Stealing Aso Rock, BY Adekoya Boladele
With the recent declaration of President Jonathan to run for a second term, the political atmosphere of Nigeria is now fully charged. While the major opposition party continues the foot dragging on who to present against the president come 2015, it is important to say that the 2015 race maybe the fiercest political battle in the history of Nigeria.
Everyone has something to lose. Mr. Jonathan is determined not to go down in history as the first democratic president of Nigeria to lose reelection in office. The All Progressive Congress (APC) on the other hand has given everything to stage a formidable opposition against the president albeit a conglomeration of various individuals with heterogenous ideology.
In light of the current political propaganda playing out and the race to swing public opinion against each other coupled with the surreptitious planting of the seed of hatred and deceit positioned to activate the divide and rule mechanism, there is only one word for this psycho-social wafare; desperation!
As it appears, every one of the contenders will do anything to emerge victorious in the election. While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) until recently have been accused of rigging its way into power with serial allegations (some of which were upturned in the court of law) of electoral fraud leaves so many questions unanswered. The All Progressive Congress (APC) on the other hand isn’t a saint in this field either. The miraculous victories recorded in Lagos during the council election and the magical change in numbers in Ogun State council poll, with same gesture in Kano among others are pointers to the might of the rigging machinery of the opposition.
The 2011 election has been adjudged one of the freest election in Nigeria. However it is far from Uhuru. Democracy can only be said to have been fully practiced when the legal provisions for a free and fair election has been met.
The recently concluded election in Ekiti and Osun state shows clearly that power in Nigeria isn’t about the decision of the electorate but one either stolen or bought. Observers of both elections can testify to the open inducement of voters with money. In fact the case in Osun State was more pathetic as the bid on votes was already public knowledge a night before the election. While the PDP were offering between 5000-7000 naira, APC on the other hand was paying 8000-10000 naira for a single vote! It is more alarming that these unholy transactions took place right under the watchful eyes of the security forces.
But while financial inducement is the bane of free and fair election in the South of Nigeria, Northern Nigeria too isn’t free electoral malpractise. The major bane of the electoral system in the north is gross under age voting. As an electoral officer in Sokoto in the 2011 elections, lots of my colleagues and I had to register kids for election even when we were quite sure they weren’t up to eighteen. The truth is there is no mechanism in place to determine the actual age of voters and it becomes more cumbersome when they come with their parent who insist they are above eighteen and are merrily been cheated by nature and when some of us resist such actions we get orders from a superior officer to register them as such.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the other hand isn’t entirely independent. The mode of appointing officials of the electoral commission in Nigeria negates the principle of nemo iudex in causa sua. It is morally inappropriate for an aspirant to appoint the umpire of his/her own game. Such process already beats fairness and transparency.
The term ‘rigging’ doesn’t mean fixing election results via ballot box snatching alone; it connotes the assassination of the core principle of fairness and uninfluenced freedom during election. Indeed it may be impossible to record 100% fairness in election but such errors must be minimal.
Electorates on the other hand must make up their mind on what they really desire. Making a choice between getting some thousands and voting ones will may be difficult under the present socio-economic hardship, however if we choose to take this path then we must learn to keep quiet and allow such politician make profit from the investment he/she has made. As the saying goes, you can’t eat your cake and have it.
To ensure a fairer election in 2015 the electoral commission must ensure only those eligible are registered to vote. Core attention must be given to the North and a policy of ‘certified proof of age’ should be adopted as against the usual verbal confirmation
Until elections are held without glaring vices such as the ones highlighted, then our elective positions including that of the president will remain nothing other than a commodity waiting to be stolen.
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