AS WE APPROACH 2015 GENERAL ELECTION
“… The great task of building a nation is never done! Here in America, more than two centuries since our independence, we are still working to perfect our union”—President Barrack Obama
There is no doubt that one the fundamental challenges facing us as a nation is leadership! Wherether it is in the struggle by some politicians to acquire power without responsilities or the wonton acts of corruption, lack of commitment and trust, jiggerypokery, ethnicity, religious bigotry, regionalism and irrational sentiments that have stymied our democratic journey and institutions for years, to the violence and malpractices that have characterized our elections since
1999 when this democratic odyssey began. Some of the highlighted challenges reared its ugly heads in the 2011 general elections which led to the death of about 520 persons and about 400 tribunal cases. In camparism, it was better than the 2007 general elections which recorded about 2000 tribunal cases.
Prelude to the conduct of the 2011 general elections, political parties were made to sign a code of conduct issued by the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC), Some of the biding resolutions made by the political parties includes; (a) All political parties, their leaders, members and supporters, and candidates shall adhere to all existing laws, rules and regulations pertaining to elections and the conduct of political parties, especially the election guidelines established by the INEC through the authority of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), as well as the provisions of the extant constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and shall do nothing whatsoever; individually or collectively to undermine, flout, disrespect or circumvent them. (b) Political parties and their candidates shall ensure agents and officials are sufficiently trained for voter registration exercise. (c) No political party or candidate shall during campaign resort to the use of inflammatory language, provocative actions, images, or manifestation that incite violence, hatred, contempt or intimidation against another party or candidate or any person or group of persons on grounds of ethnicity, gender or for any other reasons. Accordingly, no political party or candidate shall make any broadcast or issue any press statement, hand bills, pamphlets, leaflets or other publication that contain any such incitement. (d) All political parties, candidates, party members and supporters shall accept the official election results as certified by INEC as free and fair, or challenge the results in courts. (e)All political parties and their candidates shall refrain from the use of violent or extra-judicial means in expressing their non-acceptance of election results. In this regard, political parties and their candidates shall ensure strict adherence to provisions of the law in seeking redress against perceived electoral irregularities.
If our politicians had observed all the INEC’s code of conducts to the latter, and not those who preach democracy and rule of law in public spheres, but, in secrets, their conducts contradicts what they preach, circumstances that lead to the death of about 520 persons and the destruction of properties and sacred centers that accompanied the conduct of the 2011 general elections would not have occurred in the first place!
However, the successful conduct of any election requires collaborative and co-operative efforts of all citizens, including the government, political parties, INEC, security officials, tribunals electorates and the civil society organizations. As a leader of a group that played active role in the last general elections in the country, I observed that voters education and mobilization done for the elections did not produced satisfactory results. Also, in some polling stations, total number of votes cast exceeded the number of accredited voters and crowed control was not properly done.
In a nation where there are 63 political parties before the 2011 general elections only 9 parties had representatives in the National Assembly, there are; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Labour Party (LP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Democratic People’s Party (DPP), Accord Party (AP), and People Party of Nigeria (PPN). If the remaining political parties had transformed themselves in to civil society organizations, instead of answering political parties without political presence, the issue of voters apathy, lack of adequate voters education and mobilization encountered in the 2011 elections would have taken care of its self.
Voters apathy observed in states like Kogi, Lagos, Ogun, Kwara, Anambra, Ebonyi and the Federal Capital Territory during the last Presidential Election was disheartening! For example, in Kogi State, out of 1,316,849 registered voters, only 561,781 voted in the presidential election of which 19,551 votes were rejected. In Lagos State, out of the 6,108,069 registered voters, only 2,019,116 voted in the presidential election, while 74,072 votes were rejected. In Ogun Sate, out of the 1,941,170 registered voters, only 570,985 voted in presidential election of which 27,270 votes were rejected. In Kwara State, out of the 1,152,361 registered voters, only 435,369 voted in the presidential election, while 20,615 votes were rejected. In Anambra State, out of the 2,011,746 registered voters, only 1,157,339 voted in the presidential election of which 14,707 votes were rejected. In Ebonyi State, out of the 1,050,534 registered voters, only 502,890 voted in the presidential election while 12,573 votes were rejected. An finally, in the Federal Capital Territory, out of the 943,473 registered voters, only 411,779 voted in the presidential election of which 15,485 votes were rejected. In Nigeria as a whole, out of the 73,528,040 registered voters, only 39,469,484 representing about 53.7 percent voted in the last presidential election, while
1,259,506 votes were rejected. This means that only 38,209,978 votes representing approximately 52 percent were accepted. Below, is the breakdown of the total votes gotten by each of the 20 political parties that contested the 2011 presidential election! Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), 22,495,187 votes representing about 58.9 percent. Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), 12,214,853 votes representing about 31.9 percent. Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN),
2,079,151 votes representing about 5.4 percent. All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), 917,012 votes representing 2.4 percent. People for Democratic Change (PDC), 82,243 votes representing about 0.2 percent.
Peoples Mandate Party (PMP), 56,248 votes representing 0.1 percent. Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), 54,203 representing 0.1 percent. African Democratic Congress (ADC), 51,682 votes representing 0.1 percent. Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), 47, 272 votes representing 0.1 percent. Fresh Democratic Party (FDP), 34,331 votes representing 0.08 percent. National Conscience Party (NCP), 26,376 votes representing0.06 percent. National Majority Democratic Party (NMDP), 25,938 votes representing 0.06 percent. African Political System (APS), 23,740 votes representing 0.06 percent. United National Party for Development (UNPD), 21,203 votes representing approximately 0.06 percent. National Transformation Party (NTP), 19,744 votes representing approximately 0.05 percent. Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), 16,492 votes representing 0.04 percent. African Renaissance Party (ARP), 12, 264 votes representing 0.03 percent. Hope Democratic Party (HDP) 12,023 representing 0.03 percent. Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), 11, 544 votes representing 0.03 percent, and finally, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), 8,472 votes representing
Judging from all the standards, the conduct of the 2011 general elections in Nigeria was far better and appreciable than the 2003 and 2007 general elections, both from the pre-election, proper election and post elections. Example, the type of drama that took place in 2007 was absent in the last election. In 2007, while the presidential election was slated for April 21, 2007, the Supreme Court on April 16, 2007, ordered that, INEC should include the name of a presidential candidate who according to its ruling said he was wrongly disqualified from participating in the election. In 2007, ballot boxes and papers plus election officials were never sighted in some polling stations especially in rural areas.
Meanwhile, in planning for the conduct of the 2015 and future elections in the country, the circumstances that led to cancellation of the National Assembly Elections earlier slated for April 2nd, 2011, should be avoided, because that did not only affects the purse of some political parties who have prepared adequately for the polls by way of the payments it made to party agents and other logistical arrangements made by parties, but it also affected the INEC its self. According to reports, the electoral body lost about N3.8 billion in the assumed payments of N35, 000 each it made to the Returning Officers in the 109 Senatorial Districts in the country. The payment of N30, 000 made to each of the Returning Officers in the 360 Federal Constituencies of the Federation.
Payments of 25,000 made to each of the Electoral Officer in the 774 Local Governments in the country. Payments of N25, 000 made to each of the about 9,000 Supervising Presiding Officers.
Payments of N25, 000 made to about 8,812 Ward Collation Officers. Payments of about N9,000 made to each of the Presiding Officers in the 120,000 P0lling stations and finally, the payment of N9,000 made to each of the about 240,000 Assistant Presiding Officers in the aborted National Assembly Elections in 2011. Also, there were reported cases of some politicians and some INEC staff tampering with the Computerized Voters Register (CVR).
Nonetheless, INEC has every right to make the 2015 general elections the best, even better than the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election by starting preparations early enough. As parts of the preparations for successful 2015 general elections, INEC should introduce mechanisms aimed at monitoring campaign expenses by candidates. Voters education should be a continuous process, until every Nigerian becomes familiar and very conscious of his or her political rights and responsibilities. Politicians should play by the rules, by maintaining high level of integrity, honesty, decorum, selflessness and patriotism. They should desist from politics of war, hatreds, anarchy, and places of origin, rancor and acrimony. The media should avoid circumstances that led to the sanctioning of about 26 broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in the last election. The media should observe the ethics of journalism which includes; balance, accuracy, fairness and impartiality. The security personnel should be above boards; they should guarantee the security of voters, INEC officials, polling agents, election observers and other players in the electoral matters. The civil societies should be pro-active; they should not only wait for election times to rush out and start endorsing candidates, but, they should be raising political awareness, until every citizen, whether literate or not literate becomes attuned to our electoral system, so that it would no longer be between their elections and our elections, but Nigerian election!
The young people should rise up and defend of our democracy and engage in active promotion of rule of law until our democratic institutions become stronger than individuals, because according to President Obama: “We need young Africans who are standing up and making things happen not only in their own countries, but around the world” . Therefore, “While today’s challenges may lack some of the drama of the 20th century liberation struggles, there ultimately may be even more meaningful, for it will be up to you, young people full of talents and imaginations to build the Africa for the next 50 years”
Written By Comrade Edwin Ekene