There is no doubt that elections in Nigeria have over the years been filled with its problems that hinder the nation from the testimony of ever having a free and fair election. This article examines the problems of the election process in Nigeria and solutions to these problems.
Solutions to Election Problems in Nigeria
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Non- independence of the Independent national electoral commission
The Independent National Electoral Commission, popularly known as (INEC) is the institution in Nigeria constitutionally empowered to conduct elections. In order to properly carry out its functions and responsibilities, INEC is supposed to be truly independent and free from external influences such as political influences. However, it has increasingly become doubtful that the commission is capable of conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria. This is because of how members of the board of INEC always dance to the tune of those who put them there. Appointments into the Independent National Electoral Commission is done by the ruling political party. Those appointed, will definitely not seek the interest of the people but of their own party. They would also endeavour to buy the loyalty of those who appointed them to the position. There have been reports of many cases where INEC officials supply voting materials to politicians in a particular area before the elections or where resident electoral commissioners of INEC would be seen visiting politicians. The solution to this problem is that the National Assembly should pass into law, a bill that empowers the judiciary to appoint members into the board of INEC. The national assembly should also ensure that people appointed should be those with credible and unquestionable character without affiliation to any political party.
The first steep to electoral reform in Nigeria is that the structure of the commission needs to be reorganized:
The Chairman should not be accountable to the President or ruling party but to the National Assembly
The mode of funding the commission should be made directly to the Commission; The commission should not have to wait for the executive arm of government to approve and execute projects.
Bribery of the masses is another election problem in Nigeria. Many Nigerians are fond of and have no shame admitting to collecting money bribes and in other forms from politicians so they would vote for them. The issue of bribery as an election problem continues to persist because of the high rate of poverty and unstable economic condition in the country. Many people are hungry and cannot afford to feed. They therefore will not mind to be bribed to cast a vote as long as it will put food on their table.
The use of thugs by politicians in Nigeria is a common election problem in Nigeria. Most politicians have thugs which they use to disrupt election processes. These ones perform such tasks as stealing ballot boxes from polling booths, political assassination, intimidating the masses or opponents of a politician etc. Most of these thugs are jobless youths who need to make a living and are then used to carry out these notorious activities. A solution to this problem is that the government needs to look into ways of providing more employment opportunities for Nigerian youths so as to reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
Violence or threats at polling booths
There are cases where polling areas that are popularly known to support a particular party or candidate are threatened, targeted for vandalism or destruction which then makes it difficult or impossible for people in that area to vote. Security agents such as the Police need to further tighten their belt so as to protect the lives of Nigerians while performing their civil rights.
Lack of open political debate
There is supposed to be a debate of all electoral candidates before election takes place. This debate is supposed to be open, healthy and aired so that members of the public can hear the political candidates speak for themselves. However, in Nigeria, the first presidential debate for the 2019 elections did not have all the presidential candidates present. In fact, the presidential candidates of the major political parties in Nigeria were not present. Many viewed this is as disrespect of the people and arrogance of the candidates to show that they did not need the votes of the people. The national assembly should make the debate compulsory for all political candidates and ensure penalties for absence, such as ineligibility to participate in the elections.
Often times, the electorates are poorly informed or uninformed about issues or candidates. The misinformation is due to issues such as:
Lack of freedom of the press
Lack of access to the media by the people
Lack of objectivity of the press by favouring certain viewpoints or state propaganda.
There are many problems encountered during election registration and voting. Such problems include the tiring process of registration, the tiring process of voting, misplaced names during the election. These problems can be due to the inadequate staffing and preparation of the INEC. There are many cases where people have complained of not being able to find their names on the list even after they have been registered with their permanent voter’s card. These faults discourage people from voting and are accountable for a large number of unclaimed voter’s card each election year.
Disenfranchisement is when the right to vote is taken away from the electorate. A form of disenfranchisement in Nigeria is that of displaced persons due to the security challenges in Nigeria are not able to vote. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is supposed to ensure that these ones are not disenfranchised. Most displaced persons cannot make informed decisions during the elections due to lack of access to the media, ban on rallies and posters in the IDP camps. Most displaced people do not even know the content of manifestos of political parties. Also, most have no option than to vote for the politicians that they have seen tend to them in their camps. The Independent National Electoral Commission should ensure that internally displaced persons are properly sensitized about candidates and parties. The government also needs to ensure that displaced persons are well taken care of so they will not be taken advantage of by politicians.