Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, has said that a sustainable electoral process was only possible if it was founded on an adequate electioneering culture.
Represented by Dr Daniel Bwala, Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters, the deputy senate president said this at the public presentation and inaugural meeting of the Electoral Hub, in Abuja, on Tuesday.
According to him, no matter how good the clauses were in the electoral laws, if the other aspects of the electioneering process were flawed, the electoral process itself will ultimately be flawed.
“While there have been many more issues in our electoral history, it seems to me that if we have had adequate and unambiguous clauses, plus adequate advocacy, understanding and the will to comply, we would have had fewer controversies, fewer post-election court cases and generally, a more credible electoral process.
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“This is to say that we need adequate and generally acceptable rules of engagement in the electioneering process.
“I refer to how candidates emerged on party platforms, campaign rally rules and generally political actions toward a fair and credible political participation by voters.
“I am glad, for instance, that the National Assembly is now dealing with the issue of direct primaries’’, Omo-Agege said.
He added that the obvious preference for direct primaries, for example, would have more than a salutary effect on the challenges of dealing with select delegates at primaries, which had been a sore point in our electioneering process, citing the ongoing electoral reform process, therefore, as a responsibility for all.
The deputy senate president said that there was need to join hands to work out an electoral system that would not only agree with global best practice, but would make Nigeria a stronger nation.
Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, National Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said that the launch of the forum would enrich knowledge and enhance understanding of the electoral process in Nigeria as well as serve as a reference point for both political parties and voters.
Agbamuche-Mbu assured Nigerians that the commission would continue to improve on its processes for more transparent, credible elections, urging all eligible voters to utilise the Continuous Voter Registration to get voter cards, transfer their cards, among others.
“Nine weeks into the exercise, we have witnessed 2,485,770 online registrants and 3,325,741 in total. These figures are encouraging and of the online registrants 2,160,292 are youths between ages 18 to 34,’’ she said.
She added that recently, INEC expanded polling units by creating additional 57,023 units across the country, bringing the total units to 176,996, with the aim of bringing the voting process closer to the people .
Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, Chairman, The Electoral Forum and Professor, Wits School of Governance, in South Africa, commended the forum for the initiative to gather veterans with knowledgeable insights on the electoral process.
Olukoshi said that the world over it was believed that interacting with such a class of people would help in improving the quality of governance, elections and democracy.
He said that issues of electoral integrity had continued to plague Nigeria, so, there was need to commit to working at ensuring electoral integrity, so that citizens could reap the dividends of democracy .
Ms Princess Hamman-Obels, Director, IRIAD, The Electoral Hub, said that the Hub conceptualised the Electoral Forum as a way to pool resource persons from electoral management bodies together with other electoral stakeholders.
This, Hamman-Obels said, was to find solutions to the unique problems facing the electoral process in Nigeria.
“With the support of OSIWA, the forum has been established under the chairmanship of Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, and other high-calibre practitioners.
“We believe that by facilitating discussions among different stakeholders, we hope to deepen understanding of the electoral process in Nigeria, as well as provide solutions to improve electoral integrity and credibility,’’ she said.
Hamman-Obels said that the aim of the forum was to facilitate systematic electoral reforms, promote evidence-based law-making, policy and advocacy on elections in Nigeria.
She added that another objective of the forum was also to advance strategies to improve capacities and credibility of electoral management bodies in Nigeria.
Today’s public launch and inaugural meeting’s objective was to formally launch the forum, determine its operations, produce understanding of members and review the Electoral Amendment bill, she said.
Ms Catherine Angai, Programme Coordinator, Democracy and Accountability, OSIWA, said that the support to Electoral Hub, spoke to OSIWA’s priority for evidence-based electoral reforms.
Angai added that it targeted those factors that impacted on electoral integrity, particularly the administrative barriers, and that the project had a research component which would critically analyse Nigeria’s election management system.
She said that the research would create a compelling evidence-based narrative that presented a clear picture of the strengths and limitations of electoral bodies.
“We believe that the project fills a major knowledge-gap and provides an expose into the structural issues that have impacted on the work of electoral management bodies over the years,’’ she said.