2019 elections: Democracy on sale in Nigeria — Observers
NEWS DIGEST–A group of foreign and local observers during the just-concluded 2019 general elections on Thursday came hard on the rampant cases of vote-buying and inducement of voters.
They said that apart from bringing Nigeria back to 2007 and beyond, “the democratic space is definitely on sale.”
While demanding a complete audit of the 2019 general elections, the observers, under the aegis of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Transition Monitoring Group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda and Election Observation Platforms unanimously presented a report that vote-buying would continue to hurt democracy in Nigeria if not curbed.
Speaking during a post – 2019 election briefing in Abuja, the Executive Director of WARDC and Chairperson of TMG, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said voters were being disempowered to give their votes in exchange for money and other material needs.
She said, “From our assessment, the general electioneering process for 2019 is a big retrogression from where we are coming from. It has brought us back not only to 2007, but to past elections where Nigeria had no laws or institutions. But we are supposed to have got over that; so it is so much of a concern. At a point, the Independent National Electoral Commission became helpless and it couldn’t also respond or understand how it got to some instances.
“We got to a situation in the last election where electoral officers were being shot, hijacked and held hostage. I don’t think in our electoral history, we have got to that level where electoral officers cannot declare results without interference by either political thugs, security officers or any other people who feel that they can influence elections.
“How come nobody is talking about these happenings? The professors who were the Returning Officers are not coming out boldly to talk about it, so we need a public hearing; people must be able to talk about what happened in this election for us to be able to avoid a repeat of such. We have people who won elections with votes that are less that 25 per cent of the total registered voters. This is not the kind of democracy we want to see.”
The WARDC boss further warned that vote-buying and vote inducement as witnessed in the past elections would continue to hurt the nation’s democracy and the citizenry if not curbed.
According to her, a system that cannot deliver its citizens without indulging in political corruption and inducements would not take its citizens out of poverty or bad governance.
Akiyode-Afolabi said, “It is obvious that vote-buying and other forms of voters’ inducements are gradually becoming the bane of our democracy in Nigeria. Voters are being disempowered to give their votes in exchange for money and other material needs. In the 2019 elections, the electorate merely lost their voting power, which distorted the entire concept of free and fair elections. Political victory was on sale in broad daylight.
“Political parties in this country have shown that they are incapable of providing candidates that are worthy of being elected and can be elected by the people based on their credibility.
“Nigeria is faced with more challenges with the outcome of this election than what we can imagine. The democratic space is definitely on sale. Democracy should naturally come with some freedom for people to choose other forms of discrimination and when inducements come in, the entire process has been defeated.
“We are demanding a general audit and the audit is important because it will help us to understand what went wrong. The audit will help us to get a holistic and comprehensive understanding of what went wrong.”
In his recommendation, the chairman of Election Observation Platform, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, stressed the need for mass mobilisation of the citizenry.
He said, “It is only when we as a country decide we are interested in democracy and a meaningful electoral system that we can begin to have that. We need to do the unusual to get people more mobilised, we need to focus on people’s organisation. That is the only way we can confront the power of the elite which is being used right now to frustrate our democratic dreams.”