Creating a sustainable and accountable democratic system in Nigeria 3
The manipulation of the electoral system in Nigeria is made possible by the willingness of our population to trade, or give up control, of their vote. That problem starts with one of two things. Either a lack of understanding of their rights and the value of their vote, or their vulnerability to threats and coercion by malevolent political forces.
This problem starts with the patriarchal structures within our society. Rigging in Nigeria is a function of our people’s willingness to follow the lead of their leaders, rather than make decisions based on their own independent thought processes. Furthermore there is the basic belief that one’s vote does not matter anyway. The PVC’s of entire communities are held by individuals, those PVC’s are released for elections, along with a payment, which is made upon verification of voting for a particular candidate. Thereafter and the PVC is then returned for use next time. The consequences of operating outside this system are then equally clear. Violence and even death. We equally have the consequences of operating inside this system.
There are only two ways to counter this sort of system. The first is a huge socialization project. We have to educate our people to understand their rights and what they are allowed to do. The second is to have a much better monitoring mechanism in place. I don’t mean the military (that is another issue we will address later). I mean a system that gives us more ability to track the integrity of the PVC, and ultimately, I don’t believe there is a reason why the PVC is necessary. Why can’t biometrics not be directly imputed into the system? Does the card itself offer any additional security or value?
We have a very good, informal information distribution system in Nigeria. Our social networks are very strong. The number of interactions an individual has across multiple different levels in a day is high, and when we add the number of different media channels they are viewing, it is only increased. Mass socialization is easily achievable, with a positive message and a positive outcome. We once again need the will to make it happen. These structures also enable the second solution, which is enforcement. An informed and educated community reports breaches accountability of authority to the relevant authority, which, if it then acts to solve the problem, further builds faith in the integrity and viability of the system.
The British used radio dramas very effectively to communicate the transition to independence rule in the early 1960’s, and how the post-independence democratic system would work. Everyone knew about it. Everyone listened. People of my age, if you mention Bakwo daya (lost your deposit), then people know what you are talking about. There was a song about it. You have to make the process culturally relevant. It should be comical, not serious. It must be something that sticks in the mind, and creates a happy memory, such as Cartoons, theatre, films and Shows. The mechanisms for budget enlightenment about democracy, or anything else, are ages old and well known and understood. All it takes is the intention and the will.
Of course, underlying all of this is the quality of our general education system, which is underfunded, under-resourced and ineffective. It is producing generation after generation of under-qualified and under-equipped graduates, which further undermines both our political and economic systems. A government that is serious about mass education is one that has the potential to transform our society. A government that is not acknowledging that maintaining the status quo serves their own narrow political interests.
We must reemphasize the value of the vote. For many centuries only those with property had the vote which was seen as an important value to be used by them to choose men to be entrusted with power, the voter must have economic responsibility to qualify – property, chattels including wives, or business. It was believed that a man who has no property was not worthy of the vote. A voter was a man of some standing. Women who were regarded as property did not get the vote until 1938 when the women suffragette campaign succeeded.
Nigeria needs to adopt some campaign funds and party funds regulation. Campaign funds and other sources of funds are regulated in the UK and US in Indonesia and India. Nigeria should do the same.We must educate ourselves anew about the value. If properly understood, then it would not be so easy to sell the votes or be intimidated by thugs employed by political elites. Moreover the electorate must be able to hold power in Government to account. This is best done through a strong political system which responds to its members.
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