As the clock towards the 2015 general elections ticks on, there is need for various stake holders to improve on their performance of voter education and active engagement of citizens in the processes leading to the actual elections. This was the view of Mr. Adeola Soetan, National Coordinator, Democracy Vanguard, in this interview with NDR
As the clock towards the 2015 general elections ticks on, there is need for various stake holders to improve on their performance of voter education and active engagement of citizens in the processes leading to the actual elections. This was the view of Mr. Adeola Soetan, National Coordinator, Democracy Vanguard, in this interview with NDR correspondent.
According to him, since democracy is defined as government of the people by the people and for the people, it presupposes that the engagement with the citizens should be a central focus in the electoral process leading to democratic rule.
“Active citizens’ participation gives legitimacy to the electoral process. People’s ownership and full participation at every stage of the electoral process is very germane; from registration to be eligible to vote, or as members of political parties, understanding and thoroughly digesting manifestoes, programmes and policies of political parties enhances popular participation of citizenry which is a tenet of democracy. When this is done, an informed choice can be made by the citizens and the electorate beyond the façade political parties often present to the public”, he said.
“When people are actively involved, vote for candidates and parties they want and ready to make sure that their votes count, it reduces incidence of electoral malpractices before, during and after election. Incidences like rigging and violence would be greatly reduced because people are very much alert and well enlightened to ensure credibility in the process of electing who governs them”, he added.
Explaining further, he noted that a passive citizenry that is not interested in the electoral process leading to how they are governed creates opportunity for the politicians to rigged elections.
“The effect of a process whereby citizens’ participation in election is passive is that of bad government, corruption, contempt for the people and little regard to the governed because those in government never truly had peoples’ mandate to lead them. When citizens do not fully participate in the voting process, politics and electoral process are at best left to rogues who would redefine the rules of political engagement to gain political power at all cost and by all means necessary”, he stated.
… How the 2015 elections can be credible, free and fair
Election can only be free and fair when votes of the electorate count and the integrity of the electoral process is not compromised. In this regard, all critical stakeholders and election managers including Political Parties, Electorate, INEC, Media, Security Operatives, NOA, Civil Society Groups and related government agencies involved must subject themselves to all the regulations, laws and sanctions governing the election without fear or favour. All must have confidence in the electoral system as the only agreeable way of political power ascension. INEC must transparently conduct the processes before, during and after election according to regulations, timely and proficiently.
Parties must allow internal democracy in the choice of candidates and running of their affairs as this is bound to have effect on politicians’ attitude to electoral system. A candidate that emerges in an undemocratic way in his/her own party cannot be expected to respect any electoral process built on democratic ethos.
Such a candidate would be too desperate to win election by foul means and ultimately circumvent all rules governing free and fair election, Voter education through adequate information dissemination is a key to free and fair election. This cannot be left for INEC alone. Essentially, election is about information. The quantity and quality of information available to the electorate goes a long way in motivating their interests, galvanizing their conscious participation to make free choice and reposing confidence in the ballot system.
This is where civil society groups have crucial roles to play. Our organization, Democracy Vanguard, played useful roles in this regard and our experience was worthwhile all through our interface with electorates in all the 16 and 30 local government areas in Ekiti and Osun States respectively. Our messages of “One Man, One Woman, One Vote”, “My Votes Must Count”, “All Fingers are Equal on Election Days”, “Say No to Rigging”, “Vote for Candidate of Your Choice without Fear, Intimidation and Inducement” among others, printed in posters and handbills distributed free of charge really helped in no small way in enhancing voters enlightenment and confidence in the electoral system.
On perception of people that political parties would rig election
Well, this is the perception of many voters and the general public. The reasons for this perception are rooted in the way and manner of our politics as played by the corrupt political elites. As it is now, politics is fully monetized. So it is a “do or die” affair so to say where the highest bidder who can buy his way through gets nomination as party’s candidate. This scenario has made many credible people with integrity and selfless purpose to serve the people run away from politics.
However, where people are well mobilized and resolute that their votes must count, it would be very difficult for election to be rigged with impunity. So this perception and trend can change and votes can only count when people are well enlightened, and are well informed. This is where the role of the media in reporting the political parties and their process of internal democracy is important, so the citizens can make informed choices.