Towards Having Conflict-free Elections in Nigeria
Towards Having Conflict-free Elections in Nigeria
Holding elections in Nigeria has always remained an uphill task due to many reasons. There has hardly been any election conducted in Nigeria since her independence that was not fraught with massive irregularities due to the numerous sharp practices and dubious actions of many desperate politicians who are always all out to win at all cost by any means possible together with their cohorts and godfathers. The poor electoral reform laws also have a very big dirty part to play in the frequent electoral conflicts witnessed in Nigeria.
Let us trace the root causes of electoral conflicts in Nigeria.
First of all, one of the major causes of electoral conflicts and electoral malpractices in Nigeria is the issue of desperate politicians who believe they must win at all cost. With such mindset/disposition, all the rules and regulations laid down for proper holding of elections in the country is thrown to the winds as thuggery, ballot box snatching and outright manipulations of election results become the order of the day. Under such conditions, there is no way the outcome of such elections could be regarded as the true reflection of the people’s choice which they demonstrated by casting their votes. No wonder, electoral tribunals continue to seat even many years after the results have been released as the losing parties continue to challenge the so called results…
Another factor that causes electoral conflicts in Nigeria is the issue of organizing all elections in the country to take place with a very short space of time. Sometimes major national elections such as presidential and senatorial elections in Nigeria are held in just one day! The problem therein is that the electoral body responsible for conducting proper elections in Nigeria is most times understaffed, underfunded, and completely dependent on the sponsorship of the government of the day. Because the electoral body is understaffed, it makes it hard for them to collate the large number of results of the elections effectively and efficiently. Because the electoral body is underfunded and under the control of the government of the day, this condition leaves so much open room for many dirty underhand cum behind door manipulations before and after the polls. The end result: elections are wholly rigged, leading to massive electoral crises.
Another factor leading to electoral conflicts in Nigeria which is often times neglected is the issue of ignorance on the part of electorates. The general nonchalant attitude towards electoral issues amongst many of our citizens contributes towards the shoddy and unacceptable results which is most likely what we get in the end thus opening the way for conflicts. There is this general disinterest in election and electoral issues amongst many Nigerians. To many Nigerians, elections are seen as nothing but a grand façade…a charade!
Actually they call it sELECTION! This I-DON’T-CARE attitude mixed with the strong THEM-AGAINST-US belief is just about the only catalyst necessary for manipulations of election results and foisting of unpopular choices on the people but if only the Nigerian citizens will come to understand and accept that on the contrary, they really have a very big say in determining how their country should be governed instead of erroneously assuming that their votes would never count thereby allowing the avaricious politicians to have their own field day. Well, one could always argue that massive ignorance in the land could be the cause of this.
Another factor contributing to electoral crisis in Nigeria is fact that many people in Africa and Nigeria is not an exception, vote in general elections with so much ethnic bias. We look out for the state where the candidates are coming from. We support the candidates who come from our ethnic group. We only ‘trust’ those candidates who worship with us.
The problem with this stance is that the best candidate who is supposed to oversee and look out for the good of many Nigerians often misses out being the one that gets the seat finally. Because our support for candidates is stemming from ethnic and religious bias rather than our better judgmentfrom the betterment and general benefit of the whole masses, the will of the people often becomes so hard to identify with.
Like in Nigeria today, there is this crisis (in fact, why not call it drama?) in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP concerning where the party’s next presidential candidate in 2011 will come from thereby popularizing terms like zoning, North-South rotational presidency and many other stuffs like that. The end result is that election result will always be viewed with some form of apprehension largely because of the inborn ethnic and sometimes religious bias of a thing.
Finally the roles of election observers and monitors have also led to electoral conflicts in Nigeria. If these set of people continue to shirk in their duty to help monitor and get the true results in many general elections in Nigeria, how can we know who to trust again? How do we know who to believe in when many parties in the so called elections come out to claim victories in such elections? It is really terrible and quite confusing.
So towards having better elections in Nigeria and the avoidance of electoral conflicts in Nigeria, I make the following suggestions or recommendations:
- General elections in Nigeria should not be held within a short period of time. It should be spaced properly to completely accommodate for the short falls of the electoral body inabilities in conducting all the elections within such a very small time frame. This measure will surely go a long way in reducing electoral conflicts arising from election rigging
- The people should demand for the right candidate. By the right candidate, I mean that very candidate who has the interest of the people and not just the interest of a selected group of people or party in mind only. Nigerians should come to realize that their votes should count no matter what. It is indeed a great battle between good and evil but the truth is that issue of godfatherism, political thuggery, disenfranchisement and election rigging can never upstage the true will and choice of the masses if only the people knew this.
- Local and international election observers should step up their game in the monitoring elections in Nigeria. They should do their work with the sole intention of helping all Nigerians get the right candidates for true and legitimate governance.
- The government should allow independent electoral bodies in charge of conducting elections in Nigeria to be truly independent. Such governmental interference only lead to electoral conflicts because like the old saying goes, for the sake of benefit of doubt and fair play, one is not supposed to be the referee in a football match he has some interest in one of the two sides. Government should really provide the electoral body with adequate funding so as to enable them become truly independent to do their job effectively. Also, true electoral reforms should be implemented with immediate effect to enable Nigerians have true and trustworthy elections.
- The people have their own part to play too. It is the duty of the general masses to awaken their interest in political issues. The people should start asking the right questions instead of just unconsciously and silently allowing election results to be manipulated against their will all the time. It is the duty of the people to see to it that the right candidates get the post in the end. It is high time for us Nigerians to dismantle and demolish the heavy load of viewing everything political and otherwise through ethnic bias lens. It is only through this that electoral conflicts will be avoided.
- Also, our political office holders and office seekers should understand that they must not win at all cost. They must also understand that the easiest way to gain the peoples trust in governance is by doing the right thing which is delivering true democratic dividend to ALL the people. By doing this, they will always find out that people will want them to continue in office rather than they themselves foisting their choice on the people which can only leads to more electoral crises and political distrust.