Challenges of Nigeria’s 2011 Election
In less than a month, Nigeria will have her fourth democratic election as scheduled: National Assembly Election (2/4/2011), Presidential Election (9/4/2011) and the Governorship/State Assemblies elections (16/4/2011).
The outcome of this election may perhaps determine a way forward between Nigeria, the West Africa and international bodies in the next decade. There are things that those in power are doing or have done that suggest that the intention to have free and fair elections in 2011 is there. But there are also troubling signs that show that while the 'want to' may be present, the 'how to' may not yet have been perfected. Unless the present leaders ‘want to’ and know ‘how to’ and perhaps ‘why to’ have free and fair credible elections, Nigeria may not have the type of election she deserves in 2011. But like I said, there are hopeful signs that there will be a credible election.
STRATEGIES USED SO FAR....
The young man was excited to talk about the election, ‘there will be surprises in regards to this election because of the sincerity and style adopted by the president. The things on ground show that he wants a free and fair election.’ I asked, what are the things on ground that you talk about? ‘the adoption of the electoral act makes it impossible for election rigging. There is no room for aspirants with empty promises to retain on seat and also no room for unnecessary violence because of the electoral act. There are possibilities of credible leadership and this is why I am interested in voting”.
The incumbent president cries for a free and fair election and he has made an effort to keep his word. The Electoral Reform Committee set up by the former president the Late Musa Yar’dua, recommended that the INEC must be completely independent of the President and must have financial autonomy and be headed by a man of known unimpeachable integrity who has no connection to the President or the ruling party. Implementing this recommendation is seen as a way forward for a free and fair and election. This recommendation was adopted by the President and he appointed a known activist, political scientist and university president Professor Attahiru Jega, to be the new INEC chairman.
With the introduction of the 132,000 Direct Data Capture Machines imported, voter’s registration process was made easy and successfully. Despite some of the challenges encountered during the process, a reliable voter’s register was compiled. This is the first time the DDC machines are used in Nigeria for elections to ensure that people do not register multiple times as it is done in the past. About 73.58 million adults who are eligible to vote registered during the registration process that lasted for a month. It has been discovered that 870,612 people are found to have been involved in double registration during the just-concluded voter registration across the country. According to the Chairman of National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, some of those involved in the crime were “high profile Nigerians”. Section 24 of the 2010 Electoral Act makes double registration an offence punishable, on conviction, by one year or a fine of N100, 000 or both.
The commission is adopting the open-secret ballot system in conducting the election. The system was adopted for the 1992/93 elections, adjudged to have been the freest and fairest poll ever conducted in the country, but which the military under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled.
Over 8,000 observers and supervisors have been deployed to polling units spread across the country to monitor the election. I am glad to be part of the team to observe election in Badary Local Government but I am also afraid if there should be any case of violence at the center. We have been informed to be as the center before the polling box arrives. Our paper and pen should be our voice all through the process. Good as it is, the use of mobile phone to send sms or call when there is a problem or an emergency.
Project Swift Count is an initiative embarked upon by civic organizations and religious groups to promote free, fair, peaceful, credible and legitimate election through non-partisan, independent citizen observation. The Swift Count methodology was first developed by citizen observers in the Philippines in 1986. It has been used in numerous countries in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. In Africa, the Swift Count approach was recently employed for the Constitutional Referendum in Kenya in August 2010. It has also been used in Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For Project 2011 Swift Count, the methodology is being adapted to the unique conditions present in Nigeria. This is the first time the methodology will be used in Nigeria.
There was indeed a peaceful primary election which was conducted in January, 2011. It was really the first of its type to be televised and everyone watched the transparency process of the presidential candidate and the Governorship candidates in various states.
ISSUES AROUND THIS ELECTION
If Nigeria were not the largest democracy in Africa and also one of the largest economies, with oil reserves that make it the US’s fifth largest source of imported oil, then all this talk of presidential politics might seem inconsequential. But Nigeria’s size and economic heft make it impossible to ignore.
Is it the candidate or the party? Is it the religion of the tribe? Is it the age or the experience? The candidate is qualified but in a wrong party, the party is good but has the wrong candidate. The lead candidate is a Muslim but the partner is a Christian or vice verse. The candidate lack experience or the candidate is over aged. All these are the issues around this 2011 election.
Nigeria On The Brink-What Happens If The 2011 Elections Fail? An article written by former United States ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. John Campbell. I found this piece as I want searching for information to aid my work. It was an interesting piece full of truth but it actually causing a lot of controversy in Nigeria. I laughed as I read people’s comments on Sahara Reporter on the post; some are very angry with him and called him ‘A Undiplomatic Loud Mouth! But to many Nigerian including myself, he has good knowledge of Nigeria Political history and her leadership arrangement which he called ‘power-sharing arrangement.’ The issue around the 2011 election still remains about who will take over the seat of power. "The end of a power-sharing arrangement between the Muslim north and the Christian south, as now seems likely, could lead to post-election sectarian violence, paralysis of the executive branch, and even a coup," former United States ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell.
Power shifting from the Muslim North to the Christian South has been the bone of contention for the 2011 election in Nigeria. With the constitution of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) which recognizes zoning of leadership given a number of terms, a Northern was to take over from President Musa Yar’dua after his death but the nation's constitution was used against it, which states that the vice president should take over in the absent of the president. The death of Yar’dua brought Goodluck Jonathan to seat as the president. Fate designed that the power shifts from the North to South.
This implication means that the bond of zoning in Nigerian politics especially in the PDP has been broken and history has registered it inevitably. It also means that from now hence forth, leadership of the nation (Nigeria) can come from one state, ethnic group or region for five consecutive times. If so Nigeria will experience hitches in the progress of her democracy.This is because Nigeria as a heterogeneous nation can only tolerate this system of leadership by military regimes, but not a democratic political system.
The problem of a two term system which is a tradition in Nigeria’s leadership is another major challenge of the 2011 presidential seat. Many of the Northerners believes that they have not concluded their time and want to complete their brother’s second term.
Nigerians are also skeptical to vote because it is a tradition that the incumbent leader who is contesting emerges the winner. The citizens concern lies on the political party and the candidate. The ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate has won every presidential election since the end of military rule 12 years ago. The people are skeptical about the party, they believe they have not made any visible change but they are also concerned for the 2011 PDP candidate, who is still the president.
There are 63 political parties registered for the 2011 election, all with different missions and interests. A total of 20 candidates on the platform of various political parties are to contest the presidential election and 26 states of the 36 states of Nigeria will be having a Governorship election. The other states not having elections are as a result of the 2007 election which was considered the most fraudulent election in Nigeria. There are 2410 candidates for the House of Representatives election and 891 candidates for the senatorial election. All are drawn from various registered political parties.
Political difference is a thread to Nigeria’s election said another young man. “Politics in Nigeria is a diversified game, many aspirants take it as total war and so will do anything to win. This is why the electoral vote does not count.” “Did you register for this election?”, I asked, “Will you vote?” He replied that he, “needed the voter’s card, if the atmosphere is good, I will vote, if not I will not”, said Pastor as he is fondly called. “Also instead of electoral education which could have made a lot of differences, we have party education and we are kept in the dark and manipulated by our leaders”.
Ethnic-Religious Tensions pose a big thread to the 2011 election in Nigeria. The Northern Political Leaders Forum (northern power brokers) was formed in August 2010 for the sole purpose of pressuring the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to cede power to the North in fulfillment of the 'zoning' principle within the PDP where political power at the federal level is expected to be rotated between the North and the South and between Muslims and Christians. The news around is that the outcome of the recent meeting of the forum held on the 10th of March is that the forum is still insisting on zoning and will not give support to the candidate of the ruling party (PDP) who is neither a Northerner nor a Muslim.
The recent fight in the judiciary could pose another threat to the success of Nigeria’s election come April. The President of the Court of Appeal made some weighty allegations against the Chief Justice of Nigeria essentially accusing him of involvement in partisan politics on the side of the ruling PDP. His actions were triggered by the attempt by the Chief Justice of Nigeria to elevate him to the Supreme Court an attempt which he resisted. Certainly opposition politicians are taking his allegations seriously even though he has withdrawn them. The effect of the President of the Court of Appeal actions on the integrity of the judiciary cannot now be assessed fully but it is expected that the toll will be huge. For instance court challenges have followed EVERY election held in Nigeria since independence and the judiciary has to be seen as the final hope of victims of stolen elections. If the public has a perception that the judiciary is biased what now becomes of the process when the inevitable happens and disputes are taken to the judiciary? Will the parties to any such suit accept the verdict? We certainly do not want what happened in Côte d'Ivoire to happen in Nigeria.
It is very certain that not everyone who registered for this election will vote on the scheduled date. This is because most people register where they felt was accessible for them and there will be no transportation to move around on the days of elections. Also, some registered to obtain a voter’s card and will not go to the polling station. Others are not sure of their security. This insecurity in parts of Nigeria is a threat to the 2011 elections because in those parts of Nigeria there will predictably be a low voter turnout meaning that the vote in those parts may not be a true reflection of the feelings of the population. Moreover, it is a known fact that low voter turnout is conducive to election rigging.
Violence in the Northern part of Nigeria is another threat to this election and is usually regarded as religious crisis. There has really not been much violence within this period apart from the recent Jos bomb blast that exploded during the presidential campaign of one of the presidential candidates.
To some extent, the campaigns have been violence free especially in Lagos which happens to be the state with the highest rate of election violence and killing. Many Nigerian politicians were killed during the 2007 election but there is no case of such for this present election. The campaigns have been going on with through various medium including the social media platform and the door to door initiative approved by the president. The candidates are indeed saying what they will do for Nigeria if elected. These are some of their words….
‘Together, today, we must build the roadmap to create jobs for our youths, to develop this great nation through education and power sector reform. You must commit to creating sustainable, lasting peace. The only people who can ensure a peaceful nation are YOU - the only person who will promise not to commit violence in Nigeria is YOU’. – PDP CANDIDATE
‘If you elect me, I’ll fix the electricity problem once and for all by taking advantage of the varying expertise, energy resources and needs in different parts of the country. Whenever I say I’ll do something, I do it. Period! – ACN CANDIDATE
‘As I look forward to the road ahead, I am optimistic because I believe Nigeria’s best days are still to come. Our country has a bright future but we must work together to ensure that our shared prosperity creates new and better opportunities for us.’ – CPC CANDIDATE
Nigeria is neither a mosque nor a church of worshippers; it neither belongs to the majorities nor minorities of the country. Nigeria is a big Nation, the giant of Africa and we have come too far to allow discrimination and selfish interests divide the country.
I think that if INEC officials do not compromise and electorates do not allow themselves to be used as thugs for violence but fight to protect their mandates then, there is great chance of a free and fair election in Nigeria. The general opinion is that elected leaders should keep their promises and take the state of the country to another level.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.