An assemblage of stakeholders in Nigeria’s electoral system has gathered in Abuja to think out ways and strategies to enhance transparency in the country’s electoral process. Organised by the Political Parties leadership and Policy Development Centre of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, participants at the three-day meeting consist of Chairmen of
An assemblage of stakeholders in Nigeria’s electoral system has gathered in Abuja to think out ways and strategies to enhance transparency in the country’s electoral process.
Organised by the Political Parties leadership and Policy Development Centre of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, participants at the three-day meeting consist of Chairmen of registered political parties, officials INEC; Nigeria’s election management body, Research Fellows from the NIPSS, Publicity Secretaries of Political parties, mainstream media and social media practitioners.
The workshop’s objective is essentially to enhance the capacities of the political parties towards ensuring the stability of the polity. It was observed that political parties are the bane of the electoral process through their actions.
Amongst several suggestions the stakeholders called on the National Assembly to speedily conclude work on the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010, well ahead of the 2023 general elections. And, more regulation for the activities of the political parties while encouraging them to play by the existing rules. In the same way, they suggest trial and punishment for those that commit electoral offences.
It was agreed that transparency in the electoral process is not limited to the election management body but also to the political parties especially in the way they obey their own rules and processes in the nomination of candidates, conduct of primaries and the entire electioneering process. Political parties should not act and behave with the mentality of the end justifies the means.
Welcoming participants to the workshop, Dr. Musa Umar, the Chief Operating Officer of the NIPSS-PPLPDC said one of the objectives of the workshop is to see how to lessen the burden and challenges facing the electoral process whereby several election outcomes end up in court for adjudication without the political parties and their candidates exploring the alternative dispute resolution options. This is time wasting as cases drag on for a long time.
The Acting Director General/CEO of NIPSS, Brig Gen. CFJ Udaya Rtd. said the workshop was organized to enhance the capacities of political parties as major stakeholders in good and sustainable governance because there can be no election without political parties. Having noted that political parties are responsible for the transparency of the electoral process, he charged the stakeholders to strengthen transparency in the electoral process. He was represented by Professor Pam Dung Sha, the Director of Research at NIPSS.
On his part, the Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support, Hamza Fassi-Fihri said for election to be adjudged credible, the process must be transparent, it must be free and fair and the people must have trust in the process. To breed trust, transparency must be seen in action vis-à-vis voters having access thereby eliminating suspicion.
He commended the INEC for its consultation and outreach programme towards constituency delineation describing access as an integral ingredient of transparency in electoral process. He commended the European Union for funding the process thereby contributing towards helping to create a functioning democracy in Nigeria.
Moderating a session at the workshop, Professor Bolade Eyinla, the Chief Technical Adviser, INEC said political parties have been a major drawback for democratic advancement in Nigeria and constitute all the ills of the electoral system.
“Political parties are the bane of our electoral process” he said and buttressed his position with the example of the recent bye-election for one constituency in Ekiti state, involving only 39 polling units but which had to be cancelled because it turned bloody resulting in the death of three persons because of the activities of political parties and their candidates. “Are we progressing or retrogressing?” he asked. He posited that while other processes keep improving in Nigeria, the actions of political parties remained unchanged.
He compared the Ekiti state untoward act with the reaction in April 2015, of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who while still awaiting results from three states, picked his phone and called his main rival President Muhammadu Buhari congratulating and conceding victory to him. He recalled, that singular act lowered tension and restored peace to the polity.
The Special Guest of Honour, Mrs Elizabeth Egharevba who is the Director International Cooperation, Ministry of Budget and National Planning said the theme of the workshop which is transparency of the electoral process is significant because it has to do with the right to information which must be guaranteed to engender trust and confidence in the democratic environment.
She said elections remained the most credible process by which leaders emerge in a democracy and transparency means that leaders must be accountable. She expressed government’s appreciation to the European Union for their support for Nigeria’s democracy and contributions to other sectors of the economy.
Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, Executive Director, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism highlighted some factors hindering transparency in a democratic process to include sponsorship of thuggery to obstruct elections by political parties; lack of inclusivity by political parties; prohibitive cost of nomination forms by political parties leading to exclusion of women and youth; lack of internal democracy by political parties and delay in passing electoral reforms bill by the National Assembly.
Other factors include vote buying by political parties; and opposing judgments by courts of coordinate jurisdiction. He called on the political parties to lighten the burden of INEC by playing according to the rules and not always trying to circumvent the law governing electoral process.
Responding in his goodwill message, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Dr. Leonard Nzenwa commended the multi-stakeholders gathering which he described as impressive and energizing. He said transparency is a major ingredient need in a democracy to flourish adding that lack of transparency breeds negative consequences.
He said there must be openness and adequate flow of communication between INEC and the political parties to eliminate suspicion and ensure stability of the political system.