Dec 14

ELECTORAL MALPRACTICES IN NIGERIA, CAUSES, EFFECTS AND SOLUTION

BY BARRISTER OLALEYE OLASUNKANMI,
CHAIRMAN, OYO STATE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSSION

BEING PAPER PRESENTED AT THE SENSITIZATION AND TRAINING COURSE FOR MAN O’ WAR NIGERIA
OYO STATE COMMAND ON FRIDAY, 11TH JUNE, 2010.


INTRODUCTION:
In any objective political arrangement all over the world, election through the ballot is recognized as the only credible barometer to determine power equation. However, one of the challenges facing Nigeria today is how to choose leaders at different levels of Government through a free and fair election. The hottest topic of discussion in Nigeria today is Electoral Reform and this is as a result of 2007 Federal Election which was adjudged by both Local and international observers as below, even Nigeria Standard!
Today’s topic of lecture, Electoral Malpractices in Nigerian, Causes, Effect and Solution is therefore timely and apt for our present situation. The evil of electoral malpractices and urgency of Electoral Reforms in Nigeria can best be captured from the statement of the late President Umaru Yar Adua while receiving the report of the Electoral Reform Committee. He said and I quote … ... our focus on the electoral reform is predicated on the belief that elections are the very heart of democracy hence they must not only be fair but they must be seen to be so by our people and the rest of the world ……… it is our abiding belief that failure in instituting an acceptable process by which the representative of the people are chosen will definitely resort in failure in the long run – this administration has considered it a sacred mandate to institute deep and elaborate reforms that will lead to the restoration of the integrity of the electoral system in this country ……’
Not only did the late President set up the Electoral Reform Committee to overhaul the electoral process, in many of his public outings, including the newly sworn-in President Goodluck Jonathan, repeated the need for action to be taken and with a certain urgency.
So, what are the problems of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria?
(a.) Absence of Genuine and Electronically Generated Voters Register:
The biggest problem confronting this nation today is absence of correct and genuine Data. We can not give accurate and correct population figure, we don’t have correct number of female and male population, we don’t know the numbers of the unemployed, people above 60 years of age and most importantly and for the purpose of this lecture, we don’t know the correct number of people of voting age! How then can we have free and fair election when we don’t have correct number of potential voters? We must have correct voters’ register to eliminate electoral malpractices.
(b.) Economic Development and Corruption:
The dire economic condition of the majority of Nigerians makes social vices like corruption to thrive and make the electorate susceptible to
‘money-bag’ politicians. The lack of economic stability in the Country is a strong motivator for corrupt individuals who are willing to subvert the electoral process by making elections a ‘do or die’ affair to ensure they get into public office with unfettered access to public funds and also in good position to influence thence those who are economically impoverished to trade their votes for as little as a ‘congo’ of rice or the sum of N200.00 only. Poverty has therefore become a strong factor against chosen credible leaders as well as having a free and fair election.
(c.) ELECTION MANAGEMENT AND LOGISTIC PROBLEMS:
One of the greatest challenges to election management in this country is the employment and the attitude of Ad-hoc Staff to elections. There are about 120,000 polling units that require at least 3 Ad-hoc staff during each election. This is outside 774 Electoral Officers in all the Local Governments in Nigeria, administrative staff in all the 36 States and the headquarters. The Ad-hoc staffs are not permanent staff of Electoral Commission, but could be Civil Servants, Teachers, or Youth Corp Members. Because they are not permanent staff, they are easily influenced into electoral malpractices and in most cases not even available during proceeding at election tribunals. Similar to this problem is the logistics of managing election in more than 120,000 units in a single day. This is an enormous responsibility, because it overstretched the manpower, material resources and the security forces. In addition, there is the need for knowledgeable, skilled and competent people to work at the Electoral Commissions.
(d.) JUDICIARY AND SECURITY:
The functioning of the judiciary is imperative in any political system. The Judiciary is one of the most important institutions of Government and the state of the judiciary has serious implications for the electoral system. The Nigerian judiciary is weakened by corruption, poor funding, inadequate facilities, large number of petitions and poor training of judicial staff, to name a few. These can only impact negatively on the adjudication of election issues and petitions. It is therefore not surprising, though unacceptable that elections petitions drag on for 3 years before they are finally disposed of. Another cause of electoral malpractices is the corruption within the security forces. In most cases the security agent that suppose to protect the polling units and the ballot boxes is obviously biased in favour of a candidate, political party or ruling party and therefore turn the other way when electoral malpractices is being committed.
In addition, the Police Force, the Civil Defence and even the Man O’ War were established on the basis that crime will be limited, but when crime exceeded the strength of the security forces, what can they do? (e.) INADEQUACIES AND RESTRICTIONS OF ELECTORAL LAWS:
Sophisticated laws and sophisticated system are futile electoral reform initiatives in the absence of the will to enforce the law. I am not one of those people who believed we don’t have enough laws far from it. However, there are some of our laws that needed to be repealed, amended or reformed. The following examples will suffice:
(i.) Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution established some
executive bodies. In section 153(f), we have INEC
Section 156 provides that NO person shall be qualified
for appointment as a member of any of the bodies aforesaid
if (a) He is not qualified or if he is disqualified for
election as a member of the House of Representatives.
Section 65(2)(b) of the Constitution provides that a
person shall be qualified for election to the National
Assembly if he is a member of a Political Party and is
sponsored by that Party!
(ii.) Similarly, Section 197(l) provides that there shall be
established for each State of the Federation State Independent Electoral Commission 197(l)(b). Section 200 of the 1999 Constitution provides that, no person shall be qualified for appointment as a member if (a) he is not qualified or if he is disqualified for election as a member of a House of Assembly.
Now section 106(d) provides that a person shall be qualified for
election as a member of the House of Assembly if (d) he is a member of Political Party and is sponsored by that party!
The Constitutional provisions that make it compulsory for members of Electoral Commission to belong to a political party is wrong and immoral. This should be amended.
(iii) In advanced and large Democracies like India and United States of America, Electronic Voting System have been used to achieve free and fair elections and combat logistic problems, that usually confront countries with huge size and population like Nigeria. Therefore, and without overlooking the challenges posed by the Evidence Act, the provision of Section 53(2) of the Electoral Act which says: The use of Electronic Voting Machine for the time being is prohibited, is legislative over- kill and should therefore be repealed. I shall address
further, the issue of Electronic Voting System when I discuss Solutions to Electoral Malpractices in Nigeria.
(f.) POLITICAL PARTIES AND INTERNAL DEMOCRACY:
The fundamental Rights Provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria which provides for freedom of Association has now been extended to mean equally, the right of the people to associate, to form political parties to compete for elective post. The result is that we now have 57 political parties and from the latest information I gathered, these many get up to 60 before the next election. The question then is how do you manage 60 political parties and their candidates in an election, what form or size will your ballot papers take, how do we curtail acrimonies and competition? The challenges are enormous. Closely related to this, is lack of internal democracy within the political parties. Without internal democracy in the political parties there can be no democracy in the nation. So far experience has shown that the processes by which candidates emerge from their political parties is open to manipulation. In many cases, candidates are handpicked by their party leaders. Where primaries are conducted and candidates emerge who do not enjoy the support of the party hierarchy they are substituted without regard to due process. If members of a political party are so ruthless in their dealings with one another, one can hardly imagine how much more ruthless they will be in their dealings with members of other political parties.
(g.) ABSENCE OF DEMOCRATIC CULTURE:
In addressing this sub-head, I will quote verbatim, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, in one of his lectures on electoral reforms. Hear him “among the factors militating against true democracy is the entrenchment over the years of a culture of dictatorship following the advent of the Military in 1966 ……… With this of kind of background is it any surprise that we see nothing wrong with employing the most inferior methods to acquire power. The ruthless and relentless rigging of elections is a substitute for the brutal assassination of those from whom we desire to seize power ……….. For over thirty years we were under a dictatorship. Gradually, dictatorship became a part of the spirit and consciousness of the nation. It resided not only in the military head of State but also in the Ministers and Public Servants. It resided in cooks and stewards. It permeated every department of our national life. That spirit is at the root of the problems now bedeviling our electoral system. We are still dictators in spirit” Today we want to dictate the political party that should contest, the candidates to compete and the results that should come out of an election. Haba!


THE EFFECT
The effects of all these malpractices are:
(a.) Political instability (operation wetie of 1966, the 12 2/3 problem
of 1979 and the 1983 Military Coup, annulment of June 12, 1993 election, the matter of ‘life and death’ election of 2007, political assassinations etc.
(b.) Corruption allows emergence of sham and incompetent leaders
(c.) Election rigging through violence, money laundering and ballot box stuffing become the order of the day.
(d.) Absence of foreign investors – no investor will bring his investment into an unstable environment.
(e.) The over-all effect is economic instability, unemployment, poverty, crime (stealing and armed robbery), poor health and high mortality.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS TO OUR ELECTORAL PROBLEMS
(1) The first solution to our electoral problems is for us to ensure that every vote count. The vote must be the determining factor to elect leaders and representatives. It is the means of establishing social contract between the leaders and the voters. A leader who manipulated his way into office has already dribbled his way out of social contract with the electorate and therefore not duty bond to be responsible to them when he sit in his stolen position! This is the foundation of our political instability and the economic quagmire we perennially find ourselves. Therefore, we must take note of
the followings:
(a.) ensuring the integrity of the voter register. Until we get correct number of voters, politicians will continue to inflate election figures through fictitious names they inject into voters register. (We should therefore consider Electronic Voters’ Register. This technology embodied several devices which enables the electoral Commission to eliminate multiple registrations and improve the method of collecting voters’ biometric data. The Automated Finger Identification System (AFIS) eliminated all persons who registered more than once and legally excluded them from the voters’ register.
(b.) Closely related and associated with the above, is introduction of Electronic Voting System (EVS) with its four components:
(i.) Electronic Voters’ Register (EVR)
(ii.) Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)
(iii) Electronic Voters’ Authentication (EVA) and
(iv.) Electronic Transmission of Result (ETR).
It is the best and easiest method of voting in large Country and huge population.
(2.) Building Adequate Capacity for Election Management: The credibility and integrity of any election depends on a combination of factors i.e. the logistics (men and materials), the guiding principle (law) and the method of voting. We can have free and fair elections only if we build adequate capacity for election management including the complex logistics required for organizing elections in a large country like Nigeria. Therefore staff of Electoral Commission must be well trained, and continuously trained, materials for election must be adequate and distributed on time (Enugu experience).
(3) Staggering of Election: The attempt at conducting several elections throughout the nation in one day also leads to problems. It overstretches the men and materials, and overwhelms the security agencies. There is no reason
why, the governorship elections cannot be conducted on different dates in different States. Our recent successes with the Anambra State Gubernatorial elections is due to the fact that it was the only election been conducted in the country on that day. The presidential election can be conducted in Zones.
(4.) Implementing voter and civic education intensively and on a large-scale to empower citizens to exercise their franchise.
(5.) Encouraging and developing a virile civil society in its role and status as a watchdog impacts positively in a political system.
(6.) Empowering the security agencies to curtail the threat and the actual incidence of violence in and around the electoral process.
(7.) Improving the transparency of the vote counting process and the transmission and tabulation of result, starting at the polling station. Finally,
(8.) Enabling a process of election Observation that helps to build confidence in the electoral process.
CONCLUSION:
Before I round up this lecture, I want to call the attention of all Stakeholders in election administration and the Government of Nigeria to the fact that in a country of 120 million population, 70 million voters and 120,000 polling units and in about nine (9) months to the general elections, there is no certainty as to the laws that will be used for the exercise.
It is critically necessary to conclude all legislative processes in time to enable stakeholders appreciate the operating laws for the exercise. If the laws are not ready on time, and the time for election preparation becomes short, what then can the Electoral Commission do? I wonder, I just wonder!

oysiec