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Why voting system needs restructuring, by observers

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Trained staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are blocked from work as their names are missing in the list at a Regional Area Centre less than three hours before scheduled opening voting time for the presidential and parliamentary elections in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 23, 2019. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

For Funmilola Olorunfemi, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Adekunle Ajasin University (AAU) in Ondo State, the multiplicity of political parties does not portend good for democracy.

To her: “Political parties usually should be ideologically-based, but a situation where you have multifarious political parties shows there is no clear cut ideology, instead party lines are split based on selfish interest.

“In the last general elections, we had about 91 registered political parties, with just about five having the wherewithal to put structures in place and the real competition was just between two for the presidency.”

She said in the places where she observed the elections, only two political parties had party agents in place, making her to wonder what the other political parties were there for, if not for showoff.

Multiplicity of political parties, she added, is also a wasteful venture for INEC, as the costs of providing election material and logistics is high, which translates to a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Olorunfemi stated that it is really ludicrous that Nigeria spends so much money acquiring materials and smart card readers, but little on its processes, especially the collation processes, saying: “The collation process is too cumbersome, slow and outdated and therefore highly inefficient.

“Going forward, I expect INEC to introduce some innovations to make the process less cumbersome.”

She added that election is a big deal everywhere in the world and Nigeria is no exception. While restating that it is possible for all elections to hold in one day, which is less expensive too, but given the number of days it takes/took INEC to collate results in the recent polls, it is probably better for the elections to be held separately and the status quo maintained.

“I do not think INEC has the requisite efficiency needed to conduct all the polls in one day. It will be a logistical nightmare and worse than we had in the just-concluded elections. However, it is something INEC should aspire to, going forward.”

She stated that rigging and other issues could be curbed in future elections if INEC further embraces the use of technology and automation, saying the more humans are involved, the greater the chances of interference in electoral outcome.

Olorunfemi stressed that the quality of leadership at the helm of affairs too has direct impact on the quality of elections held, noting the political class needs to ditch the perception of election as a zero sum game where the winner takes it all.

“In my view, the political class is the enabler of rigging, vote-buying and electoral violence in Nigeria. To curb these, the political class needs to be re-orientated,” she added.

For an electorate in Imo State, Maudline Anozie, it was hell locating the logo of the political party she voted in the last elections. “It took me time to see the logo of the party, which is not fair on us. I am sure a lot of others, especially older people who would have needed an aide voted wrongly because of the rigorous process of looking for party logo.”

“The logos and the slots for thumb print were too close to each other, although it didn’t take me too long to find the logo of the party I voted for, because I am already familiar with it,” said Segun Akintunde

Idris Aina, a public relations expert, said: “I think we should run a two-party system. The number of political parties meant too many logos on the ballot papers and this might have been difficult, especially for the elderly ones, to locate the party they voted.”

Oseyi Okaiwele, a medical doctor, said it is completely unnecessary and wasteful to have over 10 political parties on a ballot paper, as it makes the whole process very cumbersome for voting, sorting, counting and collating at different levels.

But some voters did not experience any hassles locating the parties of their choice.

Mrs. Labake Adegoke, a roadside petty trader, said: “I did not have difficulty with the ballot paper because I already knew the numeration of the party I voted on the ballot paper. So, I just went straight to the number where the party is to cast my vote without looking at the others.”

When asked how she knew the number of the party she vote on the ballot paper before the election, she said the party agents already educated her and a number of others on the issue.

“They had told us where the party we were to vote is on a sample ballot paper and they also taught me how to vote with my thumb, so that it would not be invalid,” she added.

Ojo (surname withheld), a roadside vulcaniser, revealled that a reasonable per cent of the lower class and illiterate Nigerians who came out to vote were given some stipends and education to vote a particular party by party agents prior to the election.

“Most of those illiterate men and women that came out to vote have already been paid to vote a certain party and they have shown them party number and logo to avoid confusion.

“So, these people just went straight to the number, voted and left. They had been well educated on where to cast their votes by party stakeholders even more than the educated citizens.”

Temi Aderibigbe, however, narrated her mother’s challenges with the ballot paper during the election, as they both voted in the same unit.

“My mother is elderly and not educated, but since she insisted she wanted to vote, I ensured we registered at the same polling unit, so that I could help her.

“So, at both elections, she struggled with the ballot paper and each time I attempted to help her, INEC officials stopped me, saying I could not go there with her.

“The ad-hoc officials asked what she wanted, she told them she didn’t understand how to locate the party she wanted to vote because there were too many of them. The corps member then showed her the party on the ballot paper and she voted.

“However, considering her experience at both times, I realised it wasn’t entirely a good idea to have so many parties put together on one paper, as those who are not educated would always struggle with it,” she said.

Aderibigbe added that even as an educated person, it also took her a while to look through the ballot paper before she saw the party of her choice and voted.

“So, perhaps there could be a better and easier way out of the dilemma. Preferably, I suggest that INEC merges these parties or reduce their numbers as much as possible,” she said.

Taju (surname withheld), a laboratory technician, said: “Yes, I did struggle with the ballot paper and you can imagine my embarrassment when I found myself struggling to look through the paper for the party I wanted to vote, because of the many parties on the same paper, whereas most of the illiterate men and women who had voted before me, cast their votes on the ballot effortlessly as though they printed the paper.

“That was when I realised that most of them had been told the exact place to vote, as well as paid to vote the candidate they voted.”

Expert Recommends ‘Real-Time’ E-Voting System
*Ex-Senator Advocates Fewer Political Parties
From Gordi Udeajah, Umuahia
A Professor of Computer Engineering at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike in Abia State, Chukwugoziem Ihekweaba, said over 90 per cent of the problems in the way of smooth conduct of elections and timely release of result of removed if the Independent National; Electoral Commission (INEC) adopts and applies what he called “re-time results display e-voting system.

Speaking with The Guardian in Umuahia, Ihekweaba said the e-voting system, which he invented, has already been successfully tested and applied during the elections of the executives of the National Association of Computer Engineering Students (NACOS) in 2016 and Nigerian Universities Engineering Students Association (NUASA) in 2017.

He explained that his e-voting app, a software application deployed on a network (either Intranet or Internet) to conduct free and fair elections, collects and collates election results in real time, adding that voters would cast their votes from their Android phones from anywhere, even as it disallows double voting, among its other features.

On the large number of registered political parties, a former senator representing Abia Central, Dr. Chris Adighije, called for pruning down of the number to about five, saying: “Nigeria does not have need for over 90 parties, as that would confuse and delay voters in locating their choice parties/candidates to vote for from among a wide and large list.”

He, therefore, urged INEC to adopt more stringent conditions before registering new parties.

To discourage the emergence of new political parties, Mr. Joe Amadi, a political economist, recommended de-registration of political parties that failed to produce elected candidates after each election.

Chairman of the Abia State Chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and a former state lawmaker, Mr. Chidi Nwosu, urged the National Assembly to consider “a comprehensive amendment to the Electoral Act with a view to enshrining measures that would eliminate all cankerous and perennial electoral dysfunctions in Nigeria’s electoral system.”

Elections Can Be Held In One Day, Say Stakeholders
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
For many, the need to manage scarce funds in Nigeria’s electoral process is important, as this would help the country grow economically by holding all the elections in one day through the deployment of human and electronic devices.

To Dr. Jude Ohanele, a rights activist and election observer, conducting all the elections in one day would pay off, adding: “Injecting funds in areas of need is necessary. Nigeria cannot afford to waste resources in organising staggered elections.”

He stated that if well planned, all the elections can take place in one day, including the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State Houses of Assembly.

On the challenges of technology, a political scientist, Okechukwu Jude, faulted the technology used in the last elections, saying the Smart Card Readers supplied for the last elections were inferior.

He also decried the problem posed by the hoodlums who perpetrated electoral violence leading to the burning of the card readers in some INEC offices in volatile and flash point states, such as Imo, Abia and Rivers, noting: “I think the type of technological devices we import into the country should be checked and training should be done very well for those manning them, because there were challenges here and there in operating them.

“I am also of the view that some of the parties should be de-registered. Those small parties that could not make the required impact should be de-registered. There is no point having many parties that cannot have electoral value and spread.”


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