• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Managing elections in Nigeria

9 elections that will shape Africa in 2024

Election period in many countries are usually tense not for the electorate but for the politicians and associates who may lose or retain their position after the exercise. The electorate play the jury as the politicians submit themselves for appraisal.

On election day. No ambulances, no visit to intensive care unit , no fighting but a true atmosphere of carnival and expectations.

Since the first republic (post independence) until now election weekends in Nigeria are tense , violence prone , people relocate to safely , some people would actually grab their green passport and go anywhere in Europe and watch proceedings from afar and the economy is awash with money that politicians have claimed is in short supply prior to the election. Elections are generally not well mànaged in Nigeria. Experts have concluded that there is a disconnect in our election system as a whole. Our biggest problem is that of election rigging and voter apathy. Our military are kitted for elections as if they are the Israeli Defense Forces on the hunt for Hamas. Citizens are discouraged from participating in a militarised civil exercise.

Election Rigging:

Election rigging refers to the manipulation of electoral processes to favour a particular candidate or party, geo political zone , religion and undermining the principles of democracy and fair competition. In Nigeria, election rigging has been a persistent issue that hinders the credibility and legitimacy of elections for over five decades and getting worse.

Some common forms of election rigging in Nigeria include ballot box stuffing, ballot box snatching , voter intimidation, voter suppression, tampering with election results, harassment and intimidation of electoral officials and bribery of electoral officials. These practices undermine the will of the people and can lead to political instability and conflict.

These problems have undermined the credibility of governments in Nigeria and have tarnished the legitimacy of such government overseas. It has also given room for the military to forcefully encroach in civil matters and governance. Diverting their focus from their defensive duties in the service of the country.

Read also: Future elections in peril as credibility dips

It has been suggested that INEC is usually overwhelmed by the general elections but the same can be said of the off cycle elections that have just been concluded in Bayelsa , Kogi and Imo state(s)

To address the problem of election mismanagement especially rigging, various solutions have been proposed and implemented in Nigeria but the results have not been encouraging. These include:

1. Electoral Reforms: One of the key solutions is to implement comprehensive electoral reforms that aim to enhance the transparency, credibility, and fairness of the electoral process. These reforms may include updating electoral laws, strengthening institutions responsible for organizing elections, and introducing electronic voting systems. It has been suggested that a mix of both digital and analogue system be used as some part of the country are not digital election ready and should not be dragged into what they are not ready for. This is an option that must be considered moving forward.

2. Voter Education and Awareness: Educating voters about their rights, the importance of free and fair elections, and the consequences of election rigging can help empower them to resist manipulation attempts. Voter education programmes can also promote civic participation and encourage citizens to report any irregularities they witness during the electoral process. However the involvement of armed gangs and groups have discouraged robust discussion and participation. For instance, citizens would not like to confront IPOB should they nudge the people to stay away from the election because the government have severally failed to provide security cover needed during such periods.

Read also: CUPP commends INEC for successful off-cycle elections amid challenges

3. Voter Registration and Identification: Implementing robust voter registration mechanisms and using proper identification methods can help prevent voter impersonation and ensure that only eligible voters participate in the electoral process. Our system obviously need a blend of digital and analogue options to get our elections right.

4. Security Presences: Deploying adequate security personnel to polling stations can help deter acts of violence, intimidation, and coercion during elections. This can create a conducive atmosphere for citizens to exercise their voting rights without fear.

5. Independent Election Monitoring: Allowing independent domestic and international election observers to monitor the entire electoral process can help detect and report any irregularities or instances of rigging. Their presence can also serve as a deterrent to those intending to manipulate the elections.

6. Legal Accountability: Ensuring that there are consequences for those found guilty of election rigging is crucial. Establishing and enforcing strict penalties for electoral offenses can discourage potential perpetrators and contribute to the integrity of the electoral process.Persons involved in election malpractices walk free once results are published this must change to deter future episodes.

Final Word: It is worth noting that addressing the problem of election rigging requires a multi-faceted approach, involving political will, strong institutions at the national and state level, and active citizen engagement. Implementing these solutions can help foster a democratic culture and ensure that the will of the people is respected in Nigeria’s electoral processes. May we not be toddlers at this subject forever.

Michael Umogun is a Chartered Marketer with interest in public policy matters.