How Elections Are Won And Lost Nigeria

By Law Mefor

In Nigeria, where politicians lack alternative business addresses, depending on power, political patronage, contracts, and so on to survive and remain relevant, the election is a do-or-die affair. Those who seek to topple incumbents and incumbents who want to retain power need to be properly guided. Political power in Nigeria is not a patriot’s job.

This situation has been created or worsened by a near absence of a political party system in the real sense of the word. A political party is… and each is marked by a matching ideology. But in Nigeria, the two leading political parties – the PDP and the APC – are indistinguishable both in the constitutions, manifestos, and ideologies. Two Siamese twins indeed, thus the current national chairman of the APC was a two-time governor of the PDP, as well as the APC National Secretary, who was a PDP senator.

So, one can easily see that two political parties are mere purpose vehicles for power-grabbing. For this reason, those who fly their flags look for ways – any at all – to grab power. Rigging elections has become the rule rather than an exception in the current democratic dispensation.

Rigging election in Nigeria is a complex mix and happens at least in ten ways, starting from the nomination of party flag bearers. The masses who constitute over 99 % of the political parties are sidelined in selecting both delegates that form the electoral college where the candidates are said to be elected. The result is the masses do not take part in deciding the flag bearers of the various political parties.

The masses lost the chance when the prescription to elect flag bearers by direct primaries was upturned and a Consensus was inserted. By Consensus, even the so-called delegates who are purchased by aspirants at the highest bidders like Christmas turkey are also shortchanged. Consensus is between only the aspirants who trade-off and agree amongst themselves who could fly the party flag, regardless of what the party members want. What should have been correct would be the delegates voting to either affirm or reject the consensus candidates.

Then in the general election proper, having been compelled to choose from only the limited choices presented by their party leaders, manipulations are carefully deployed by these parties and their candidates to ensure victory at all costs. These manipulations that have been duly acknowledged and highlighted by INEC, local and international observers, are all aimed at supplanting the will of the voters or electorates.

On Election Day, all hell is usually let loose. Political thugs have a field’s day with the security agent acting lost in the shuffles, unable to arrest the many brazen electoral malpractices. The trend observed even in INEC, Local and Intl Observers reports is that security agencies are often complacent and complicit.

Election security funds are not controlled by INEC and whoever disburses the funds will always get the ears of security agents and this usually gives the incumbent governors and those working with them the upper hand – talk of piper syndrome! The election fund and indeed the entire policing of the election ought to be directly under the control of the INEC chairman for that election window. But that is not the case.

It takes extraordinary security agents to remain neutral during the election and this has often tainted the outcomes. But rigging elections even with the collusion of security agents is often very difficult if party members understand the process and how rigging occurs. Apart from intimidation of supporters and voters, regardless of the express provision of the amended electoral act, which stipulates that accreditation shall by electronic means, INEC officials would be pressurized to resort to manual accreditations and voting. This has very serious implications as many of the cards do not belong to the holders. So, those who are electronically accredited must not vote. That is the position of the new electoral act.

Results are also expected to be transmitted as now provided by the Electoral Act. Electric transmission is the only hope of any popular candidate in this election for the reason that it reduces alteration of results that traditionally occur between polling units and collation centers. It does not mean that these usual alterations will not be attempted. But electronic transmission collation is the first line of defence and must tally with the manual result sheets otherwise the result can be contested based on the variations. Before now, the electronic result was not a legal item but now it is, meaning that party supporters can salvage their parties if they painstakingly follow through electronic transfer of votes and course collect the hard copies, and snap the copies pasted o the polling units.

This is where one faults the decision of INEC to bar phones at polling centres. What INEC can do is to have one given the ballot paper drop the phone and pick it up after voting. If phones are banned completely, it will deny the voters the capacity to capture evidence.

Political parties that are not able to mobilize supporters and voters to each polling booth and polling unit are not qualified to stand for election at the given level. The reason is quite critical. Beyond what has been said already, balances of unused ballot papers are sold by INEC officials to willing party agents. Since over 60% of voters do not turn up in Nigeria’s elections, unused ballot papers when added to one or two candidates can easily upturn victory in a given polling booth or polling unit.

Party supporters and representatives being physically present is therefore crucial for this reason. They must ensure that the unused ballot papers are accounted for and accreditations done by BVAS means. Otherwise, they would go home only to hear that their candidate who won came to a distant send or even third.

Party reps are also bought over at the polling units and collation centers. A candidate who is not ready or prepared to care for his representative who is on election duty on his or her behalf runs a great risk of his rep colluding for the actual election outcome to be changed against a winning candidate.

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