Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a pro-democracy civil society organisation, has said that in spite of the general peaceful and credible conduct of the Edo election, it was worried over the decline in voters turnout for the election.
The group in its final observation report signed by CDD Director, Ms Idayat Hassan, and Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu, said that the credible conduct of the election was a refreshing development.
“The decline in voter turnout is pointed out as a trend, which would not augur well for the robust participation of the electorate, including marginalised groups.
“Backing these assertions with figures, CDD noted that in 2003, voter turnout stood at 78 per cent of 1,432,891 registered voters; In 2020 however, only 25.2 per cent of voters turned out to cast their ballot out of a registered number of 2,210,534.
“ CDD figures similarly showed a consistent decline in voter turnout from 78 per cent in 2003 to 40.5per cent in 2012, and further down to 32.3 per cent in 2016.
“CDD, therefore, expressed worries that the further decline in voter turnout in 2020, which came down to a low of 25.2 per cent could be read as a steady loss of faith in the electoral process, as well the entire democratic system of governance.”
Hassan said that CDD rated the conduct and outcome of the Sept. 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo as relatively credible, in spite of the challenges and infractions, which dogged the process.
She said that CDD deployed 250 stationary and roving observers to keep a close eye on key processes in the election and handed down its verdict in a final observation briefing.
She said that the Centre noted that the election was relatively peaceful when compared to other polls recently conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in spite of high vote-buying.
“The peaceful conduct points the way away from the “degeneration” that has historically been the country’s sad experience with electoral outcomes, and towards outcomes that significantly reflect the mandate of the electorate.
“In this respect, the election potentially augurs well for the future of democracy and development in the country.
“This is particularly in view of the determination shown by the electorate to protect their mandate and ensure that it counted in the critical penultimate months to the election day. ‘’
Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu noted that the credible outcome of the election was due to the activities of various strategic stakeholders, particularly INEC and the peace-keeping efforts, the Oba of Benin and the Abdulsalam Abubakar-led National Peace Committee.
Jinadu said CDD, however, warned that there remained certain anomalies in the process, which if left unaddressed could turn the current euphoria into a mirage that would precipitate a reversal to the status quo ante.
He listed some of the issues as the controversial modality used for selecting the governorship candidates and the abuse of the power of incumbency for partisan party political advantage.
He added the general poverty in the state and the high unemployment rate that resulted in vote selling among others.
He said that although the group pointed out some malfunctioning of smart card readers, however, it acknowledged that the overall performance of INEC was smooth across the state.
He said that the group commend INEC for the introduction of the result viewing portal in improving transparency and accountability of the collation and declaration of results.
This, he said, enhanced citizens’ trust in the electoral process.
He said that generally, the COVID-19 Protocols that INEC outlined in its guidelines for the elections, particularly social distancing, were not complied with.
Jinadu said that CDD urged INEC to concentrate on the dual purpose of implementing its protocol on conducting elections during COVID 19 and improved voter education programme, especially for other elections.
He said that there was need to reform the country’s party system to strengthen internal party democracy.
“This measure will ensure that political parties pay more attention to the nomination of women and the youth as candidates and have equal access to leadership opportunities within party organisations.
CDD further called on government and citizens to push to encourage compliance with Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in order to curb poverty in the country.