2015 Elections: The Way Forward
IT is not everyone that agrees that the last elections in Nigeria should be scored as the best the country has ever had, or would have. While some argue that the country had a fair shot at testing the will of the electorate to stamp its authority as a stakeholder in a country that has been held hostage by a rapacious, unyielding political elite; others believe that the exercise was, on account of what has played out in the polity in recent months, a futile effort, another round of a mostly perfectly practiced cajoling of the poor, impressionable ordinary citizen.
However, wary that the gains and failings of the last polls are not lost on the people, scholars, jurists, public servants, traditional leaders, civil society activists and the media, recently, held a two-day symposium in Benin City, Edo State, to interrogate the elections vis-à-vis Nigeria’s fledging democracy. Tagged Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: Coming to Terms with a Miracle – Building a Better Future – A Postmortem and Futuristic Colloquium, the event was convened by the Vice Chancellor, Igbinedion University, Professor Eghosa Osaghae to, particularly, discuss the climate of fear and uncertainty under which the elections held and the bright future that holds for Nigeria.
The major issues that spurred the symposium were the need to set an agenda for public policy and action, the guarantee for better elections in future and issues of vote-buying and suspicious voter turnout. All these it would seem, have been glossed over, thereby needing a critical probing and intellectual scrutiny.
In his keynote address, social theorist, Prof. Peter Ekeh, brought his intellection to the discourse, attributing the ouster of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to carelessness in policy formation, while in government. He added that intellectuals have succumbed to the “political culture,” and can no longer be clearly distinguished from the malaise that has befallen the country.
“As intellectuals, we have not paid enough attention to an aspect of our seeming political culture. I will give two examples of how careless we can be about public good. If you rig elections in England and you are caught, you may likely go to jail because they see election as public good, but here, it doesn’t really matter. For instance, in the 1950s, we remember that the Action group had difficulties in gathering votes in Ilorin and some other parts and they devised this method that the Western Region was going to have a pilgrims board that will send people to Mecca with public fund, obviously, Northern Governors liked it but what did the Christians do, they grumbled about government sponsoring Muslims? What they wanted was a share of the largesse. That is the attitude of the public; we think that the public purse is so deep and everybody can come in.”
In the course of the discourse, however, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Professor Attahiru Jega was hailed to have performed satisfactorily, and Jega hailed to be the protector of the public sphere.
The interest, pressure and support by the international community and donor agencies for Nigeria, especially before and during the elections were acknowledged, a move that recognises the covert and overt roles of international actors in the success of the polls.
Also, the role of Peace Committees in encouraging and ensuring compliance with peace agreements was identified as the key factor in the aftermath of the elections. One could attribute the absence of this in previous elections to the chaos that broke out following the non-acceptance of election results. Importantly, it was observed that the general elections overstretched the capacity of the electoral body.
Consequently, it was recommended that the improved national outlook gained during the presidential election should be sustained and strengthened. The new ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), was advised to avoid complacency, while the new opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) engages in constructive criticism of the government.
Nigerians were urged to discard distributive mentality in wealth sharing and immunity for public office holders.
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