2019 Elections: ‘We are paying price of weak institutions’
Dr. Adewale Aderemi is the Head of Department, Political Science, Lagos State University. In this interview with DANIEL ANAZIA, he shares his view on the 2019 general elections.
What is your assessment of the 2019 general elections?
I think people quickly forget that we are a growing democracy; we are in haste to run before we crawl. These are general problems of any growing democracy and if you carefully examine the history of the advanced democracies you will discover that, they, at some points of their development, experienced these challenges like we are also experiencing today. This is not to say that the 2019 elections were fantastic but the problems we had were inevitable. To not anticipate these problems would have been foolhardy. So, I’m not disappointed and I’m not completely surprised that these problems crop up. Again, we have to be realistic of the capacity of our institutions, they are too week for comfort. A lot of these problems were inevitable and could have been avoided. The outcome of the elections basically reflected the prelude to the exercise and to a large extent, reflected the wishes of the people. Yes, there are hitches, violence but all of that occurred as a result of the weakness of our institutions.
How can INEC avoid inconclusiveness, which seems to have become permanent feature in Nigeria’s electoral process?
Yes, the Electoral Act made a proviso for suspension and new election be called for or rescheduled. The point however, is the circumstances through which the elections are suspended. This raises eyebrow particularly in a state like Benue, where the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the incumbent governor of the state is said to be leading by 84,000 votes while the cancelled votes is put at 120,000. If you look at the difference, it is just around 40,000 votes. By implication, if they go back for another contest, there is likelihood that the candidate of the PDP will win. My opinion is that INEC rather than declare election inconclusive should have sort out the areas that were cancelled because if you critically check it, you will discover that the votes in areas where the results were cancelled are insignificant when you consider the total number of votes that have been adjudged to be valid in the contest.
How do you think the high cost of electoral process and running of government can be minimised?
Nigerian democracy is hyper-expensive — a lot of money going into electoral process. When you consider the nature of governance in Nigeria, you will discover that we spend large chunk of resources in keeping afloat the governance rather than expend such on infrastructure and basic amenities for the good of the citizens. For example, we have a National Assembly that comprises 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives. This tells you that we put in so much money to run the government. With over N250 billion expended to prosecute the elections and we still have pockets of issues, particularly inconclusiveness of the exercise in some places. What this means is that another huge amount of money would be taken away again from the national treasury to prosecute elections in states and areas said to be inconclusive or suspended. Most countries of the world today are looking at how they would reduce the cost of governance. Senegal for instance have reduced its National Assembly into a unicameral legislature because where you have bi-cameral legislature, especially in a country that is diverse, plural and multi-ethnic, you tend to pay a lot to manage the diversity and the challenges that comes with it, within the context of a federalist state. So, the best thing to do is to reduce the wastages and expenses, while divesting the money into developmental projects that benefit the masses.
What is your take on the e-voting proposal?
I agree totally with the electronic voting. It is unheard of that in 21st century that as a country and giant of Africa, we are still having those bottleneck and challenges in terms of collation of results. In most advanced democracies, they have adopted biometric technology, which is the basis of verifying the authenticity of the voters and ensuring that people vote and their votes count immediately. The issue of carrying results from the polling unit to the local government onward to the state and then the national collation centre is a deliberate attempt to also delay the electoral process. Within the context of this, I think the right thing to do if we want to tilt towards globalization and global practices, which of course we have seen is to ensure that we have electronic voting system, which will not only reduce time wastage but also become more effective in terms of collation of results and declaration of winners.
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