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The Nigerian electoral process and the imperatives of reform (III)

Ordinarily, the value of votes in a democracy is expected to be sacred and respected. On this note we can attach three values to vote,…

Ordinarily, the value of votes in a democracy is expected to be sacred and respected. On this note we can attach three values to vote, namely promissory value, content value and psychological value (Ibeanu, 2007). Promissory value of a voter according to Ibeanu (2007) refers to promises made by contestants who seek the votes in order to deliver the value of a vote on demand in terms of manifestoes which are the basis of asking for the votes. The more these promises are kept, the higher the promissory value of a vote. Ballot also has a content value and this has to do with the value of each votes measured against the value of another. The main issue around the content value of votes is whether all votes are equal. Thirdly, there is the psychological value of votes which refers to the value attached to the votes in the minds of the electorate. It measures the subjective belief in an elector that his or her vote will make a difference (Ibeanu, 2007).

However, as noted by Ibeanu (2007), votes in Nigeria have been seriously devalued owing to the primitive and desperate attempts at acquiring votes for individual selfish reasons. Primitive accumulation of votes is justified in the name of communal interests such as clan, ethnic and religious groups and in the process the electoral regulatory regime is captured by sectional and special interests. Thus, what becomes thorough going is the stealing of popular mandates.

On the part of Nigerian voters according to the scholar, they do not really attach sufficient promissory content or psychological value to their votes (Ibeanu, 2007). We can therefore assert on this basis, that the mandates claimed by politicians in the country are dubious products of devalued votes. Electoral promises are outright falsehood and as such empty. In terms of content value, Nigerian voters perceive their votes as unequal for the fact that the actions of corrupt electoral officials, party leaders, security agents and the government count more in determining electoral outcomes than votes. Finally, the bulk of Nigerians have no illusions about the irrelevance of their votes and there is no psychological satisfaction in voting because they are aware that their votes will not count.

The foregoing conditions of the Nigerian state set up successive regimes for legitimacy crises. Reason for this is not far-fetched. Leadership is not produced by popular mandate. Reform efforts are put in place by each regime and the usual end is continuation of breaches of the regulatory framework in unending effort by factions of political elite to win power. This is to say that the reforms would be mere scaffolds over the cracks and contradictions of the Nigerian structure. The way out is developing concomitant political will to accept a genuine reform with popular involvement, not only at the electoral political level, but also at the economic and other levels of structure in the society.

The first port of call for the much needed electoral reform is the electoral management body INEC.  The most important reform to be undertaken about this body in Nigeria is that which ensures its independence. In this wise, the present legal framework for the appointment of chairman and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is faulty. Appointment into the chairmanship and membership of the Independent National Electoral Commission is done by the president in consultation with Council of State (See 1999 Constitution, Section 154(5). This means a lot of influence on the part of the president on the commission. Indeed the fact that he appoints the members and chairman of the commission whittles down the principle of independence of the electoral management body as provided in Section 158 (1) of the constitution. Of course, where a sitting president has influence over an election management body, the implication is clear for free and fair elections. To secure independence, the Commissioners should have a term that exceeds that of the president by at least a couple of years.