When I started to look at Nigeria and their elections, I began to get the impression that to those in the know, it is desperately important that the forthcoming three different votes, for the House of Representatives, the Presidential and the Governors elections are seen to be free and fair. I then saw that they had been arranged for Mar 26, they were postponed. After a second postponement for 4, April, 2011, I began to wonder what on earth is going on? Apparently, the original elections were postponed because INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, said there was an "unanticipated emergency."
It seems that the result sheets had not arrived in many parts of the country. Jega said, "The result sheets are an integral part of the elections and their integrity." Nigeria has taken great pains to create the INEC (Independent National Electoral Committee), to oversee every aspect of this election. To discourage fraud, the INEC has developed a procedure in which accreditation takes place in the morning and voting in the afternoon. Voters are to encouraged to stay and observe the counting and posting of results. The European Union Observation Mission will deploy 140 observers and analysists all across the country to monitor the elections Aloz Peterle
, Chief Observer of EU EOM, said this was so the process to help Nigeria achieve internationally acceptable elections and provide support for democratic institutions and procedures.
All this made me wonder just what previous elections had been like. When I started to research into this, I found that in previous elections, there had been quite a lot of violence which had either put pressure on people to vote in a particular way or more often, not go out and vote at all. Ethnicity and religion also seemed to play a large part in peoples decisions too.
A report by Jide Oluwayuyitan for The Nation, said that in 1999, the ruling party(PDP) and ex-President Obasanjo
promised a "total transformation of Nigeria," through urban development and privatisation, stable electricity, health education public service et al.. But in 2010, it was the same PDP members who during one of their deadly family quarrels claimed that all Osabanjo and Atiku did in the name of privatisation between 1999 and 2003 was literally share Nigeria among their members. Similar accusations are made with reference to the electricity, railways and the list goes on! In his words, government has become the most lucrative business in Nigeria. In another article the writer said that the general feeling is that various governments are self-serving rather than serving Nigeria.
This time it seems, great care is going to be taken to ensure that these elections, which are now due on 9 April and 26 April, (hopefully) will be as free and fair as Nigeria can make them. In fact, in an article by Seyi Roberts, he says that the collective Nigerian psyche has now been so fixated on free, fair and credible elections because they think that this will lead to good leadership. He goes on to say that "we may desire it but are unlikely to get it." He also seems to think that the Nigerian voter may be the problem, he quotes Winston Churchill, "the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."
However, with Nigeria winning an unprecedented third term as chairman of ECOWAS and seeing itself as a prime contender for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, it is doing all it can to clean up it's act. The US ambassador, Terence McCulley
told Reuters, the "Nigerian leadership in ECOWAS, at the African Union and at the UN has been impressive and commendable, particularly with the crises in Ivory Coast and Libya. They seem to be doing all they can to ensure that this time, their election will be on a par with Ghana, which has been held up as a recent example of free and fair elections.
I think we must wait and see. The INEC must first of all get the paperwork to all of the right places. If they can manage that, then we have all the right things in place for a free election to take place. The rest will depend on the Nigerian politicians and voters. Here 's waiting for 9 April!