The occasion was the Post 2019 Election Review Conference. The idea was to look at how all the stakeholders fair, from the electorate, security apparatchiks and the voters.
However when my friend Femi Falana senior advocate of the masses and rights activist, Baba Falz like I called him when we were chatting earlier changed the direction and said we have no serious business discussing the election. Rather we should be having an accountability summit asking the leaders to deliver on their promissory notes.
So first to the election matter that brought us together, the INEC State Commissioner a guest was of the opinion of unbundling the Commission while patting the Commission on the back, talking about how they gave it their best. Mr. Osaretin of the Commission also drew experiences from the Zambia where teachers and local leaders where given “sensitive materials” weeks before elections to ease logistics, a scenario that’s only likely in this clime when many of us are gobe the way of all mortals.
Prof. Dakas the erudite law lord and the silk Falana wondered about the social and economic cost of our elections. In Ghana and Canada elections were simply civic exercises, no public holidays or shutdowns.
The Ekiti front for example showed that the security operation for the poll, which was supervised by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Operations, Joshiak Habila, had an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, four Commissioners of Police, eight Deputy Commissioners of Police and 18 Assistant Commissioners of Police. The deployment also included 10 Armoured Personnel vehicles, Police Mobile Force Units, Counter-Terrorism Unit, the Special Protection Unit, the Anti-Bomb Squad, conventional policemen, the Armament Unit, Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department and the sniffer dogs’ section.
Other security and safety agencies that are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security in the state also complemented the Nigeria Police during the election in a state, which has a population of just 2.3 million.
Our elections cannot be better than it is when politicians have hijacked the system and people’s power isn’t doing anything to retrieve it. Our elections cannot be any better when politics is business with high returns on investment. We cannot improve on the quality of our elections when the core of governance is neglected.
Persons are killed during elections, no compensation, no justice, the people’s vote not counting thus an increased voters’ apathy, so while we are building on a continuous electoral cycle, the symptomatic issues are eating deep into the entire fabric and may be just blow.
So while the whole Equity International Initiative and her team a civil right non-governmental organization did a fantastic work of her report. One major fact is that narratives pre-elections of security and insecurity, unmet expectations of ‘change’ still remain. Also the ignominy of roles by our security agencies still is an issue, weak compliance if at all any to political financing, campaigns and gender factors were too heavy for INEC to carry.
Key amongst their many recommendations was the power, manner of appointing the INEC Chairman for the sake of the integrity of the process. The president needs to hands off. For INEC key is the need for an automated Voters Registration, Digitization of the Electoral Process, Diaspora votes and Persons with Disabilities.
To ensure internal party disputes are better mitigated all parties should work to strengthen systems of internal democracy, publicly denounce members involved in hate speech or acts of violence.
Without flogging a dead horse, elections are not wars; the Police should be lead security agency, assertive, consistent and civil. Like INEC there is need to start preparation early with clearly defined roles.
There is need for proper validation of candidacy based on expressed electorate support, to avoid waste, and ridiculing of the process.
Apart from the global embarrassment, unconfirmed figures put the postponement of the elections at close to N200bn in costs.
Beyond elections, if our leaders go abroad for medicals the least they owe us is to make sure the ordinary Nigerian gets the best healthcare at home. With a surging population of kids out of school particularly in the North it is funny to see that governors are being begged and romanced into signing the Child Rights Act and yet these are leaders who’s kids are in the best schools everywhere but Nigeria.
In a private conversation Falana sadly concurred with me that by all indices Nigeria was retrogressing. We have lost our good old past and do not have a grip of a better future.
How can INEC be better than a flawed system that throws up its administrators by same politicians? Let me stay clear of the server or no server drama. INEC needs to do a critical self-introspection, dig deep, look at partners report not just the praise-singing notes, the next General Elections have already commenced.
Cometh Kogi and Bayelsa, has anything really changed, with all the anti-people’s policies, in just less than four months all the campaign promissory notes are all but promissory, as the minimum wage is becoming, as the continued gagging of citizens for expressing dissenting views.
It was Nicholas Gordon that wrote and I end…What promises they make and cannot keep! Each year like well-trained dogs they bark and yelp, an annual charade they cannot help, knowing well where they must drive their sheep. Their vetted visions sow what none might reap; their practiced platitudes are off the shelf; their chief constituent remains the self; Still, we vote and then go back to sleep. We do not care how much they lie and steal. So long as streets are clean and taxes low, and we are taken care of, more or less. OK, the self-served suffering may be real. Of those poor souls we do not care to know. But what has that to do with happiness? Nothing will change, at this level, we shall keep watching, wailing, and hailing, for how long…till 2023 or—till time tells
*** Written by Prince Charles Dickson PhD