“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”― Abraham Lincoln
“As long as power-hungry and inordinately ambitious candidates have to pay humongous sums of between N10 million to N100 million for political parties’ nomination forms for senatorial, gubernatorial and presidential contests, in a country that currently boasts of 133 million multi-dimensionally poor citizens, according to the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, no free, fair or credible elections can be conducted here in Nigeria”.
“Mister Baje, with all due respect sir, are you saying that it is not possible to have the true choices of the people emerging to take over the reins of political offices here?” The question came from a long-term fan of mine, simply called Adams.
“In as much as one would want it so, the empirical evidences on ground prove otherwise. They point to the fact that for as long as Mister President has enormous executive powers to choose who becomes the Chairman of the electoral umpire and has party faithful at the legislative arm of government, who would gladly tell such a person to ‘take a bow and go’, instead of undergoing a thorough security check, forget about credible elections in Nigeria”
“Sir, I have made out time to read through your best-selling book titled ‘Drumbeats of Democracy’, launched in 2018, which incidentally is a collection of your opinion essays for over forty years, with the theme on how to enthrone good governance here in Nigeria.
“I recall that you have severally warned against electoral violence as serially instigated by not a few political leaders. In fact, one of such essays is titled ‘Ballot and Blood? Never Again!’ published by several newspapers in January, 2015. And before that there was another essay of yours calling for issue-based campaigns, published in December, 2014. But the critical matters still persist as we speak. What could be responsible for these anomalies?”
” To answer your question, let me be frank with you that one of the fundamental flaws of Nigeria’ s electoral system is the iniquitous focus on money, money and even more money, instead of having firmly in place or instituting true servant-leadership, as strongly canvassed by late President Musa Yar’Adua (of blessed memory).
“The bitter truth therefore, is that as long as there is the attractive huge pay packages for political office holders at all levels -from the local government council chairmen up through the legislators to the state governors and the president- the average Nigerian politician would always view politics as one lucrative business to invest in. That of course, was the position of a former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara.
“Furthermore, he would do everything humanly possible to get into office, more by crooked means than by hook. His vaulting ambition is therefore, propelled by the Machiavellian doctrine of the end justifying the means. He sees the political landscape as that of the jungle where might is right. As aptly stated by the American advocate of self-ownership and author, Larken Rose, politics is seen as “the art of using euphemisms, lies, emotionalism and fear-mongering to dupe average people into accepting-or even demanding-their own enslavement.”
“Right on point, sir! Could this be the reason why you have been canvassing for decades that the political office holders should be Volunteers in Government who offer to serve on the platform of patriotism? Or, that those who offer to serve should be placed on the equivalent of civil salary scale, at the state and federal levels?”
“Yes, of course! Even in the absence of that, what we have playing out is abnormal. If not, how do you explain the conscienceless act of each of them buying an SUV vehicle worth N160 million at a trying time such as this that the people cannot have one square meal per day? Yet, they make laws for you and yours truly? This is unacceptable. That perhaps explains why Theodore Roosevelt stated that: “A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user”. Now we know the stuff they are made of”.
“Sir, this is getting more interesting. In all of these political anomalies, what is your candid opinion about the intention of the current assembly to tinker with the Electoral Act 2022, as passed by former President Muhammadu Buhari”?
“You would recall that three electoral panels were set up between 2008 and 2016 to take a critical look at the previous Acts. But what really matters is the implementation, not only how good the recommendations are. Interestingly, some of the lawmakers are beneficiaries of the dysfunctional process. I do not see them as turning over a new leaf, all in a jiffy. As one of the greatest authors of the Greek tragedy, Euripides succinctly stated: “When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”
“So, in spite of the regular reviews the international election observers are of the firm position that INEC failed, and woefully so, to deliver on the promises made to Nigerians 100 days to the general elections. Even the conduct of the recent off-cycle elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states was not significantly different from that of the presidential election.
“Well said. Can we get into specifics?”
” Of course,yes. There has been a clear violation of public trust in INEC because despite the jubilation that trailed the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS and the INEC Results Viewing Portal, IReV that controversial and calamitous delay in their use, especially during the presidential election on February 25, 2023 has left more questions than answers
“For instance, has there been value for the huge sums expended on those technological equipment bought with the tax payers’ money? No is the answer. Were the so called technical hitches and glitches not surreptitiously meant to favour some candidates as against others; to satisfy the warped wishes of the power-poaching political warlords above the national interest? The answer is patently obvious”.
“What else do you consider as the weak points of the electoral process and what should we be looking at as recommendations of the best way forward, considering the call for the unbundling of INEC?”
“The electoral body is certainly not independent, contrary to what its name implies. The fact that the president calls the shots, by the choice of card-carrying members of the favoured political party as Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs is inimical to the delivery of a process that provides a level playing field for all the contestants. You would recall the choice of Lauretta Onochie as an INEC Commissioner by Buhari, which drew public condemnation that eventually halted that process.
“But the inglorious act has been repeated of recent. As rightly suggested by the EU Observers, there has to be the institution of a public accountable selection process for INEC members. Also, public confidence should be restored in the process with real-time publication of election results and doing away with the abuse of the power of incumbency by various political office holders, especially with vote-buying.
“If done, by placing political office holders on equivalent of civil salary scale, introduction of independent candidacy, punishment for election offenders, tackling of the proliferation of arms and ammunition prelude to elections, hate speech by the candidates and their mentally mesmerized supporters, as well as the deployment of modern technology, we may begin to experience violent -free elections.
“That, for me would be the best electoral reform ever”!