A novel idea to have Nigeria opts for a one-day general elections ahead of 2023, is gaining momentum as prominent civil society groups push for its adoption.
This forms part of the outcome of a webinar on Electoral Reforms convened by the Centre for Liberty (CFL), themed “COVID-19 and the Urgency of Electoral Reforms”.
As the demand for electoral reforms grows, the virtual conference also garnered support for the use of electronic platforms for the accreditation of voters and transmission of election results.
The event had in attendance, the Deputy President of the Senate, represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Mabel O. Demokun, and also featured on the sideline of participation, a National Commissioner with the Independent National Electoral Commission, Amina Zakari.
The idea of a “one-day general elections,” was adopted by the Chief Executives of CSOs that participated in the conference: Samson Itodo, Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director, Enough is Enough Nigeria, and Abdul Mahmud, President, Public Interest Lawyers League.
They task the National Assembly and other stakeholders to accept the idea, adding that it will significantly help to reduce the exorbitant costs of conducting the general elections on two separate dates, guarantees credibility, and also curbs rigging and conspiratorial manipulations, among other.
The call also received the support of an INEC commissioner, Amina Zakari, who noted that “one-day election will be noble for the good reasons Samson (of YIAGA) and others mentioned, but we must be will to deploy e-transmission and collation. It can only work effectively when we do the needy and get the right atmosphere for elections, the change in mindset and citizens engagement.
During the webinar, Mabel Demokun, who represented the Deputy President of the Senate, expressed worry on how COVID-19 is forcing nations around the world to postpone elections, and how such postponement could affect democratic participation, especially with regards to the people’s willingness to go out and vote.
He, however, expressed his commitment to electoral reforms, emphasizing the need to do away with the “old order” which, in the Senator’s view, would leave Nigeria “at the mercy of a lot uncertainty.”
According to his address read by an aide, Demokun: “maintaining the old order would leave us (Nigeria) at the mercy of a lot of uncertainty, not just regarding the health of voters, but the possibility of many persons getting disenfranchised by choice, as they try to avoid contracting whatever infection. This will undermine democracy.”
Whilst admitting the active threat of COVID-19 to elections and democracy in Nigeria, Senator Omo-Agege also noted with optimism, the approach of developed countries to remove the threat of voter disenfranchisement through the optimal use of technology during elections.
He noted that: “The challenge is therefore in finding ways to join the global electoral best practice order, where the introduction of technological innovations to the electioneering processes are highly encouraged. The question of whether or not to incorporate such technological inventions into our electoral laws, has been a point of debate, even before the current global challenge reared its head.
“In the current round of Electoral Law reform, the extent of technology to inculcate into our elections is still a subject of extensive debate. To this end, we are consulting far and wide. And in these consultations, everyone is carried along including experts from the fields of science, technology, management, politics, as well as public interests.”
In his concluding statement, Senator Omo-Agege emphasized the importance of accountability and transparency in Nigeria’s electoral process, and advocated harsh punishments for those who disrupt and undermine elections in Nigeria.
He said: “The ultimate objective is that our reforms should birth more transparency and accountability in our electoral process and thereby ensuring the sanctity of each vote. It is also hoped that by the comprehensive reforms, we are able to generally automate the process and reduce paper trails, avoid disenfranchisement, encourage a wider interest in voting, minimise loopholes that could occasion election manipulation & rigging and lastly, to provide for the prosecution and appropriate punishment of electoral offenders.”
In addition, the Executive Director of YIAGA, Samson Itodo, in his submission, offered in-depth analysis on the acceptable legal framework for elections in Nigeria, and the impact of political legitimacy on Nigeria’s electoral process and democracy. He went further to demand that electoral reforms should be declared a “National Emergency” in Nigeria.
Also, during her submission, the Executive Director of EiE, Yemi Adamolekun prodded Nigerians to develop the habit of organizing to put pressure on their local, state and federal representatives, and to continuously call for reforms in Nigeria’s democratic and electoral processes. She encouraged grassroots and state-level direct action advocacies that will foster democratic accountability and transformative democracy in Nigeria.
While noting the profundity of the deliberations, and the instructiveness of the widespread commitment to electoral reform among panelists, a co-convener of CFL, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, expressed the organization’s unreserved appreciation to all participants, and also emphasized the organization’s undying commitment to facilitate electoral reforms in Nigeria before 2023.