Election Problems and Reforms In Nigeria

Election Problems and Reforms In Nigeria

The electoral woes of Nigeria did not start yesterday, it goes way back to the early years of democracy starting with the annulled June 12 election which the late politician, M. K. O Abiola claimed to win, a claim which earned him an untimely death in the hands of military dictators in the country.

His death sparked outrage and protests but we all know it is the barks of a toothless dog as the military regime will not cave to the cries of the people. Olusegun Obasanjo set the democratic trend which some claim he did to make himself president while transitioning from military rule to civilian government, something he later wished he didn’t do when he tried to seek a third term re-election, in the bid to joining the likes of Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe who have clung to power for years, a secret move that was widely rejected by both the two chambers and the citizens alike who heard rumors of it.

It was however not surprising that after the end of the military rule, the selfsame Olusegun Obasanjo became Nigeria’s first democratically elected president and ruled for 8 years. A rule that many say was marred with corruption by political office holders and their aides, politically motivated executions without knowing who is behind the trigger and bribery to mention a few. After the reign of OBJ as he was fondly called, an election was scheduled to take place with Late President Y’ardua to take his place but we all know how the election was also marred with violence and electoral malpractice, all of which was swept under the carpet. And so did Nigeria’s electoral woes continue. The president died and his Vice was sworn in, after which he also contested under the same party in an election that was bloody with scores losing their life due to election related violence. Mothers mourned their children, but the Winner was congratulated and a new term begins.

Critics lamented about the electoral violence that has now become a trademark of our elections but the people at the helms of power only pretend to care to score votes of unsuspecting electorates who did not know any better. And so the trend begins. A do-or-die political mindset was born and it grew like a mighty tall iroko tree with its branches threatening to blind anyone who dares to stand in the path of its quest for power, fame and recognition.

Over the years, people have called for electoral reforms to ensure we get exactly what we ask for and whosoever we vote for. Citizens have called for a need to review our electoral laws and how our elections have been conducted and to be fair, the upper and lower house of legislation have done a tremendous job in making changes to these laws and the most recent progress recorded is the electoral bill passing its second reading in July 2020. It is visible that the legislature is doing its job but of what use is the law made that binds only the poor and meant to be ignored when power is at play? The inability of the executive to carry out and enforce these laws is what causes Nigeria’s electoral woes and challenges which called for electoral reforms in the first place. It is like planting a corn and leaving its yield to dry up on its stalk without harvesting it for food. The laws are made but not enforced and this proves that the laws in Nigeria are not so binding except when it is convenient to those in power.

Recently, the media was agog with reports of an electoral reform bill. Some of the things highlighted and changed in the electoral reform bill include use of card reader, raising awareness of the absence of a party logo or omissions of a candidate etc. Hopefully, it will be implemented this time but an average Nigerian knows that it will only be used when convenient.

The electoral problems we face in Nigeria includes but not limited to:

Insecurity: The security challenge faced by electoral officers in the hands of bandits and terrorists alike remains unsolved over the years. Boko Haram sti ravage the north when and how they please thereby making some areas a no-go area to INEC as the lives of electoral officers and election materials are not safe there, hence the people in such areas are disenfranchised as they cannot cast their votes.
Corruption: This is an everyday word in Nigeria now as people placed in charge of funds embezzle this funds meant for purchase of much needed material to aid the quality service delivery of the electoral body in the country. When these funds are embezzled, such needed materials cannot be bought which will create a lax in the area it is needed.
Nonindependent electoral body: The electoral body in Nigeria is said to be independent but from all indications, it is under the influence of big political leaders who call the shots and make decisions. The best way to curb this is to make it a position that is free from the control of the three arms of government and strictly accessible through hard work as a top ranking staff in the electoral body.
Vote buying: it is a normal occurrence to see party agents with wads of naira in bags attempting to buy votes from the electorates and they in their gullible state exchange their right to chose their preferred candidate for a few wads of naira and a bowl of uncooked rice, Thereby mortgaging the future of their children for a paltry sum.
Violence: Gunshots, the smell of death and pile of bodies are one of the bad key features of an average election in Nigeria with thugs attempting to snatch ballot boxes and political party agents attacking each other. The victims claimed by elections in Nigeria are sometimes innocent bystanders waiting to cast their votes and in some cases, electoral officers who were sent to conduct elections in the area.
Tech related problems
Faulty or inconsistent data/result
Playing party politics with the election of the nation.
Tampering with election mechanisms put in place.

Solving these issues will help our electoral process become better if we implement and enforce them as enshrined in the electoral laws guiding our elections, punishing electoral offenders and penalizing politicians who are caught in the web of electoral malpractice.

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