Lessons from the 2019 Presidential Poll
Nigeria’s presidential election has come and gone. Expectedly, a winner and losers emerged. However, the ultimate winners are all Nigerians and the nation’s democracy notwithstanding the political party that won. Political parties will someday pass away but Nigeria’s flag remains flying. In fact, everyone that participated in the exercise deserves encomium irrespective of outcomes. Hence, unsuccessful participators should civilly sheathe their swords, cheer their successful contenders and look forward to the future while winners show magnanimity in their victory. Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari on sportsmanship enjoined his supporters not to mock the losers, along with assurances that the new administration will strive to strengthen unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel isolated.
As the stage is set for Buhari’s ‘Next level’ packages having been reelected by the poll, let hostilities that largely manifested in the first term be eschewed. Numerous innocent lives were lost over unrestrained behaviours and rabble-rousing. Political killing in whatever guises which culminated to sending countless people to early graves is nauseatingly condemnable. Thus, politicians should opt for decorum in the interest of the nation. Let the political party that received the people’s mandate be allowed to run its government for the betterment of the citizenry. In any democracy, the majority will always have the way while the minority; their say.
Essentially, let oppositions, this time be characterized by maturity and constructivism instead of pull-down syndromes. The Democrats and Republicans in the United States are good examples. Remarkably, Hilary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump amidst alleged irregularities, yet faces her private life; allowing Americans to freely and fairly assess the Republican’s administration. That’s patriotism personified.
Furthermore, by the numerous challenges that confronted INEC particularly logistic problems that led to the postponement of the poll few hours to the schedule alongside infernos at some of its offices and other administrative issues, it is pertinent that the commission should prudently ponder on the advanced technology like other countries towards getting rid of such issues permanently.
Amazingly, in the recent presidential election in Senegal; a country with just 6.6 million registered voters, Senegalese citizens including those in Diaspora voted from 49 countries by digital system. Meanwhile, Nigeria with over 84 million registered voters operates manual voting system. Obviously, migrating to full digital electoral system will defeat logistic and security issues alongside high financial burdens. INEC should work towards moving away from paper-and-ink elections to electronic system. For instance, banking industry has credibly set the pace that a customer in one branch enabled with Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards can successfully do transactions in any other states and beyond without hitches, even via mobile devices.
In similar vein, Card-readers and Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC) could be upgraded, configured to work akin to ATM cards which will enable registered voters to simply go to any polling units with digitalized PVC; slot in, scroll the political parties and exercise the franchise. With such mechanism, the issue of exclusions or conceiving that a particular group may vote in a certain direction will be overtaken by technology as electorates can use any preferred polling unit. It simply implies that one can search for his State, LGA and Ward from any provided electronic device irrespective of locations and vote freely since the system can locate the voters’ details from any point. Besides, the system will automatically transmit accreditation and voting records to the umpire’s central database against manipulations. However, such devices must be coded to operate quadrennially; ensuring that any office is voted only once in four years to circumvent ‘smart’ politicians participating in various states due to present distinct calendars resulting from judicial interventions in some states like Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo.
Rationally, the budget on printing materials that always end up as wastes after election dates is excruciatingly painful when digital equipment can be permanently acquired to efficiently handle the task with a little budget and above all, eradicate abnormalities, violence and casualties. The bitter truth is; ballot box snatching may never cease especially for presidential election that holds concurrently in 119,973 polling units spread across thirty-six states of the federation alongside federal capital territory as it is easier said than done, to effectively police all the units with nation’s inadequate personnel. For those governorship elections that hold separately, adequate policing may be realistic. Essentially, migrating to digital system will help in protecting the umpire’s workforces and Ad-Hoc staff that always fall preys at all hoodlums’ ambushes. Ditto on security personnel.
Furthermore, the alarming number of mushroom political parties for presidential election that usually withdraw after wasting tax-payers money in printing lengthy ballot papers demands the umpire to necessarily review the requirements. Possibly, a precondition of political parties having at least a seat in the National Assembly or a state government may suffice for presidency whilst governorship; a LGA or a seat in the House of Assembly. Such review will bring decency against the ridiculous gimmicks of presenting candidate for a high position without capability to even win councillorship position in the ward. Government cannot justifiably continue to waste public funds on printing election materials for political parties and their candidates only for them to abscond after emerging candidates under the cloak of stepping down or adopting another party’s candidate. What a waste when pupils in public schools are in dire shortage of printed materials.
Finally, the election affirmed that a rotational presidency innately promotes competence and objectivity whereby the entire populace restricts to elect a president from a particular region at a time. Zoning presidency across regions will produce the best choice unlike the usual pattern most people vote on tribal or religious angles. For example, the recent two major contenders’ same ethnic and religious background gave the campaigns a paradigm shift to scorecards with concentrations on their individual ideologies instead of ethnicity that more often than not determine poll outcomes, thus, largely a desideratum.
•Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United-Kingdom).
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