The Electoral Institute says Nigeria needs to improve its electoral service delivery and get the reform process right in order to stabilise its democracy.
The Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh, made the remarks on Thursday during a meeting with stakeholders in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
He said that although series of talks and committees had been formed to establish a panacea to credible elections, the independence of the nation’s electoral body had come into question.
Highlighting the role of the media, Professor Momoh pointed out that the issues of rising poverty, corruption and erosion of public institutions should not easily sway media practitioners.
He said that the media has a huge role to play in solving the many challenges bedevilling the nation’s electoral process.
The guest lecturer, who is a professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan, Adigun Agbaje, posited that the attitude of politicians was largely to blame for Nigeria’s eroding democratic values.
Other experts at the gathering also cited the experience at the Edo State governorship election as one of the ways politicians erode the foundation of democracy.
They maintained that the culture of impunity during elections must be addressed.
The stakeholders said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s renewed focus on reforming the electoral process should be sustained to the letter.
Ashiru wondered what area of the electoral system had not been covered by the Justice Uwais report.
He highlighted some of the recommendations of the Uwais panel, which he believed if implemented, would provide solutions to many challenges faced during elections in Nigeria.
The academic emphasised the need for the Electoral Offences Commission and the exemption of the Independent National Electoral Commission from the internal affairs of political parties, as key recommendations that should be implemented.
A lecturer at the University of Lagos Political Science Department, Dele Ashiru, has berated the Nigerian government for its refusal to implement the recommendations of past committees that have been set up to review the country’s electoral system.
He was a guest of Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, October 4, the day the Federal Government had fixed to inaugurate the electoral reform committee to be headed by former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
Ashiru wondered to what extent the recommendations of past electoral committees have been implemented in Nigeria, particularly the Justice Mohammed Uwais’ panel.
“This is a panel instituted by government to look at grey areas within the electoral process and I dare say that the panel had done a commendable job, at least according to all those who have assessed the report of the Uwais’ panel.
“So, one is surprised that another panel is being instituted when critical recommendations by the Uwais panel are yet to be implemented,” he said.
He described the Nnamani panel as diversionary and unnecessary as he also wondered what area of the electoral system had not been covered by the Justice Uwais report.
Mr Ashiru highlighted some of the recommendations of the Justice Uwais panel which he believed if implemented would provide solutions to many challenges faced during elections in Nigeria.
He mentioned the need for the Electoral Offences Commission and the exemption of INEC from the internal affairs of political parties, as key recommendations that should be implemented.
“What this government should be doing, which I think should represent the ‘change’ upon which they campaigned is to take the bold step in implementing these recommendations,” he maintained.
He also condemned the choice of Senator Ken Nnamani as the head of the committee, saying he is a “known partisan politician”.
“What manner of reform do you expect from a panel composed of purely politicians?” he asked.
A lecturer at the Political Science Department of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, has referred to the prohibition of discussions on the unity of Nigeria at the National Conference as an anomaly.
Speaking on Sunrise Daily on Channels Television on Monday, he explained that the clamour for a National Conference could be traced back to the controversies surrounding the June 12, 1993 election in which sections of the country were dissatisfied due to “feelings of marginalisation, exclusion and non-inclusiveness of all parts of the country in the governance of the country,” with their agitations mainly centred on the unity of Nigeria.
He therefore, wondered why the government would assume that the country was united, as such assumption was unacceptable and would amount to papering over the country’s problems over the years. Dr. Odukoya pointed out that the fear of breakup was unfounded, if the country was not willing to confront it, address it and see how to solve it.
He said: “Government is unnecessarily paranoid. The common Nigerian elite is not willing to break up, as long as the commonwealth of oil and opportunities are evenly shared”.
Dr Odukoya, however, stressed that the government was trying to avoid a discussion that may lead to the breakup of Nigeria, as a way of protecting that unity which had been referred to as non-negotiable.
Odukoya, using the analogy of a half full glass which could also be seen as half empty, claimed that the discussion of how Nigeria may break up could also be more of discussing how Nigeria would continue to live in unity and what the conditions for remaining together were.
“If you say we cannot discuss it, you are saying we cannot confront it. Fundamental issues are not being addressed and as long as we paper over it, we cannot move forward. This is like postponing the evil day,” he stressed.
Odukoya, again, using the analogy of marriage and divorce, explained that divorce is was not what married couples usually want to embrace easily, as seen in many African women who remain in a marriage for the sake of their children, despite its challenges. However, there must be an opportunity for them to make that decision.
Referring to President Jonathan as an accidental convert to the issue of National Conference, Odukoya said that there would have been a better handling of the idea if the President had had a clearer picture of how to hold such conference and how to go about it.
He also condemned the makeup of participants for the conference, frowning at the elitist nature of it. He said that the people should have been allowed to make the decision of who to send as representatives, as ethnic nationalities had not been well established.
He insisted that the problems of Nigeria were not just at the level of professional groups and retired civil servants, but about the ethnic nationalities that relate together on the everyday basis.
He noted that even the professional representation was flawed, wondering why there was no mention of the representation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which is the umbrella body of Nigerian university lecturers.
He also added that the modalities should have been explicit on whether the outcome of the conference would be ratified or not, as his opinion was that the exercise would be an advisory conference.
He submitted that the outcome appears to be one that is supposed to only advise government and if this is an advice, then the government may have the right to still do only what it prefers to do.