Edo 2020: Reforming Nigeria’s electoral process and other matters arising

The just concluded governorship election in Edo State, against most expectations, proved to be one of the most peaceful polls conducted in recent times. The global attention that was directed on the off-cycle election and the heavy presence of security personnel contributed to the significantly reduced cases of voter intimidation, snatching of ballot boxes and other election related cases of violence.

In review, the Edo 2020 gubernatorial poll threw up issues that we as a nation, in strengthening our democratic institutions, need to address.

NEED FOR ELECTORAL REFORMS

Electoral reform is long overdue. The failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which has been presented to him severally, is eroding the power of the electorate to be the final deciding factor for those they choose to be their leaders. As it presently stands, voter apathy is growing. Nigerians are losing confidence in the voting process because after successfully exercising their franchise, there is no guarantee that the contestants would not end up in the courts and the will of the people upturned.

The administrations of late President Umaru Musa Yaradua and  former President Goodluck Jonathan made some commendable effort in strengthening the electoral laws between 2007 and 2015. In 2015, Goodluck Jonathan provided about N108 billion to the Prof. Atahirru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fund the general election and for the purchase of card readers that would bring more credibility to the voting process. The technological challenges characterised by the use of the card readers caused serious problems on the day of the 2019 presidential election and even Jonathan was one of those whose card could not be authenticated electronically.

Against rising concern and pressure from local and international groups, Buhari’s administration has done next-to-nothing in form of electoral reforms. His failure to strengthen the sanctity of the votes of the people is a big blemish on his famed garb of integrity. Being direct beneficiaries of the shortcomings of extant electoral laws, their failure to strengthen electoral institutions is a testimony that they do not have any intention of addressing the shortcomings and improving on a process that sealed their victory at the polls.

Similarly, the role of the federal legislators is also called into question, as they have failed to fully utilize their legislative powers to override the president’s veto by going ahead to sign the bill into law by mustering at least two-thirds majority of the members of both chambers.

Civil Society groups should turn up their volume and continue to mount pressure on both the executive and legislature until the needed reforms are effected.

NEUTRALITY OF FEDERAL MIGHT

In the build up to the just concluded election, most political observers had predicted that INEC, in collusion with the federal security agencies would favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, due to the fact that their party held sway at the centre. This had ostensibly been the case in past elections conducted governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.

To the amazement of voters, party agents and election monitors, the security agencies, even with their heavy presence in the state, were largely non-partisan during the election. The incumbent Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, who emerged victorious at the poll, has been effusive in thanking Mr. President for not taking sides with his party, the APC, and allowing the will of Edo people to supersede party interests. 

While Buhari’s neutrality may be due to his acquaintance with Governor Obaseki, it may also be as a result of statements released by the United States and British governments that they were monitoring the Edo election very closely. Expressing their disappointment in the roles being played by some stakeholders and the non-partisanship of the security agencies in the run-up to the election, they threatened to take action against individuals who are responsible for fuelling violence and other election related crimes. Already, some top political actors have been issued US Visa bans, with the possibility of more sanctions if such acts were not curtailed in the coming Edo and Ondo elections.

LEGITIMIZED VOTE BUYING 

The worsening levels of vote buying is one that has to be addressed and checked as it is already getting out of hand. On the day of the election, video recordings of people who were either caught or accused of vote buying went viral on social media.

As if what transpires in the voting centres, where cash is doled out unscrupulously to persons who are ready to trade their vote for a pittance, was not bad enough, the ruling APC government is gradually legitimizing vote buying. 

In 2019, just weeks to the presidential election, the Federal Government launched TraderMoni – a social intervention programme that had the vice-president travelling from state to state and funding micro-businesses with a minimum of N10,000 (Ten thousand naira).

Transparency International, as well as opposition party members, expressed reservations about the timing of the TraderMoni exercise, describing it as voter inducement. 

For the Edo 2020 election, a similar stunt was orchestrated; this time with a welfare scheme for 2,000 Edo women, implemented a few days to September 19, through the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) but allegedly anchored by Ize-Iyamu’s wife. 

Again, the government should play a leadership role and ensure the credibility of elections and must not be the one sponsoring voter inducement.  Vote buying is a serious crime that undermines Nigeria’s electoral process and impedes true democracy. The government needs to immediately curb this worsening untoward practice by directing all relevant law enforcement agencies to live up to their constituted responsibilities and apprehend anyone culpable of acts of vote buying, in any guise.

Read also: Edo 2020: APC youth leader laments losing South-South

PROPAGANDA VS TRUTH

Propaganda and truth are powerful tools for spreading information. It is commonly said that bad news spreads like wildfire. With the technological tools available today, the speed of dissemination of propaganda is unprecedented in the history of humanity. While propaganda may hit the public faster, the truth, on the other hand, sinks deeper in the minds of people. 

As was expected, in the buildup to the Edo 2020 gubernatorial election, both the APC and PDP tried to outdo each other and woo the electorate with all forms of propaganda. But beyond strategic deployment of propaganda, what helped the PDP campaign was the fact that they had a better product to market. 

Over his first term, Governor Obaseki had warmed his way to the hearts of the people by his unusual but effective style of governance. Only a year into his administration, he had already been nicknamed the ‘Wake and See’ governor by Edo people who hardly saw or heard much of him, but could see projects springing up across the state. It was different; it was refreshing, and above all, it was effective. So while one cannot discountenance the effectiveness of the propaganda machinery, the massive appeal of the people which the governor already enjoyed was a major deciding factor at the poll. Before the morning of the September 19 election, a majority of Edo voters were already determined to use their votes to reward the governor with a second term, come what may.

 DIFFICULT TIMES FOR “GODFATHERS” AND POLITICAL JOBBERS

The final issue I will bring to fore is the fact that after enduring four years of being sidelined in the procurement of juicy government contracts, and failing to truncate the reelection of Governor Obaseki, political jobbers in Edo State are in for another difficult four years, with the fear of facing final retirement.

Also seriously affected would be the political ‘godfathers’ who, although, according to the incumbent governor, have no constitutional backing for the illicit amount of powers that they wield on state affairs, constantly threaten and make demands of elected state actors. This was why many voters supported and took sides with Obaseki; to keep godfathers and political jobbers at bay as their participation in governance would guarantee that the masses would be shortchanged.

 My humble advice to all those who wish to have access to Osadebey Avenue, without the ability or intent to provide value to the Obaseki-led government, should invest their time and money in some other gainful means of livelihood. As an established financial guru, the Edo State governor does not seem to understand the language of those who cannot boast of thriving successfully outside of politics. As much as he has demonstrated an appreciable skill in partnering with local and foreign players to promote diversification and industrialization of the state’s economy, Obaseki has adamantly refused to be intimidated by powerfully connected players who had over the years, developed a false sense of entitlement to the state’s treasury.

 The election has come and gone and Edo people have spoken. Their voice is loud and clear. As a very liberated and aggressively progressive people, they have renewed their social contract with Governor Obaseki because he has given them a platform through which they will continue to pursue their advancement and development.

 

Ledion, a public opinion analyst, writes from Benin City

The just concluded governorship election in Edo State, against most expectations, proved to be one of the most peaceful polls conducted in recent times. The global attention that was directed on the off-cycle election and the heavy presence of security personnel contributed to the significantly reduced cases of voter intimidation, snatching of ballot boxes and other election related cases of violence. In review, the Edo 2020 gubernatorial poll threw up issues that we as a nation, in strengthening our democratic institutions, need to address. NEED FOR ELECTORAL REFORMS Electoral reform is long overdue. The failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which has been presented to him severally, is eroding the power of the electorate to be the final deciding factor for those they choose to be their leaders. As it presently stands, voter apathy is growing. Nigerians are losing confidence in the voting process because after successfully exercising their franchise, there is no guarantee that the contestants would not end up in the courts and the will of the people upturned. The administrations of late President Umaru Musa Yaradua and  former President Goodluck Jonathan made some commendable effort in strengthening the electoral laws between 2007 and 2015. In 2015, Goodluck Jonathan provided about N108 billion to the Prof. Atahirru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fund the general election and for the purchase of card readers that would bring more credibility to the voting process. The technological challenges characterised by the use of the card readers caused serious problems on the day of the 2019 presidential election and even Jonathan was one of those whose card could not be authenticated electronically. Against rising concern and pressure from local and international groups, Buhari’s administration has done next-to-nothing in form of electoral reforms. His failure to strengthen the sanctity of the votes of the people is a big blemish on his famed garb of integrity. Being direct beneficiaries of the shortcomings of extant electoral laws, their failure to strengthen electoral institutions is a testimony that they do not have any intention of addressing the shortcomings and improving on a process that sealed their victory at the polls. Similarly, the role of the federal legislators is also called into question, as they have failed to fully utilize their legislative p...


The just concluded governorship election in Edo State, against most expectations, proved to be one of the most peaceful polls conducted in recent times. The global attention that was directed on the off-cycle election and the heavy presence of security personnel contributed to the significantly reduced cases of voter intimidation, snatchi...


The just concluded governorship election in Edo State, against most expectations, proved to be one of the most peaceful polls conducted in r...


ElectionELECTORAL PROCESSGodwin Obaseki