This post is about how to stop election rigging in Nigeria. Elections in Nigeria are neither free nor fair’. This statement is often heard whenever issues on policies or elections are mentioned or being discussed.
Suffice to say that politicians, political analysts, and the general public do not have an exact definition for election rigging, instead colloquial definitions have been adopted.
However, the Collins dictionary defined election rigging as the act of dishonestly organizing an election to get a particular desired result through fraud and interference with the election process.
This definition sounds all too familiar with the political scene in present day Nigeria. This unpleasant sound has continuously echoed in the political system for as long as most Nigerians can remember – in fact it is something the average Nigerian has come to expect whenever elections are around the corner.
This menace of election rigging has become a “sure” route to electoral victory in Nigeria, subverting freedom and fairness in the process.
Election rigging involves activities such as ballot box snatching and stuffing, conflict between party agents and electoral staff, illegal printing and usage of voters’ card, falsification of results as well as tampering with the voters register.
It should be borne in mind that the elections conducted in Nigeria right from 1959 down to the 2015 elections have been fraught with various irregularities hence it is not a thing of surprise that this scourge is one of the fundamental problems facing Nigeria today.
The somewhat sophisticated nature of the rigging activities shows that this rigging process, though reaches a crescendo during election period begins long before the elections take place. It also shows that our political class tend to take the issue of elections as a “do or die affair”.
CAUSES OF ELECTION RIGGING IN NIGERIA
Election rigging chews aggressively at the very heart of democracy, standard of living and the level of trust placed on the government by the hoi polloi. It is worthy of note that this political and social vice has causes; chief among them is poverty and corruption.
- Corruption and Poverty: Corruption has been the bane of the country for ages, inhibiting the growth and progress of the nation. The deplorable state and standard of living of the people has served to further increase the level of poverty and corruption. Those in the political class have taken advantage of the desperate Nigerians living in this sorry state by offering them meagre amounts of money or making promises which they have no plans of fulfilling. This seems good and true to the poor masses hence they trade their votes.
- Economic Instability: Another significant cause of election rigging is the level of economic instability in the country. This acts as a huge motivation for people to seek political office in order for them to feather their own nests with a share of our commonwealth. This further drives the “do or die” attitude which makes desperate politicians to resort to rigging.
- Logistics: The problem of logistics has always bedeviled the electoral umpire; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) despite the huge efforts they have put in to overcome it. This logistical problem is further exacerbated by the infrastructural challenges facing the country.
- Staffing: Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) normally engages temporary staff during election periods. Although the engagement of temporary staff makes economic sense as explained by the immediate past INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, the problem with temporary staff is that they are more easily influenced into electoral malpractices and are sometimes not available during the process. This most likely because they have little or nothing to lose.
- Weak Judiciary System: The performance of the judiciary has so far been under par with respect to cases of electoral fraud which are sometimes swept under the carpet or controversially decided. This is quite disappointing because this institution is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring justice, equity and fairness even to the poorest of the poor and it is most disheartening that on issues concerning election and electoral irregularity, it seems to have been folding its arms either due to the dependence on the executive, an overload of petitions or inadequate training of judicial officers. These factors play roles in hampering the efficiency of the judiciary.
- Indiscipline and Decadence amongst Security Operatives: There have been some instances of acts of indiscipline and decadence amongst our security operatives during elections. There has also been reports of security operatives assigned on election duty who have been used by politicians to perpetuate electoral fraud.
Other causes of electoral rigging include loss of democratic values, indiscipline among political parties and little or no punishment for offenders.
EFFECTS OF ELECTION RIGGING
The consequences of election rigging on the very fabric of Nigeria cannot be over emphasized as it affects every facet of the national life.
- Political Apathy: Election rigging leads to political apathy amongst voters because they have had their voting rights systematically taken from them. This no doubt leads to the loss of trust and assurance which they have placed on the system to produce a credible leader.
- Political Instability: In situations where people feel undermined, underrated, unneeded, not worthy of being able to make decisions as regards who should govern them, this would surely lead to unrest, violence and tension within the polity. Desperate politicians would take advantage of this instability to perpetuate a vicious cycle of violence in the nation. A continuous state of instability will in turn lead to underdevelopment, as no meaningful development can take place in a state of instability.
- Waste of Tax Payers Money: In cases where elections are cancelled due to rigging, tax payers’ money which is meant for development is further spent on conducting re run elections.
HOW TO STOP ELECTION RIGGING IN NIGERIA
The solution listed below are by no means all-encompassing but they will go a long way in reducing election rigging in Nigeria.
- Political Training: In as much as we might be quick to waive this point aside, it is often said that “you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand”, relatively, we cannot put security operatives, electoral staff and politicians through the electoral process without first teaching them the “etiquette of political composure” and expect to get a credible, reliable and fraud free process. It would be very beneficial for the entire process if the key actors are oriented on the dos and don’ts.
- Implementation of Strict Penalties: Those caught perpetuating electoral fraud must be given strict punishment that is commensurate with the offence committed to serve as deterrent to would be offenders. The judiciary would need to wake up to this responsibility.
- Electoral Reform: The various arms of government has to show the political will to reform the existing electoral system such that all the existing loopholes can be blocked.
- Improving Transparency: Voting will surely be smoother and attempts to rig will become more glaring if all actors are aware that the process is completely transparent. Any attempt to rig will quickly be identified and nipped in the bud.
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