It’s a shame that in 2019, we still can’t organise credible elections [Opinion]

The Kogi and Bayelsa elections is one more reason why every Nigerian who wants this democracy to survive, should be calling for electoral reforms.

From left: Governor Kayode Fayemi, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Governor Yahaya Bello, Kogi First Lady, First Lady, Aisha Buhari and wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo. [Twitter/@cbngov_akin1]

If the recently concluded Bayelsa and Kogi elections are the best we can offer in 2019, then we really need to pack up this democracy and go home.

The elections were simply not good enough and there were the worst advert for our nascent democracy. There were a throwback to the days of Maurice Iwu (also known as Iwuru-wuru) on whose watch numbers were simply written and assigned to the highest bidders. 

Instances of ballot box snatching were rife in the recently concluded Bayelsa and Kogi elections, electoral officers were beaten up, vote buying was prevalent, thugs showed up at polling units to beat up people, hand them money and snatch ballot boxes; and compromised police personnel simply looked away as violence broke out around them.

Our reporter who monitored the elections in Kogi described the state as a “war zone” while the vote was on. “I couldn’t wait to run out of the state,” he said, still visibly shaken. 

It is from this violent atmosphere that Kogi re-elected Yahaya Bello and David Lyon was elected in Bayelsa.

The problem with Nigeria is that we still do not see the nexus between rigged elections and poor governance. It's a myopia that rankles. Leaders who emerge from a tainted process are not likely to bequeath good governance to the people. When politicians know they can game the system to elect themselves into office, they become lords onto themselves when in office and become accountable to no one because technically speaking, the majority of votes didn’t get them into office. Democracy is supposed to bring out the best to govern a people. Here, our democracy brings out the worst to lord it over a traumatized people.

When we allow our politicians to buy themselves into office, we are simply telling them that campaigns, rigorously canvassing for votes and thinking up the best solutions to the problems afflicting us, do not matter.

We keep churning out rigged elections year after year and expect a better country? It simply doesn’t work that way. For as long as we keep up with this practice of rigged elections, so long will our infrastructure continue to decay, our education and healthcare system will continue their collapse and our economy will perpetually be in a state of inertia because political leaders who emerge from this rigged system are simply not the best we can offer and never passed the true test of a democratic system of governance.

We have been playing ourselves since 1999 and it is little wonder that our nation hasn’t seen much progress. 

Kogi and Bayelsa is one more reason why we should keep crying for the executive and the legislature to fast track electoral reforms (But these ones don't bother because it benefits them if the system remains this way). We simply cannot continue like this, however. This is unsustainable and could lead to a collapse of our country as we know it.

Electronic accreditation and voting have to be in the Electoral Act and the sanctity of the ballot has to be respected. Electoral offenders have to be punished as well in accordance with the laws of the land. Politicians who engage in vote buying should also be named, shamed and thrown into jail if we really want to be serious. Election thugs should be hauled into jail once apprehended.

We appear to be rolling back the little gains of the Attahiru Jega era by the day and it’s really sad to watch it all unfurl.

Our democracy is really all we got right now if we want lasting change in our country. And we’ve got to protect it like our lives depend on it, because right now, it really does. 

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