Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Temitayo Ogundipe, has identified the literacy level and poverty among rural dwellers as part of the challenges bedeviling democracy in Nigeria, adding that these affected the political behaviour of the majority of the voters.
He charged the National Orientation Agency (NOA), to embark on well-coordinated strategies for the awareness of the citizens’ rights: “The agency must begin now to educate and sensitise about existential benefits of the elections. The government must endeavor to ensure that Nigerians are given deep-seated political education particularly on the need to shun vices during elections in Nigeria.
“Poverty has remained one of the major tools politicians use to perpetuate their stay in office. What that means is that, as they are increasing the poverty level, they are also increasing in the way they manipulate people with money.”
Ogundipe spoke at the second colloquium of the Nigeria Institute of Management (Chartered) in Lagos. He spoke on the theme: “Democracy and Electoral Process; the Nigerian Experience.”
He said that despite the gains in electoral process and democratic experience, Nigerian political landscape was still volatile and unstable: “This is even more worrying with the incidences of ballot-box snatching, voters intimidation, insecurity as well as manipulation on the basis of religion and ethnicity, which had led to a significant number of tribunal cases after the rejection of election results by the opposition at state or federal level.
“Democracy gives credence to popular election as the only legally and politically accepted source of political authority. Democracy creates a system of government where there are open spaces for everyone to participate in the authoritative decision making processes and recognises individual rights, a system of representation and electoral system based on the principle of one man, one vote and one vote, one value.
“We need professional competence and administrative capacity building. With the restructuring and reorganization of INEC after 2011 elections, additional effort is required to upgrade professional competence of staff through a range of capacity building, skills transfer and training programmes.
“There is equally the need to fight poverty and strengthen financial autonomy of the INEC because effectiveness of electoral processes is conditional on availability of financial resources to deliver efficient services consistent with international minimum benchmark and global best practices.”
He said it was imperative for government to look into the establishment of an institution that would operate as a monitoring group for the electoral commission, political parties and contesting candidates: “This institution must be given the mandate to ensure that political campaigns and elections are conducted in accordance with the established electoral laws and regulations and must be empowered to legally prosecute any citizens arrested for the cases of electoral violence, thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes and other electoral ills.”
President of the institute, Prof. Olukunle Iyanda, wondered why election period was characterised by tension, corrupt activities, and violence, noting that these were caused by inter- and intra-party rivalries.
He noted that the period of election is one that threatens and undermines the unity of the country in such a way that one might wish that the country could do away with elections adding that elections were sine qua non of a democratic system.
A participant, Mr. Monsuru Adekunle, described the presentation as a well-documented historical perspective on Nigeria electoral journey: “We are responsible for the type of government we have.” He added that there was need for the Federal Government to pay more attention to the development of the local government:
“The Federal Government is planning a reform for the local government to have their allocation directly but the states are up in arms against it. So, we must support the local government to survive.”