Guest Editorial: We Continue To Conduct Ourselves In The Same Manner Expecting Different Results
ELECTIONS ARE ON the horizon and tension is brewing in the country. The major opposition bloc within the country under the banner Collaboration of Political Parties (CPP) threatened a nonstop protest, to have begun 28 October 2020. The protest, according to the CPP, which is intended to compel the National Elections Commission (NEC) to make the “required changes” to avoid fraud and chaos in the up-coming mid-term elections, has been suspended with promise of an expected cleanup. Despite the suspension, this pronouncement of a non-stop protest puts the country on the edge and unaware of what is to come.
IT CAN BE recalled that the Supreme Court in 2017 denied the petition of constituent members of the CPP to annul the elections and order a rerun on grounds of “massive fraud”, “votes tampering” and “voter registry padding”, among others. The Court however ordered a cleanup of the voters’ registry. The Court’s mandate was on the basis that there were ghosts and duplicate names on the registry, as argued by the petitioners. Since then, the voter’s registry is yet to be cleaned up as instructed by the Court. However, several by-elections have been conducted using the existing registry, with violence gracing a couple of them.
A COUPLE OF weeks ago, NEC conducted what it called Voters Roll Update. The process was intended to register first-time voters as well as record change of constituency where applicable. That process did not go through without reports of violence, voter trucking, and disorganization, among others. The process laid bare the problems with the electoral system. Noting that election is not an event but a process with attending stages that must be perfected, it is safe to conclude that we have had electoral violence and reports of fraud simply because we have failed to perfect the required stages, including voters’ registration. We have also failed to properly handle candidates’ nomination, civic education, campaign and polling.
CIVIC EDUCATION HAS been so poorly conducted to the extent that invalid votes have been very alarming. During the first round of the 2017 elections, 1,641,922 ballots were cast out of which 88,574 or 5.4% were invalid. The lack of appropriate civic education has contributed to the electoral problems. Candidates’ nomination comes with its hype that sometimes goes wrong with bias rejection or acceptance of candidates. These two stages compare to campaign and pooling have been minimal in terms of contribution to electoral vitriol and violence.
THE CAMPAIGN HAS been a disaster for the past three and a half decades. We have had series of violent and bloody clashes that have led to injuries and damage of properties. Most of these incidents, if not all, have gone with impunity. Polling has also not shied away from reports of violent interruptions and disturbances. These cases of violence that have gone unaccountable continue to cast a dark cloud over our democracy.
VOTER REGISTRATION HAS had its share of reports of violence. Howbeit, the level of violence emanating during the process of voter registration has not been as high as the campaign and polling stages. Nevertheless, this stage is the most problematic. The violence that takes place during polling is often on the accusation of double voting or ineligible voters. These are problems that emanate from the voters’ registration process. The violence during the campaign and all associated electoral violence has been repetitive because we continue to conduct ourselves in the same manner expecting different results as well as the impunity factor. The NEC has been unable to stamp out violence due to its inability to get the voters’ registration right as well as identify the party or group instigating the violence. This inability of the NEC could be rectified if the voters’ registration is handled properly.