Election Malfeasance in Nigeria: A Plague in Perpetuity
Historically, elections in Nigeria have always reeled of malpractice(s). From the days of our founding fathers, reports of various levels of malfeasance have trailed our electoral processes. From overblown number of voters to underage voting, ballot box stuffing to outright box snatching, open violence that often degenerates to the destruction of properties and loss of lives, intimidation, harassment and even assassination of political opponents and influencers of bloc votes; there is always a characteristic feature of electoral misconduct that ends up tarnishing the image of the process.
At a time in our recent past, it was alleged that a former Military Head of State and a two-term democratically elected President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said “even God cannot conduct a free and fair election in Nigeria”. The allegation created a stir in the Nation at the time, as political and public analysts, religious leaders, and even laymen made it a topic of discussion for many days. In most of the discussions, the former President was constantly vilified and insulted to have been part of our electoral problems.
It is however interesting to note that since he left office in 2007, his successors have conducted three different general elections in 2011, 2015, and 2019, but the story has remained unchanged. Some are of the opinion that it has in fact, gotten worse. The electoral process like several facets of the Nigerian State has continued to take the proverbial one step forward and three steps backwards. This has made social observers to begin to wonder if election malfeasance in Nigeria is a plague in perpetuity.
With the massive dissatisfaction among Nigerians about the just concluded 2019 general elections, so many Nigerians have taken to social media to share their frustrations, while some have also taken a step further to proffer solutions that will ensure we hereafter conduct free, fair and credible elections. A particular observer was very detailed in the solution she proffered, as she went ahead to give the financial cost of her suggestion. In her analysis, she suggested complete electronic voting, giving the cost of the machines, the numbers of the machines needed to cover the whole country, cost of manpower to man the machines, etc. And the total cost was far less than what was spent for the conduct of this year’s (2019) election.
However, I am of the opinion that we (Nigerians) are the problem and not the process. Just as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was accused to have said, I think nothing will ever make our electoral processes improve except we, as a people, are ready to make it so. As long as “God” will not come down to Nigeria to conduct elections, then it is up to us to make our elections credible. I believe Obasanjo was misconstrued because he mentioned God in that statement, thereby playing into the hands of religious bigots, who explained his statement out of context.
Having taken a critical look at the state of our electoral processes, I been able to classify our major setbacks in conducting credible elections into two. They are;
- Nigerians’ indifference towards elections: No matter how peaceful and promising elections can be, so many Nigerians would not step out of their homes to participate. However, if most eligible voters would come out to vote, our large numbers would make it impossible for the security personnels to upturn or manipulate results (that is if they make an attempt). We outnumber our security forces in no small measure, so they wouldn’t want to endanger their own lives. In essence, if only Nigerians would come out united and en masse, then would we have better chances of having credible elections.
- Our moral values: with the fast decline in our societal morals and values, nothing can give us credible polls. Any society without good moral values will not be free from criminal attitudes. These sly and wicked attitudes will be exhibited in different measures across the country. For instance, some get involved in buying and selling of votes, and to them, that is ‘only fair’, as it is not ‘harming anyone’ while some other people snatch ballot boxes, intimidate or kidnap those in opposition and the likes. All these destroy the credibility of our elections.
Summarily, the process will always be compromised until the people are ready to make it work. Let us assume we indeed graduate to the practice of electronic voting in 2023, and then some voters get chased out of the voting centres because they are perceived to be supporters of an opposition party, (as experienced in some voting centres here in Edo State, South-South, Nigeria); will that election be described as free and fair because it was electronically conducted? Will electronic conduct of elections stop the unlawful arrest, intimidation, kidnapping, and harassment of political opponents?
In my opinion as someone that followed this immediate past election closely, the process of the 2019 election as outlined by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was great and could have flawless. With card readers, voters register, declaration of results at each polling units, and posting same results at the polling units for the public to see, sending of the results to a central server (both hard and soft copies), and security personnel to ensure voters and voting materials were safe, etc. What more does any sane community need to make elections credible?
Except we change as a people, “Even God can not conduct free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria!”
Social Watcher, Edo State
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.