The 2011 election will turn out not to be different from the previous experiences except we urgently address some fundamental flaws inherent in the system and not who leads INEC. To address these problems we need to work on the following stakeholders and key determinants for a free and fair election: the President, political parties, politicians, judiciary, Police and other security agencies, civic society groups, international actors’, legislators, INEC and of course the major victim of the fraud, the population.
Many people have hailed the appointment of Prof Jega but just like Prof Iwu and other INEC chairperson, election is not the handy work of one individual but a collection of conscious effort to have a free and fair election that will be to the benefit of all actors and stakeholders. Therefore, for a credible poll, all the people mentioned above play a critical role. We could achieve free and fair election by all the actors performing their role in the following ways.
INEC being the umpire and the principal of election organisation, monitoring and administration have an important role to play in organising a free and fair election. It is the responsibility of INEC to ensure that we have an updated, correct and credible voter’s register. In addition, INEC should make sure the issue of logistics, corruption in the body and a transparent, efficient and independent leadership is in place. A leadership comprising of impartial men and women of honour and integrity .A leadership that is conscious of the perception and well-being of the general population. Prof Jega may have good qualities, can he deliver the administrative tact that will ensure credible polls. As a head would he be able to mobilise a group of dedicated team of INCE officials to conduct an acceptable election. We all know that there is no perfect election but it should at least meet the basic standard. Can he and his organisation withstand the temptation by the presidency, politician and other influential stakeholders? It would be nice if the elections were staggered with that of the Presidency coming first because organising the election the same day will encourage massive rigging and problem of logistics. If possible, do let the election be organised in Zones to ensure effective administration. Honestly, he should do a lot to prove the doubting Thomas’s wrong that he is not a man of the PDP and the president.
The president has an important role to play in ensuring a credible poll. He has to show the political will to organise a free and fair election by instructing the police and other security agencies to ensure that law and other and a peaceful conduct of elections .As former President Obasanjo said ,’it is a do or die affair’. President Goodluck Jonathan has to show the political will to organise a credible election because the baggage with a flawed election is higher to the office and the country at large. Ghana gained international acceptability because of the credible election it has organised over time. He like INEC will contribute towards organising a credible poll. The president should equally make sure that the leadership of INEC and other stakeholders do the necessary things to ensure an acceptable election is conducted come 2011.He is the chief security officer so all the state machineries and security apparatus are at his disposal to ensure that the right things are done.
The police and other state security agencies are also an important determinant to ensure credible polls. Unfortunately in Nigeria the police and other security agencies encouraged, aided and abetted election rigging, thuggery and other malpractice .The security agencies always decides to look the other way round once the politician, the presidency and the police hierarchy and the politicians have compromised them. They decide to look the other way if their interested parties commit electoral fraud. They should help end voters intimidation and protect law-abiding citizen that are exercising their democratic right. It is also their duty to protect the election officials and material so that they would not be comprised .The peaceful conduct of the Anambra state election shows that the police force can help organise a peaceful election. Apart from maintaining a peaceful election, the police can ensure that politician and political parties obey the law of the land in their conduct of their activities.
All our political parties lack the basic structures of a political party based on party structure, administrative mechanism, ideology and other basic ingredients of a political party .They all exist to capture political power. Moreover, all rig elections. Unfortunately, just like the executor of a coup we have a political culture where the winner takes all. So all the political parties aim is to use all at its disposal to capture power. All our political parties have a zero or minor democratic culture within its fold. The main ingredient of what the political party are advocating is lacking in its fold, which is internal democracy. Therefore, for a sustainable democratic structure, the parties have to be democratised and reformed. I would not like to cite examples from advance democracy but we should at least try to emulate and follow the norms in our bid to advance our democracy. Therefore, the operation and the emergence of candidates for an election should be democratised. Politicians should start conducting themselves in an orderly manner. The opposition parties perhaps have a vital role to play to make sure the ruling party stand on its toes.
Nigeria politician and the population in general still suffer from military mentality and siege. They believe in acquiring power. We are suffering from long years of military rule. This mentality pervades all the things we do as a people. Our politicians would go to any length towards acquiring and consolidating their powers. I respect military institution but due to its orientation and culture, it has actually caused a lot of abnormality in our society. We cannot be talking of credible election without a deliberate policy of reforming our politicians. These actors have not helped INEC in organising any credible election. Any of them that is found wanting and deliberately breaks the law should be arrested and a true cause of the law applied to him or her. Therefore, the judiciary have a role to play in ensuring a credible poll. Our politicians need to be reformed perhaps their action contributes a towards a flawed election.
The role of the judiciary cannot be over stretched .It is and will continue to play a vital role in the sustenance of democracy. It is unfortunate that the hope of the common man has contributed both positively and negatively to our electoral process .It has played a positive role in deepening our democratic process by delivering some revolutionary and proactive judgement which has increased the fate of the common man in the judicial process. It is not all positive because it has also served as a flawed legitimate tool in legalising a criminal proceeds and process. Some politician and the electoral body have willingly and unwillingly compromised and battered the image of the judicial. Apart from members of the bench and bar, I think it is time we introduce respectable members of the public in deciding election matters as it has proven that technicalities alone should not decide election verdict. It is also important that matters of election should be treated as urgent, so that the elected officials will consolidate and deliver the dividend to the masses
The masses or the population also has a role to play in ensuring a credible election. They should feel it as a patriotic venture to cast their vote, defend their votes and vote justly with a moral conscious. The masses should also remember that they are mortgaging their future and the future of their kids if they cast their votes wrongly. We should force the government to make our votes count. In addition, we should protest when people of questionabl
e characters are entrusted to leadership position. Although the action of the political players have made voters develop apathy towards voting, the fact still remains that the action and inaction of those (selected ) elected into position affects them. The society should discourage thuggery, voter rigging and ballot stuffing and should be willing to engage the perpetuators of such crime. The advent of mobile phone and technology will help us monitor our elections.
The civic society group also have a role to play in ensuring a free and fair election. It is encouraging that they are increasingly being vocal. They should not relent in this regard and should hold those entrusted with organising a credible election to be accountable and transparent in the organisation of the electoral process. This can only be achieved by mass actions, demonstration and constructive engagement. They could also engage in voters’ education.
The international partners should also engage the government to make sure the outcome of the election meets international standards. They could also help in supplying logistics to the electoral body. Another way of encouraging this process is to make the president realise that sanctions and other punitive measures will face the government if it fails to organise free and fair election.
Our electoral laws need only small modification. Most of our problem in Nigeria are systematic and attitudinal and not laws. We all need to start behaving rationally and normally and conduct our activities in an acceptable standard. In virtually all our endeavours, we have a reasonable law but our implementation is always faulty and laden with fraud. We put in Nigeria factor which simple means glorifying our ineptitude, laziness, corruption and idiocy. We should all de-emphasis the importance of office holders; reduce the benefits so that they will start seeing it as service, not power, and position. We should learn to hold them accountable. Electoral fraud, in any way, should be treated as a crime against humanity and against the state. The Uwais reform is good if it will be implemented but with our current political culture, it will not also guarantee a free and fair election.
For a credible election in Nigeria come 2011, the principle characters that will ensure its success if the do the right thing are the Presidency, INEC and the police. The people that will not want a credible election in Nigeria include all political office holders mostly Governors and legislators, fraudulent business executive and other beneficiaries. If we fail to organise a credible election then we should forget about change in our situation. We are turning to be a failed enterprise, a disgrace and a shame to the black race.