‘Nigeria needs more than independent, equipped INEC to achieve credible elections’
Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts (ASSPT), at the weekend, said outcome of the 2023 general elections had shown that Nigeria needed more than an independent and well-funded electoral umpire to guarantee free, fair and credible polls.
It noted that the nation needs strong democratic institutions to ensure transparent elections and save the country from drifting into autocracy
The Executive Director, Prof. Sam Amadi, who made the submission at the second Memorial Election Management and Governance Series, organised by the school in honour of the late human rights crusader, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, said the just concluded polls have raised concern about the democratic status of Nigeria, adding that the fundamental features of every democracy provide for competitive elections defined by rights of people to vote, fair institutions that provide equality for everybody and right to choose and respect for the will of the people.
He lamented that in some instances during the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to obey own guidelines and political parties and incumbent governors employed security personnel to disrupt the exercise and suppress voters.
The ASSPT ED continued: “The battle is not around making INEC stronger by giving it more budget, but focusing on how do we ensure that the state institutions are neutral? The battle this time is to make sure the police force is neutral and depoliticised. Making sure the courts and military are neutral and depoliticised. Ensuring balance of force that can guarantee fair and credible elections.
“As long as these institutions are not neutral, as long as they are politicised, as long as they are within the control of politicians and incumbents, you can’t have free and fair elections.
Amadi, while expressing concern that Nigerians are fast losing confidence in the electoral process, observed: “Imagine 200 million people, 94 million registered voters, 84 million or so collected their (Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and INEC said only about 23 million voted. The figure for governorship elections might be less than that. Now, with all these outcomes, what do you think the rate of turnout in next election will be? So, we are worried.”
Also speaking, a Professor of Communications at the University of Abuja, Abiodun Adeniyi, noted that the elections showed that the country had a lot of lessons to learn in its democratic journey.
He said Nigerians needed to understand that democracy is a journey, not destination.
“We still have a lot to learn. Considering that we didn’t do well in this last cycle does not mean that we failed, but that our past is marginal.”
“At this level, after 24 years, we need not be talking about marginal past, we need to be excelling, moving above average threshold. That is what we need to do,” Adeniyi added.