Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said politicians were the greatest threat to Nigeria’s democracy. Jega said this during the Watching the Vote Election Series held in Abuja with the theme “Is Nigeria’s Democracy Under Threat?, as he explained that the recklessness of Nigerian Politicians to destabilise the democratic process needs to be checkmated
Prof Jega who chaired the maiden edition of the Election series organised by YIAGA Africa said, “Nigeria like all countries face threats to its democracy, we must identify the threats that have the tendency to derail the development of our democracy and address them.
“We must also checkmate the threats of politicians to undermine our democracy because all we need now is adding value to the process and We also need to mobilise our people in towns and villages to be part of the electoral process and ensure that we do not engage in authoritarian reversal which would take us several years to get back on track.
“The signals are there, the fragility of the system is evident, we are a country with enormous systemic security challenges.” The former INEC boss, therefore, advised that Nigerians should have quality representatives that would provide good governance and protect the interest of the people.
Jega also faulted the power of the National Assembly to alter the sequence in which elections are conducted saying, change in the election sequence undermines the independence of electoral body.
Professor Jega pointed out that several sections of the constitution also stated that the power to organise and set the date for elections remain the exclusive preserve of INEC. He also decried that more funds would be needed to finance the conduct of elections if the nation was to go by the recommendation of the National Assembly.
The panel discussion which was moderated by Seun Okinbaloye had former Chairman of Labour Party, Dan Nwanyanwu, Chief Executive Director of Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan to discuss roles of Political parties and Civil Societies in Nigeria’s Electoral Democracy. Also, on the panel of discussion is Udo Jude Ilo, the Country Officer and Head of Nigeria Office of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
On the theme, Is Nigeria’s electoral democracy under threat? Ms Idayat Hassan decried the stage of our electoral democracy saying, having 68 registered political parties is a major issue as majority of the parties don’t have representation in the entire 36 states of the federation especially at the grassroots. Similarly, Udo Jude Ilo also agreed saying there should be a threshold of registering political parties as it is not sustainable to continue to spend huge funds in conducting elections in Nigeria.
With regard the roles of political parties play in Nigeria’s electoral democracy, Barrister Dan Nwanyanwu said, political parties are much more concerned winning elections rather than the credibility of the electoral process itself. According to him, For us to have a level plain ground for all and a stronger democratic system, there is need for voters education.
As part of conscious effort to improve our electoral democracy, Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari who is also present at the WatchingTheVote Election Series said, Nigeria’s democracy was under threat and the signs and indicators were evident. Abari stressed the need for government to partner CSOs to educate Nigerians on elections to especially curb invalid votes. He said NOA was concerned about the number of invalid votes that kept recurring during elections, adding that there was need to educate the electorate on election procedure.
According to the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, the Election series could not have come at a better time with barely 385 days to the 2019 General elections. Mr Itodo said, there was need for Nigerians to redesign what the future of the nation would look like. Itodo said the election programme was timely as it was aimed at assessing the state of Nigeria’s democracy and to chat the way forward.
WatchingTheVote Program Director Cynthia Mbamalu giving her vote of thanks, said 2019 elections is going to be critical to us as Nigerians thus we at YIAGA will continue to engage citizens to ensure credible elections in Nigeria.