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2019 in retrospect: X-raying the 2019 general elections

16th Dec, 2019 | By David Dogo | ||

At the beginning of each year, expectations are usually high that the incoming year would bring forth better things than the previous year. The year 2019 is no exception as Nigerians had great expectations and hope that things would be better than they were in 2018. Today's article is a review of 2019 in order to bring out achievements recorded, challenges encountered and identify those things that give us hope for a better future.

The 2019 general elections, including the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, appear to be the major event of the year. The elections have virtually come and gone with only very few litigations still ongoing especially at the appellate level. However, most importantly, the presidential election had been won and lost on the field and in the court. Considering the type and level of politics associated with emerging democracies such as ours, we can describe the elections as largely successful. However, not a few will agree with this assertion.

The African Director of National Democratic Institute (NDI), Chris Fomunyo was of the view that "we have to be frank; the 2019 elections were a disappointment for most Nigerians". For me, that Nigeria has remained one indivisible united and peaceful country after the elections is a great achievement that we must recognize and be thankful.

History is replete with examples of countries that had fought bitter wars or are still fighting because of election outcomes. It is also instructive to note that the report by the European Union and the joint report of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the National Republican Institute (NRI) highlighted some positive aspects. The reports indicated that there was a genuine competition as parties could by and large campaign freely while an unprecedented number of young people contested these elections, thanks to the "not too young to run" campaign.

There is no doubt that the 2019 general elections have thrown up a number of issues which point to the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of our checkered electoral system to address all manner of electoral fraud and incorporate electronic voting, collation and transmission of results. Electoral violence, ballot box snatching, burning of ballot papers, rigging, vote buying, voided votes, non-use of card readers and alleged use of military personnel to intimidate and rig elections were some of the flaws that characterised the elections in a number of places.

It is gratifying to note that there is a general and bipartisan consensus about the need for electoral reform to be undertaken before the 2023 general elections. Thankfully, the Senate has already initiated a move in that direction. Nigerians are desirous of electoral reform that will enhance the credibility and integrity of the electoral process. This will entail having a seamless and credible process of accreditation and voting; accurate counting, collation and transmission of results from one level to another; elimination or minimization of vote buying and rigging; adequate security for voters, electoral personnel and materials; globally acceptable rules of engagement for security agencies in elections, etc. With regards electoral litigation, many jurists have also posited on the need for a reform that will place more emphasis on substance rather than dwelling on technicalities as it is today.

I believe that there a lot that can be gained from the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report which was set up by late President Umaru Musa Yar'adua. One of the major recommendations in that report is the unbundling of INEC which is currently over-burdened with so much responsibilities and which have often challenged its operational efficiency. The last-minute postponement of the 2019 general elections by one week is a strong pointer. Nigeria's position in Africa and the world at large places on it a great responsibility to reform its electoral process. According to Alan Doss, President of Kofi Anan Foundation, "Nigeria is the bellwether of West Africa and even the continent" He further stressed that "The continued success of Nigeria's democracy is, therefore, a strategic priority for all of Africa". The prospect of a genuine electoral reform is also hinged on the support of President Muhammadu Buhari.

President Buhari welcomed the EU's critical report and acknowledged that the country still had work to do to improve the electoral process. Many stakeholders are of the view that that a good starting point would be the passing of the Electoral Reform Bill presented to President Buhari in 2018. Although it may not provide all the solution, it would have addressed some identified challenges.

In carrying out this reform also, we must consider moral issues. As noted by Bishop Mathew Kukah "As long as our politicians care more about serving themselves than serving the nation, we will not make progress" I totally agree because no matter how good we make the Electoral Act or any other law for that matter, it is our "attitude" in the final analysis that will determine whether it works or not. This calls for a vigorous and sustained campaign for our politicians to embrace politics that is predicated on selflessness, ideas and development.

Finally, let me use this opportunity to sincerely commend President Muhammadu Buhari for refusing to be dragged into the third term agenda. According to him, "I am not going to make the mistake of attempting a third term" This is the hallmark of statesman and a patriotic leader who places national interest above personal interest. God bless Nigeria.

News Update

Minister of State, FCT, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, made the revelation during flag- off of the first round of 2020 National Immunization Plus Days (NIPDs) at Dutse Makaranta, Bwari Area Council, last week.

Country Director of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Mr. Woochan Chang has said the Nigeria-Korea Model School, Abuja should expand its admission quota to include children from poor and vulnerable.

Chairman, FCTA Traffic Management Team, Comrade Ikharo Attah who led the exercise explained that the removal of the illegal structures became necessary due to complaints from contractors handling the road expansion

Director, FHIS, Dr. Ahmed Danfulani, who broke news of the enrolment exclusively to Abuja Digest Weekly, disclosed further that the retirees have filled the required forms and obtained approval from the agency.


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