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2023: Imminent burst of election burbles

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Blow-blow burst, penny go. Another day, come and buy. Tell your teacher you are a fool. If you take am buy ball, e go belleful you… hahahahhaha.’ So, we sang as little children when our fellow children became victims of a burst balloon; in most cases after being advised of inserting too much air and over stretching the balloons. Then, elderly and other younger keen observers would warn us to be careful with the level of air and the force being used on the balloons but we the children usually threw caution to the wind after being possessed with the strange feeling of ‘nothing day happen.’And after few moments, ‘something go happen.’ The balloon explodes, boom! Many critical actors in the Nigerian electoral circle (INEC, politicians, the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and the others) have been taken over by this strange feeling with the manner with which elections are conducted in the nation. Again, I see keen observers both young and old; Nigerians and non-Nigerians warning them, but caution is being thrown to the wind.

With the declaration of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on the 22nd of March, 2019 that the PDP’s Candidate, Senator Adeleke be given a certificate of return as the Governor elect of the state as against the earlier pronouncement by INEC after a controversial re-run election declaring Mr. Oyetola as the winner, one does not need to be told that indeed we need electoral reforms in this country though the strength of this still needs to be tested at the higher courts. As at the moment, it seems INEC has lost its hold on politicians and their political antics. INEC has lost its hold on being in charge and being in control of security forces during elections. There seems to be a high level of confusion as regards what amounts to an inconclusive election looking at the volte-face INEC has shown in some states in the 2019 elections after declaring them inconclusive. The conventional courts are now entertaining suits which ordinarily would have been left for the election petition tribunals. At the moment, it looks so murky that our elections in 2019 have taken a nose dive from a growing democracy to one that is being born.

The list of the indicators that an electoral reform is inevitable at this point in time is endless. Do we need to take a look at the large gamut of paper work put into this election? Can you imagine the number of trees and other natural resources and the effects it has on nature to produce the long and endless Presidential ballot papers, result sheet, and all the other EC forms? Then, you do a sum of what it takes to produce same for the governorship elections in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja. Then, you think of the finance and its effects on the nation every four years. Can you imagine the risk and the inhuman treatment we expose our young graduates to in the course of this election? By the way, only few talk about the level of violence which the other category of INEC ad-hoc staff experienced. Few of my friends told me agonizing stories of political thugs loyal to politicians physically assaulting them and in extreme cases threatening to kidnap and kill them if the results do not go in their favour.

Before every election, it is usually the boom time for lawyers as several cases would be in court before the elections and many others would go into the election petition tribunals. It is good for the economy of lawyers. At least, they make good money out of these politicians in diverse ways. A case goes from the lower courts and gets to the Supreme Court.Sometimes, not even the main case but issues like jurisdiction of the court to hear moves from the lower to the apex court before coming back to the substantial issues. This is not good for the polity, the unity of the nation and the growth of democracy. The level of heat is very combustible. I thought the bubble would have burst by now after a larger part of the 2019 elections were concluded in a rancorous manner. With many states’ and constituencies’ elections being declared inconclusive and a re-run subsequently declared, the burble would still burst and if it does not burst now, 2023 would certainly be it if nothing is done to curtail it.

Now, the burble blowers and other active participants are throwing caution to the wind just as many of us did when we bought and blew balloons as younger persons. Then, keen observers and more experienced individuals would warn us as little children to be careful in the way we increased the size of the balloons with air but we would not listen as usual. INEC and the Nigerian politicians are over stretching this emerging democracy without paying much attention to improving the electoral system through positive reforms. The current system is certainly not sustainable for a four years election circle. The burble would soon burst.

There is an urgent need for electoral reforms in the nation. Can we consider going full scale electronic voting? What are the major problems hindering this? What laws do we need to change to enable this? Many persons have expressed fears of how the uneducated in the villages would cope with the electronic voting pattern but one is quick to add that we have about four years to get that sought out only if we start now.
•Idegbekwe, teaches at Department of English, University of Africa, Toru-Orua, Bayelsa State.


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