Scandalous “elections” in Nigeria vs Perfect Elections elsewehere

Adeola Aderounmu.

The situation in Nigeria requires a very serious appraisal. There is an urgent need for Nigeria to move forward progressively. It is very unfortunate that Nigeria continues to have unintelligent inputs from those who run the systems and all that seems like good policies never get beyond what I call “textbook versions”. There are hardly implementations in Nigeria and so words and promises have never been met with due actions.

A lot has been written on how Nigeria can move forward but still nothing has happened especially in the last 8 years. The implication is that any new legitimate administration that comes in next will still be saddled with abundance of criticisms for some time to come. The next 4 years will be critical to the future of Nigeria and whatever happens at the next elections whenever they are conducted will be a very interesting milestone in the history of Nigeria.

In the meantime, I wish to tackle Mr. Iwu and Mr. Obasanjo and challenge them on their reckless utterances concerning the 2007 widely condemned “election”.  To cover up for their ineptitudes and very unacceptable shortcomings, these 2 men have continued to use every available opportunity to tell the world that there are no perfect elections. Indeed and in truth, many of us will agree with them only because 1, 2 or more things may go wrong at every election due to human errors not because the election is programmed to fail.

What happened in the 2007 criminalised “election” in Nigeria did not meet the lowest or minimum requirements for such to be called an election.  Everything was wrong with the “elections” of April 14 and 21. It is as if these 2 men lack the basic comprehension of what happened at the polls and other places in Nigeria in connection with the voting exercises on these 2 dates. Obasanjo and Iwu seemed to us me as men with the heart of stones: men without conscious thoughts. Why are some leaders and politicians so thoughtless?

Mr. Obasanjo and Mr. Iwu are not only incompetent; they are also incorrigible and obstinate. They have failed to reason with intelligent minds that what they did in 2007 is not acceptable in the 21st century. It is a monumental shame and an insult to millions of intelligent Nigerians at home and abroad. As a matter of fact, these are men whose actions and comments regarding the “elections” calls for investigations  into murder, arson, underage voting, assault, molestation, deceit, lies, fraud, wastages and negligence of duties among other atrocities and vices committed before, during and after the “elections”. With the passing time, one just got tired to read about the reckless statements of the custodians of the worthless “elections” in Nigeria.

I wish to counter and very strongly too, the statements that there are no perfect elections anywhere in the world.  I think it is a duck excuse on the matter at stake. I will draw a few examples to drive home my points. In my own opinion, if an election has some shortcomings that may perhaps not have any effect on the final outcome, I think that it has the attributes of a perfect election. Furthermore if there are adequate regulatory mechanisms to detect errors or shortcomings, then an imperfect election can be made perfect by fixing the problem or simply calling for re-election. 

For instance, in Sweden you can cast your vote at some designated centers like the post office before the election date. There is also the use of “voting by messenger” for disabled people.  In the 2002 elections in Sweden, there were only 3 known instances of irregularities. The first was misuse of “voting by messenger” where 2 social democratic election workers acted as messengers/witnesses for some voters. The witnesses are supposed to be neutral persons. The total number of votes affected by this was 18.

The second instance was at a home for elderly people where some social democratic election workers presented a voting place for advanced voting, but only ballot papers for the Social Democratic Party were available. Finally, the third instance was one polling station where one of the tables had voting envelopes already containing ballots for the Social Democratic party. None of these instances were initiated by the Social Democratic Party. They were solitary decisions of the individual election workers.

These anomalies of the 2002 elections have been analysed by the Swedish Election Review Board and it has been unequivocally stated that they had no effect on the final outcome of the election. The Election Review Board may declare an election void and order a new election, either nationally or in a specific constituency, if an irregularity may be presumed to have affected the outcome of the election. Even the rival parties acknowledged that the incident did not have any significant effects on the outcomes. The control mechanism in the Swedish electoral systems detected the faults, and they were dealt with according to predefined procedures. In this write up, I hold the view that these minor occurrences cannot take away the perfection of that election or that of the control mechanisms.

To my knowledge also, in the recent elections in Sweden (2006) I have not heard of any shortcomings. I state without doubts that that election was perfect.  In the buildup to the election however, the Liberal Youth Association (the youth organization associated with the Liberal Party “Folkpartiet”) was discovered to have hacked into the computer system of the ruling Social Democratic Party. This is merely an issue of misuse of technological advancements and criminal investigations have since been conducted on the incident. The youth acted on their own accord and their delinquent activities have no bearing whatsoever on the wish or mindsets of the electorates and the FolkPartiet regarding the electoral issues at stake in 2006. This unexpected intrusion had no significance on the manifestos of the various parties. In 2006, as a result of the coalition of the rival parties, the Social Democratic Party was voted out of power. The election was clean and accepted by all.

Minor human errors do occur during elections. Does this render the election imperfect in line with the suggestion of Mr. Iwu and Mr.Obasanjo? The answer is NO.  The anomalies of the Nigerian “elections” were not minor anyway! It has been adjudged as the worst election in the history of mankind.  An election becomes perfect when the errors (if any) are detected by control mechanisms and rectified, if necessary by re-elections. On the real Election Day in Sweden in 2006, there were no riggings, no fighting, no killings, no intimidation, no late voting, no absenteeism for electoral officers, no stuffing of ballot boxes, no delay in arrival of electoral materials, no stealing of ballot boxes, no underage voting, no threats to human lives and no police or armed personnel on the streets. Ballot boxes did not get into homes of lawless citizens. What I saw, experienced and participated in was a perfect voting day exercise in 2006.

Many will be quick to indicate the Florida case and the Bush Family. Again, I agree that there were serious irregularities in the US Election that brought George Bush (Jnr) to power. I acknowledge that that was not a perfect election and as a matter of fact the United States (to those who know) is highly hypocritical as a nation. One hopes that Nigeria will never look forward to the failures of a country such as the US. That will not be a parameter to the success that still eludes Nigeria as a nation. I state clearly here that Nigeria does not need to use failure as a yardstick to measure her own progress. The world has moved on and Nigeria cannot afford to stay behind in what the Mr. Obasanjo calls the “electoral culture of Nigeria since 1959”.

I challenge anyone who has detected anything wrong with the Swedish election in 2006 or 2002 (beyond the allegations that were cited here) to come forward and state their course. A perfect election will be that whose results reflect the wish of the people and the losers have no grudges in congratulating the winners.  A perfect election is characterized by peaceful display of voters’ lists, peaceful voting and respects for the rights of everyone. In some countries democracy is no longer a journey, it is a destination. They have arrived and it seems that nothing will shake the foundations on which these democracies are built. There has not been any major report yet that could taint the perfection of the French election which was held in 2007, a few days after the show of shame in Nigeria. In recent weeks, there have been acceptable elections in some African countries.

Nigeria is a country that many Africans looked up to on the African continent and beyond and therefore she needs restoration to that enviable position as a true giant. The annulled 1993 election in Nigeria was a success while the 2007 election was a charade. In the future, we look forward to an election that will further portray decency and civility. Nigerians need to be able to choose their own leaders without being under duress or aggression. I look forward to the proper enfranchisement of the populace. My hope for Nigeria also lies in the evolution of individuals who will discuss issues rather than personality and individual egos. My eternal hope is that a time should come in Nigeria when all Nigerians can describe elections as free, fair, successful and perfect. Democracy cannot be an everlasting journey. It is a system and it works for many countries. This is the 21st century! Nigeria, the sleeping giant of Africa should wake up with the heartbeat and conscience of a role model.

These are my personal opinions and this is the way that I see it!