Monday, April 23, 2007

Constructive improvements

I'm back in Nigeria. Watching the local telly last night was a suitably surreal experience. Not by any stretch of the imagination could the election be called free and fair - the verdict of all independent monitoring groups. However, its hard to see how anything other than the predicted and pre-determined would happen. In many ways, the transition from one elected president to another was as trouble-free as one could possibly hope for. Nothing like the implosion/coup worst case scenarios was remotely possible.

The time is now ripe for thinking through how to strengthen democratic processes in Nigeria so that the same chaos and violence doesn't happen in four years' time. Here are my initial thoughts:

1. INEC needs to be strengthened and insulated from any possible political interference. As happened with the EFCC, there is an opportunity for donor support to help create a fully autonomous agency. INEC staff cannot be members of any political party - a due dilligence screening process needs to be undertaken on all candidates. Preparations for the next election should begin as soon as possible, beginning with a review of independent (local and international) monitoring reports.

2. Key issues for INEC to improve on:
a) the ballot boxes were made of flimsy transparent plastic with a flexible opening. It is possible to put ones hand completely inside the box to pull out other ballots. A new ballot box should be designed and used which makes it impossible to open unless with a key/passcode. Ownership of the key/passcode should itself be strictly monitored
b) The polling stations need to be adequately guarded. In countless cases, hired thugs stole ballot boxes in the most recent election.
c) The count. There was no tv footage of the counting process. This should be televised, with independent monitors allowed full access.
d) Ballots should printed well in advance of polling day. If for any reason this is not possible, voting should be postponed.
e) Ballot papers must have individual reference codes. In many cases, ballots simply had the serial number OOOOOO, facilitating mass rigging
f) Thumbprints. Many instances of election officials thumb printing ballots have been reported. Spot checks using a fingerprint scanner should be deployed, both at the polling station and in the counting halls, to avoid this malpractice.
g) Voter registration. It is not clear what percentage of the elligible populace had been able to register to vote. The voter registration process needs to start at least a year before the next elections to avoid this.

Part of the donor support should involve partnerships (in training and capacity building) with electoral commission bodies overseas.

There are many more detailed points to make about how to strengthen INEC. A key external factor is removing the immunity from prosecution clause for governors in the constitution. The fifth amendment more or less works in the US, where there are countless checks and balances which mean you will be caught and prosecuted later if not sooner (via impeachment). The law does not have enough teeth in Nigeria for the immunity arrangement to be feasible. The flipside of this political reform would be a move to a more genuine fiscal federalism, with States granted more autonomy to develop the local economy. A check and balance to stop increased autonomy promoting increased graft would then be a strengthened Federal and State-level audit function.


Vanilla,  1:29 pm  


Valid points - but you know the excuse of African Countries. We are still learning blah, blah, we are still young etc

The problem is that we refuse to learn. We know better of course.

PS - Other than South African (when Mandela came to power) do you know of any other African country where the Opposition has accepted the election results?

Onyeka 4:44 pm  

Hi. Thanks for the post. I have something worrying me here. I think that Nigeria is in doom. Not even INEC can stand on its own. I don't think there can ever be a so-called free and fair election in this country. We need to sit behind and think. Not we, anyway, but they.

However, I'm happy that at the long last, Obasanjo has agreed to hand over to a civilian. And who says Obasanjo is a civil ruler?


Onyeka 4:57 pm  

Nigeria is Nigeria. No free or fair election. Period.



I like your analysis on the changes that should be made. I am still trying to gather my thoughts and feelings about the election process and appreciate reading other peoples thoughts.

To Onyeka: I understand your seniments about Nigeria, but implore you not to give up hope. Even I get frustrated but I have to believe that things can change because after all, we average nigerians want change and will have to work hard to get it. Please don't give up hope.

Akin 9:26 pm  

The ruling party has won enough seats to change the constitution, in the worst case scenario, prepare for a one-party state, then you do not have to worry about multi-party elections in 2011.

It is unlikely that the PDP would change a system that has worked so well for them, the next thing is to subsume INEC into the party apparatus.

kemi,  11:00 pm  

Akin is a bit pessimistic. Personally I believe Nigerians do not know how to do one-party state.

The murder of Funsho Williams (which it seems everyone has forgotten) is a reminder that the madness continues even within one party. Look at what happened to Ngige too.

Our political parties are always splinters and off-shoots of grandparent parties. Alliance for Democracy split into 3, AD, AC and APPA. Orji Kalu formed PPA from PDP.
Another Bola Ige will die

The Dariyes and Alamieyeseighas of this generation will soon show their faces.

The show must go on...!

ANON,  1:30 am  

Vanilla, in response to your PS, different oppositions in Ghana have accepted election results. In fact, Ghana is a better model for democracy in Africa. The ruling party has changed twice from one to another. In South Africa, ANC's popularity has almost turned the government into the state. Almost a one-party state.

And I also think Mauritius' 2005 elections were also accepted.

Saymama 3:11 am  

I too, loathe the outcome of this election, even though it was predictable, I still hoped for some remote level of fairness. Having said that, I think as Nigerians, we still have no choice but to remain optimistic about Nigeria. If we don't keep and exercise some level of faith for our country nobody else will. At least not sincerely anyway.
Vanilla, Ghana succeeded in peaceful elections during their last cycle, not just South Africa.
Nigeria too, can get there. She must.

Pink-satin 5:37 am  

Onyeka i second u my sis...Nigeria is doomed unless God comes downand works amiracle we are doomed.My heart bleeds for that country..."he's a miracle working God(2x)he's he alpha and omega.He's a miracle working God

Cyber Caravan 9:41 am  

Will Yar'Adua go after those crooks who put him in power? I mean the likes of Odili, Uba, etc. who opened champagne bottles right next to him during the "victory" world conference.

I personally doubt it. If he does, it will signal a trully new era in Nigerian politics and public accountability. If he doesn't and turn a blind eye, this will technically make him a crook himself.

I hope to get your feedback on this question1

Dami 12:33 pm  

yaradua wont go for all of them but ribadu will certainly go after odili, he must!

Spook E 12:06 am  

I hear the opposition is trying to rally people for some sort of protest. *sigh* I hate to greet my motherland with pessimism deserving only of the truly hopeless but I have never know Nigerians to believe in the power of their collective voice and/or actions! I pray they will be moved in numbers to take action against this democratic maiming the powers that be call an election but I fear that I know my people all too well and once again, we will let this one slid and accept this cycle of powerlessness as our fate.

Spook E 12:09 am  

Oh I forgot to ask, did anyone questions this Ya'adua fellow about the Sharia laws that were put in place in his state when he was Governor?? I've never heard any discussion about this. I don't live in Nigeria so I really don't know but I would assume there is a real fear that this guy could be an Islamic nut!

wande 8:20 am  

Thanks for your constructive criticism, observation and above all your solutions to improving Nigerian electoral process.

I believe it now the time for Nigerians to realise that elections in Africa generally can hardly be free and fair, maybe it is in the character.

But ammendments can always be made, right measures can be put in place to prevent re-occurences of the previous lapses.

Then by so doing, the democratic process must have attained a perfect settings where election can be free and fair based on African standard. Afterall, Rome was not built in day.

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