THEY say hindsight is 20/20. That is why sometimes it is good to get a glimpse into the future with the hope of preventing mistakes. A periscope is a very handy tool.
The Ekiti governorship election penultimate week serves as a periscope for us into 2015. In 2015, there will be governorship elections in at least 30 states and presidential election in 774 local government areas. The eyes of Nigerians were on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to see how it will conduct the gubernatorial polls, just as some other Nigerians were praying that the Super Eagles will beat Bosnia-Herzegovina in the World Cup or return home from Brazil.
Many observers wanted to see if we can have hitch-free elections and disprove the nay sayers who believe that “free”, “fair” and “credible” are three adjectives that should never be used to qualify elections in Nigeria as they are not in our lexicon.
INEC Chairman Prof. Jega
The following salient ten (10) lessons will guide us in preparing for 2015:
The number of political parties must be reduced. With the recent court challenge to the power of INEC to de-list political parties, there will be a glut of political parties. There are over 20 active political parties in Nigeria, with over 12 participating in the Ekiti governorship elections. Yes, there are pretenders and there are real contenders. In reality, it was expected to be a contest involving All Progressives Congress, APC; Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Labour Party, LP. We also need independent candidates that are not sponsored by any political party to make it more robust.
We need instant results to reduce election frauds. As at 2:00am on June 22, 2014, the Ekiti governorship result has not been announced by the State Returning Officer, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University in Ado-Ekiti, Prof. Isaac Azuzu. Results should be announced instantly from the various polling units and wards. The results were written by hand and brought to the state collation centres. The only use of technology was that the results were entered into Excel spreadsheet and displayed as the results were read by the collating officers.
We must do away with anachronistic use of ballot boxes and opt for electronic voting. As I have stated before, ballot box is archaic and prone to problems. Most of the developed world, including America, use electronic voting. In one voting unit in Ekiti, the results were cancelled because the total votes cast were more than the total accredited voters, meaning there was rigging somewhere.
We need to avoid negative election campaigns. Ekiti governorship election appeared to be highly charged with allegations of private jets being denied access to the state or governors’ convoys stopped by soldiers. This was not made easier by the fact that the immediate past governor, Segun Oni, decamped from PDP to APC a few weeks back and was made the National Vice Chairman of the APC South. It may be because he realised he will not get the governorship ticket or was aggrieved about something else because the party he joined has been jokingly nicknamed Aggrieved Peoples Congress.
Political parties need manifestoes. During most of the campaign, it was just about keeping power in the ruling APC or returning power to PDP. There were no identifiable manifestoes that clearly distinguished one party from the other. Parties in civilised climes have manifestoes or ideologies. In Nigeria, it is difficult to say this political party stands for this belief and that political party stands for that belief. That way, you can choose which party to join based on whether what the party stands for aligns with your own personal beliefs. So, political parties and candidates must have a manifesto and the elections must be based on issues.
We need politicians who have excelled in other professions that they can fall back on if they were to lose the election so that they are not desperate and the elections do not become a “do or die.” I feel more secure with a politician with pedigree who has also proved himself in a non-political career. This may be achievable if the recommendation of the National Conference that we need part-time lawmakers is implemented because the elections will attract only those that really want to serve instead of those that want to line their pockets.
We need security in Nigeria to have elections, especially with Boko Haram now everywhere. So we cannot have elections without soldiers. In fact, INEC has already expressed concerns over 2015, saying security will be a critical issue. The problem here is that the losers will sometimes claim that the security agents were used to intimidate their voters, as they alleged in Delta Central senatorial bye-election last year.
The election process must be transparent, not opaque, so that we can have an election in which the losing party congratulates the winner without going to court. This will encourage parties and their candidates to accept the fact that they could lose. There is no gainsaying that the parties in the Ekiti governorship election are headed to court.
We need a better means for voter registration and maintenance of electronic voters’ register. The permanent voters cards are a step in the right direction, but not wholesome. In the Ekiti election, an INEC spokesman was on television stating unequivocally that the permanent voter’s card will be cross-checked against a list of those that actually collected their cards and voting will only be allowed if you have your permanent voter’s card.
Finally, INEC cannot and should not carry the burden of ensuring free, fair and credible election alone. It is a collective effort because Nigerians, as a whole, are part of the problem in the “do or die” syndrome.
In my analysis of the Anambra State governorship election last year, I stated: “Clearly, INEC has a long way to go in conducting hitch-free elections and Nigerians, who make up the electorate, have a longer way to go, concerning how to conduct themselves in elections.”
Think about it.
Prof. ALEX AKPODIETE, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.