A general belief in Nigeria and beyond is that the 1999 elections
were credible with a high degree of legitimacy not because they were
very free and fair (allegedly due to the military government’s
interest in handing over to Obasanjo and PDP), but because they were
ascertained to be largely a reflection of the peoples’ will. If we
had built on the 1999 success in 2003 and 2007, probably we wouldn’t
have found ourselves in the present situation whereby a mere
acceptance of defeat is seen as heroism.
While the 2003 elections were believed to be possibly the worst
elections in Nigeria’s recent history, the 2007 elections according
to many local and international observers, could not pass the test
of the minimum requirements for an average African election. Many
opinions have declared that there were no elections in most parts of
Nigeria in 2007.
The 2011 elections were by far better than those of 2003, but they
fell short of those in 1999 in terms of credibility and acceptance.
Despite their shortcomings, the 2011 elections represented a
remarkable improvement and they laid a good foundation for the
successful elections in 2015.
Many Nigerians believed that the 2015 elections were as good as
near-perfect simply because the ruling party lost woefully. However,
in reality, they were marred by serious irregularities and
manipulations, only that the irregularities fell short of subverting
the peoples’ will.
It is important to note that the role of credible elections in a
democracy cannot be overemphasized. Both the 1999 and 2015 elections
are probably not as credible as the annulled June 12, 1993
elections-believed to be the freest and fairest elections in
Nigeria’s history. However, if we are to keep improving and edging
closer to electoral perfection, we must build on the 2015 success.
Some of the ways to do that is by doing the following things ahead
De-registration of ‘Brief-Case’ Political Parties;
While winning elections is not the only function of political
parties across the world, in Nigeria it seems to be the determining
factor not only for recognition but for meaningful existence. With
the general lack of ideological basis in the Nigerian Political
Party System, only winning elections can be used to determine the
strength of the political parties. For instance, the APC may be
ruling Imo and Borno State, but almost nothing in terms of policies
will show that the two states are being ruled by the same party.
Where any of the parties is lucky to have a hard working elected
public office holder, his performance will translate to the success
of that party and the party would be seen to have performed well in
that state, seat or office. Base on this, all those brief-case
political parties (who may never win any election in the next 50
years) that contributed in adding to the length of our ballot papers
thereby confusing the electorates leading to high amount of invalid
votes must be deregistered latest by the end of 2016 when all cases
in the election petitions tribunals might have been settled. Strict
registration procedures must also be put in place to discourage any
non-serious party from resurfacing.
Available results of the 2015 elections a released by INEC suggests
that only 8 parties managed to win at least one seat and they are;
All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP),
All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP), Accord
Party (AP), Peoples’ Democratic Movement (PDM), Peoples’ Progressive
Alliance (PPA) and Social Democratic Party (SDP). While two-party
system may limit the options of Nigerians, 8 parties are more than
enough, we do not need 30 or 40 useless parties.
Election Tribunals Must Ensure Justice;
Many election outcomes across the country would surely be contested
in courts. Media reports suggests that no less than 100 genuine and
serious cases ranging from governorship, senatorial, house of
representatives and state house of assembly elections would be filed
in courts nationwide. The figure could be between 200 and 350
especially if we consider the fact that even candidates with no
strong cases would still want to try their luck in court.
Elections are not perfect, that is why we have election tribunals
and their duty is to ensure speedy justice. Justice must not be
delayed because it is totally unfair and unacceptable for someone to
continue sitting on an illegal or stolen mandate for long just
because the tribunals are dragging the case for whatever reason.
Before the elections, multiple alarms of foul play have been raised
in different quarters and during the course of the elections, many
candidates have complained of rigging, violence, manipulation and
oppression, but all INEC could do was to tell them to head to court
if they were not satisfied. Therefore, it is the duty of the
election tribunals to rescue the people from being governed through
illegal mandates in various capacities. We have had enough of people
serving out stolen two terms of 8-years in the last 12 years.
It is believed that, if the aggrieved candidates can present a good
case with evidence and the courts will respond by doing a good job,
many parliamentary and even governorship elections would be
overturned. The courts must hear every case base on merit and should
not dismiss any on flimsy technical grounds. Candidates who could
prove beyond reasonable doubt that they won elections should be
declared winners instead of wasting government funds by ordering for
Many are likely to escape with illegal mandates due to their good
lawyers, but all in all, the tribunals must not record a success
rate of below 75%. Candidates with no serious cases can help by
staying away from the tribunals and allow them to deal with serious
ones. The success of the courts would determine the future
confidence level of people in the judicial-electoral process. If the
courts do not prove to be a solution, people will resort to winning
elections at all cost to avoid going to courts.
Jega’s Reforms in INEC have to be sustained;
Professor Attahiru Jega has according to media reports made it clear
that he is not accepting a renewal when his tenure ends in June.
Jega has re-invented and re-shaped INEC through a set of reforms and
innovations which his successor should sustain. He had laid a solid
foundation for others to build upon. In building such foundation, he
had to sacrifice the 2011 elections for the lasting success of
forthcoming elections. Jega took over INEC in 2010 when elections
were around the corner, but many expected him to reform the
electoral body and conduct a unanimously acceptable election at the
same time. However, few knew it was not practically possible. Jega
managed to carry out some reforms and conducted an improved election
in line with such reforms in 2011.
The introduction of the card readers and the sanitization of the
accreditation and voting processes have helped in no small measure
towards making the whole system credible. The next INEC Chairman
should take us closer to electronic voting or even there by 2019.
All Elections between 2015 and 2019 should be Well Conducted;
Let us note that between 2015 and 2019, there will be governorship
elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun
States. It is the conduct of elections in these seven states that
will determine our optimism or pessimism on the 2019 General
Elections. The Federal Government, INEC and all stakeholders must
make sure that these elections record a remarkable improvement upon
the 2015 elections with a success rate of between 85 to 95 %. The
more we have credible elections, the better for the system.
Political party bigwigs and champions must jettison the habit of
relocating to a state where elections are holding with the aim of
winning it for their party at all cost. Let the people in every
state determine what they want without external interference.
The elections tribunal are likely to annul a handful of elections
and order for re-runs. Such re-runs or bye-elections must be
conducted freely, fairly, peacefully and creditably.
Election Fraudsters and Offenders Must Face the Law;
Election riggers are never punished in Nigeria; even if the court
settles a case, it only awards victory to the petitioner or orders
for a re-run, it never punishes anyone. This is the reason behind
the brazen impunity in our electoral system as people rig without
being afraid of any consequences. May be this is due to the
shortcomings of the Electoral Act; future Electoral Acts must come
hard on riggers.
Before we amend the Electoral Act, perpetrators of different
electoral crimes in the last elections must not be allowed to get
away with it. The in-coming or even the out-going Federal Government
should set up a panel under the Attorney General to investigate
election riggings, violence, fraud, under age voting and vote
buying, so that those found guilty should be immediately prosecuted.
Whenever one sees long voter queues comprising of women, poor, old,
disabled and other weak people; one feels like advocating the death
sentence for election riggers.
Politics must be De-Commercialized;
Nigerian politics seems to be only for the rich people or for people
backed by godfathers with big purses. This is because many Nigerians
are money worshippers and also politics has been turned into a big
commercial and lucrative industry. This is why we witnessed
excessive use of money to buy party nominations in all our elections
from 2003 to date.
This anomaly is likely to continue unabated up to 2019 unless
everyone decides to change. Federal, state and local governments
must cut governance cost and make political appointments less
attractive and lucrative. Political parties must significantly cut
down the price of nomination forms and ban the use of money in party
primaries and disqualify any candidate that violates. Law
enforcement agencies must arrest politicians who spend more than
what the Electoral Act stipulates during electioneering. Above all,
citizens must stop worshipping corrupt politicians, stop selling
their votes and demand nothing but service and accountability from
INEC be made more Independent and Should Conduct LG Elections;
In the build-up to the 2015 elections, INEC’s independence was
The electoral body was appeared to be bullied into accepting some
decisions of the Presidency and Service Chiefs. The law has mandated
INEC to fully take charge of election issues and the law must be
respected and unless in emergency and unavoidable cases, no one
should directly or indirectly dictate to INEC what it should do or
not. Adequate legislation must be put in place to ensure complete
independence of INEC and ensure that such independence is protected.
INEC’s mandate should be constitutionally extended to allow it
conduct local government elections. State ‘Independent’ Electoral
Commissions have been conducting nonsense in the name of local
government elections since 2003. The last time we had meaningful
local government elections was in 1999 when they were conducted by
INEC. State governors have proven their lack of patriotism by
organizing and executing fraudulent local government elections over
the years and nothing in sight suggests that they are going to
change. Therefore, to save the local councils, proper elections must
be conducted by INEC uniformly across the country.
Level Playing Ground Should be Created;
Many a time we confuse elections to mean voting only. Voting is only
one out of many activities that make up an election. Election is a
process that starts right from candidate nominations, campaigns, up
to settlement of petitions in election tribunals. Right from 1999 to
date, we have never had a level playing ground for all parties and
candidates at different stages of the election process.
Parties in power stand to enjoy many privileges and benefits. For
instance, the ruling party monopolises the usage of state-owned
media at little or no cost and apparently deny the opposition the
use of such. A sitting
president controls the security forces to his own electoral
advantage or that of his party. He uses government-owned and
maintained jets for all his campaigns while the opposition would
have to hire jets or alternatively ply the dangerous roads across
the country for their campaigns. Incumbents have unrestricted access
to campaign grounds while opposition are made to undergo many
bureaucratic processes before they have a simple permission to use a
venue. The federal and state governments together with the national
and state parliaments must put in place adequate measures to ensure
that all candidates irrespective of their parties are treated
equally. Incumbents must not enjoy too much advantage over his
Nigerian electorates seem not to be well motivated either due to
lack of confidence or interest in the electoral process and
governance or due to hard voting conditions; hence, we have
witnessed huge voter apathy in recent years. Only consistent free
and fair elections, leadership accountability and good governance
can revive the interest and confidence of Nigerians in government.
Another important issue is that of the bandwagon effect in Nigerian
elections which is very dangerous. Many candidates were not elected
base on their own merits but because their elections were conducted
the same time with candidates who seem to be the peoples’ choice.
Incompetent and less competent candidates have benefitted from the
bandwagon effect, just as competent candidates became victims.
Future elections should be conducted separately in an order which
the bandwagon effect will have little or no influence.
Candidates should Emerge by Popular will;
The most popular aspirants usually lose in the party primaries
probably because they don’t have money or godfathers, leaving voters
to elect between bad choices or for whomever candidates the party
primaries produce for them in the general elections.
Nigerian political parties must think of ways through which
candidates would emerge through popular will of the people and not
through the narrow interests of few people. In the last elections
APC’s modified indirect primaries saw only 6,008 delegates select a
Presidential Candidate for more than 170 million people while PDP
used about 3000 delegates to vote for just one contender. Also, 21
delegates were alleged to have determined the PDP gubernatorial
candidate for the whole of Yobe State.
If candidates emerge by popular will, the people will have little
problem with whomever emerges victorious in the general elections as
all the party candidates were initially determined by the people.
APC Must Lead by Example;
The All Progressives Congress is the new ruling party with enormous
influence and goodwill across the country. APC should not be
preoccupied with governing Nigeria only; it should also concentrate
on reforming our political system. If APC wants to make history,
this is the best opportunity.
From 1999 to date, the PDP had introduced many things into our
political system, most of which did more harm than good. PDP
introduced the Party Board of Trustees (A body whose function is
largely mysterious and appears to weaken the main leadership of the
party), zoning of positions which caused many divisions among
Nigerians and did a lot of damage to competency, candidate
impositions, undemocratic consensus in the election of party
officials, encouraging party cross-carpeting, position of party
leader-who appears to be even above the party constitution. All
these were negative inventions which the APC also embraced and
unfortunately institutionalized some of them.
The APC must immediately make a self-assessment and make necessary
amendments; let this victory not get into its head. APC must
champion the cause of ideology in Nigerian political party system,
internal democracy, building strong parties, party supremacy,
accountability and good governance, etc. If the ruling party behaves
properly, all other parties trying to unseat it in 2019 will be left
with no option than to follow suit.
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