The history of elections in Nigeria has been fraught with unpleasant activities, thuggery, violence, ballot box snatching, tempering with election results, and corrupt electoral officials conspiring with politicians to intimidate opponents.
The question now is how the 2011 poll will be different. The signs out there are ominous, things might even be worse this time, if we don’t get our acts right. As it is, we are already running behind schedule, all the political gladiators are getting set for the up coming battle. Things must be done differently this time. The electoral law containing the rules and procedures guarding the election must be fixed properly. We have already started badly by discarding a well thought out reform package by some prominent Nigerians led by the former Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais.
The reform package includes, independent candidacy, removal of the right of the president to appoint the chief electoral umpire, open ballot system, direct allocation of funds to the electoral body. These proposals if accepted would have helped to enthrone more transparency on the electoral process. It would have been better if we had accepted the reform package wholesale.
It would also help if we can find a way to make electives offices less attractive, making some of them like the law making part, part time and cutting down on most of the perks attached to elective offices. This will free a lot of funds for development purposes. The punitive measures in place presently to check electoral offenders in the country, is not a sufficient deterrent. We must have the will power to punish offenders severely.
Independence of the electoral body must be seen to be total; it must be devoid of all executive interference. All their staffs, federal, state and local should be selected by a judicial body set up by the Supreme Court. The voters register must be reviewed from time to time to ensure that no eligible voter is disenfranchised. The people have a greater part to play to ensure free and fair election. The people must protect and use their votes well, we must guide against mortgaging our future for filthy lucre. We know these politicians, the honest politicians are also known to us. Please don’t vote into office people with questionable character and disposition. We must stay away from the immoral people. With our vote, we have the power, let us use it well.
We might not get another chance if we flop this one. All the changes must be enshrined permanently in the constitution. No more do or die in our elections, let the people’s vote count.