Since the end of the Cold War, elections have been adopted by almost all nations of the world for their organization and existence. A country’s electoral process provides an important window into its practice of democracy. Sadly, in many nations, elections which are meant to be the best mechanism for the peaceful arbitration of political rivalries have been transformed into a flashpoint for violence, insurrections, and unrest.
Despite Nigeria’s seeming progress in democracy and the rule of law; justice is still a utopia for Africa’s most populous nation. The complexities and technicalities of her court rules have over time deterred the ballot from representing the voice of the people. In the past, Nigerians protested the unfair elections in many ways, sometimes even resorting to violent killings and riots. The need for change was not only about the ruling party or individual but instead how its elected representatives were chosen. At the core of these paradoxes are elections without integrity. All too often, elections serve merely to give autocratic and inept regimes the veneer of legitimacy.
On the 9th of December 2020, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan assured the nation that the NASS will pass the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) by the First Quarter of 2021, we are now in the first month of the second quarter of the year and the Electoral Act Amendment bill is yet to be passed. Last week, the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations on Electoral Reforms threatened mass action against the National Assembly over their perceived poor interest in completing work on an electoral bill that they believe would guarantee a free, fair, and credible electoral system.
A perusal of the provisions of the proposed electoral reform makes us question the intent and seeming indolence/delay in ratification.
In whose interest is the 9th assembly??
The Electoral Act Amendment Bill if passed will address a plethora of issues peculiar to Nigeria’s polity such as the cost of politics, internal party democracy, as it caps the cost of campaign expenses/ nomination fees for aspirants, by an amendment to section 87, the amendment prohibits political parties from imposing additional requirements for the nomination of candidates outside those contained under the 1999 Constitution (age, educational qualification, criminal record, etc).
In addition to these is the use of technological innovations such as the smart card readers that utilize biometrics to authenticate voters which will lay to rest series of court cases on the status of the device vis a vis the manual voters register as well as add credibility to the election process. Other provisions mandate INEC to have a National Register of Voters in an electronic format on the results of every election (State, Local Government, Area Council, Ward, Polling Unit) making it easier to collate and disaggregate data on voting patterns of different categories of electorates (male, female, persons with disabilities e.t.c ) that may prove useful when planning elections.
On the 22nd of April 2021, a week after CSOs threatened to embark on mass action. The Independent Electoral Commission met to deliberate on the reorganization of its department of legal services, clearance and complaints, voter education, and publicity in preparation for the major off-cycle Governorship elections and the 2023 general elections.
It is time for the NASS and Senate President, Ahmed Lawan to compliment the work of the Independent Electoral Commission and fulfill his promise to Nigeria; it is time for SP Lawan to be more than a figurehead and take Nigeria away from her cumbersome electoral system. The Electoral amendment bill promises Nigerians free, fair, and credible elections that are not plagued by irregularities, civil unrest, and crises leading to the death of many Nigerians as we have seen in the past. The indolence of the NASS gives room to a lot of assumptions and conclusions towards the ingenuity of the National Assembly in the implementation of a bill that has nothing but good rewards in strengthening our democracy.
Dinidari Foundation joins its voices with other Civil Society organizations in the demand for the passing on of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, as a nation striving for a strong and formidable democracy there must be coordinated action in the push for the passing of bills into laws and implementation of policies, we cannot continue to lament and wonder why nothing changes as the nation deteriorates right before our eyes, enough of multitudes of words that are not followed up with coordinated action. We demand the passing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that will guarantee free, fair, and credible elections.
Titilope and Deborah are advocates of a better Nigeria at Dinidari Empowerment Foundation