigging. They do not care about the opinions of other Nigerians. I mean the do -or- die politicians who have no other means of livelihood but to rule against the people’s wish, and not to lead; and who will never leave good legacies even if you give them opportunity to be in power till eternity. Such persons and those in power illegitimately will not see any sense in this article.
However, if all the efforts and debates about electoral reforms are really genuine, I hereby call on the Senate President and indeed all lawmakers and INEC to adopt this suggestion of mine.
For the re-branding of Nigeria to make meaning and achieve concret results, we must have credible elections, vote credible people with clear and articulate vision, who can alleviate poverty and crime in our society as well as eschew corruption and enthrone proper governance. Nigeria has come a long way through thick and thin. We must remove this garment of shame and claim our rightful position.
We are too endowed to be where we are now. The vision 20-20 is possible with the right persons in power.
Mr. Odorige, a public affairs commentator, writes from Araka, Delta State.