Sunday, 19 April 2015

THE 2015 ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

In spite of insurgency, unexpected postponement of election, prediction by Western scholars/press that Nigeria would break up in 2015 and bitter words traded during the campaign season, the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on March 28, 2015. The Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections were held on April 11, 2015.

The countdown to the poll witnessed considerable public anxiety that did not manifest on election days. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that the nation's leader had lost to an opposition candidate and the incumbent conceded defeat even before ballot counting was concluded in an election rated by Nigerians and even the international community as free, fair and credible!

The electorate queued patiently to exercise their civic responsibility. They came to register in the morning and went back home, only to return in the afternoon to cast their ballot. The final scores for the Presidential election were PDP (Dr. Goodluck Jonathan) - 12,853,162 votes, APC (Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari) -15,424,921 votes. Percentage valid votes: PDP - 45.45, APC - 54.55.

There were however allegations of under-age voting in certain areas as well as manipulation of figures. There were also reports of deployment of security forces for partisan design and 'interference'. In Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, it was alleged that some observers were 'whisked out of sight'. Such claims of irregularity are not in the interest of democracy and should be investigated with dispatch.

The nauseating drama by former Minister, Godsday Orubebe, aimed at scuttling the process at the stage of the announcement of results should be investigated with a view to preventing a similar occurrence in future elections. Besides, fire-spitting clerics who 'prophesied' and prescribed electoral choices should learn the limits of 'eccleslestial influences' in politics because many of their so-called predictions failed!

On April 11, 109 new Senators were elected. 76 serving Senators lost re-election. APC now has the majority - 60 Senators as against PDP's 49 Senators. However, there is a downside to all this. The number of women involved in gladiatorial activity this time round is lower than in 2011!

The only female Governorship candidate, Taraba state's Senator Al-Hassan has not succeeded in her bid for the Government House because the election has been declared 'inconclusive' (number of invalid votes is greater than the margin of error). The elections were cancelled in the LGAs considered the  female candidate's strong hold. She is seeking cancellation of the polls in all the LGAs while preparing for a re-run.

On the whole, the 2015 elections have been a significant improvement on earlier elections. The highlights are:

*The introduction of PVCs (Permanent Voters' Cards) & Card readers that minimized cheating.
*The personality of INEC Chairman, Prof. Attaghiru Jega, who is perceived as impartial.
*The willingness of the electorate to vote under very difficult circumstances and to 'defend' their votes.
*The Peace Accords signed by the two Presidential candidates before elections.
*Monitoring mechanism involving international presence (observers). Some had been in Nigeria since last year to monitor the voters' registration process.
*Encouraging statements from local and international commentators urging parties to 'stick to the electoral process'.

The downside needs to be improved upon:
*In many instances, card readers fail to 'read' PVCs.
*Orubebe's rant at the venue of the announcement of results could have scuttled the process if Prof Jega did not handle the situation maturely. Such an incident should be prevented in future elections.
*Allegations of 'interference'.
*Unsealed ballot boxes.
*Late arrival of election materials at polling stations.
*Allegations of thumb-printing prior to elections.
*It is tedious for voters to come to the polling station in the morning to register, go back home and come back in the afternoon to vote. Some voters, especially women could not come back after registering in the morning. The process should be made simpler!
*Inadequate voter education, especially for women. The card readers could not read some of the women's PVCs because there was 'too much oil on their hands'. When they were asked to clean the oil off, the CRs could read the PVCs. With better voter education, they would avoid oil before voting on election days.

I look forward to improved deployment of technology for efficient and effective electoral processes in the future. Can someone join me in my vision for electronic voting in 2019?

1st April, 2015

*Nigeria's Buhari praises Jonathan for peaceful handover    http://news.yahoo.com/nigeria-buhari-praises-jonathan
*Nigeria is what democracy looks like    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jumoke-balogun/nigeria
*Why Nigeria voted for new leadership    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/why-nigeria-voted...
*Nigeria's Gooluck Jonathan concedes, saving his legacy & his country from chaos    http://qz.com/373697/nigeria-goodluck-jonathan
*Nigeria's new leader, Muhammadu Buhari, has strict reputation    http://news.yahoo.com/nigeria-leader-muhammadu..
*Buhari the winner, Jega the hero    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/04/...
*Buhari: Nigeria embraces democracy, one-party state behind us    http://news.yahoo.com/buhari-nigeria-embraces-democracy...
*Will Buhari honour his promises?    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/04/
*US officials cautiously positive about Nigeria's Buhari after election    http://news.yahoo.com/u-ready-whoever-democratic...
*Jagaban cements reputation as Nigeria's Svengali in Buhari's win    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/6abed374-d942-11e4-a
*Nigeria's neighbours hope for a fresh start with Buhari    http://news.yahoo.com/nigerias-neighbours-hope-for...
*Nigeria releases detained Aljazeera journalists detained for two weeks    http://news.yahoo.com/nigeria-releases-detained-aljazeera...
*Can Nigeria's former dictator become a democrat?    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/opinion/can-nigeria...
*Goodluck Jonathan's concession phone call was honourable, not virtuous    http://guardian.ng/features/goodluck-jonathan...
   

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