Elections are part of any democratic process. Nigeria is a democratic country; however, local politicians like to play ‘dirty’ games. What are electoral malpractices in Nigeria? Is it possible to prevent any manipulations and make the process completely free and fair? Let us talk about the causes and effects of this popular phenomenon popularly called ‘rigging.’
Fair elections have become like fairy tales in Nigeria. Free elections are also something many citizens do not believe in. This happens not just in Nigeria but also in different other ‘young’ democracies.
What are the causes of this problem? How to understand the term? Is there something you can personally do to prevent the bad practices in your city or state? So many interesting questions are truly worth your attention.
What is electoral malpractice?
This term is used to describe all dishonest and fraud activities that interfere with the democratic ‘nature’ of election.
The fraud practices during elections are common in countries with political apathy, instability, lack of political awareness and high poverty rate.
Elections in Nigeria
All local elections are surrounded by rumors about unfairness and malpractices. The most commonly used examples of ‘bad’ activities that take place before, during, and right after elections include the following:
- Illegal usage of ballot boxes
- Illegal printing of voter’s cards
- Results falsification
- Stuffing ballot boxes with fake ballot papers votes
- Manipulations with registration of voters
Rumors about manipulations and malpractices have been around Nigerian elections even since 1959. This is the problem in many countries globally.
Causes of electoral malpractice
Everything that happens, good or bad, has a cause. There are numerous factors that influence elections in Nigeria.
Numerous economic issues and instability make people anxious about their future. Some of them are eager to join the party and start a political career to build their personal financial ‘nest’ and eat their part of the national cake. They are only thinking about personal wealth. They have no desire to help the nation change for better and the economy to develop.
High poverty rate
It is not a secret that millions of Nigerians are poor. Poverty, low salaries, unemployment - such situation is used by politicians who make their promises and never keep their words. Poverty and corruption are real ‘friends’ and are extremely loved by politicians. People who cannot afford food are willing to trade their vote for bread, fruit, and cereals or even money.
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Even with all the rumors going around the fraud during elections, the weak court system does not help much with punishments. No justice only makes the problems worth. When it is easy to get away with lies and fraud, there is a huge temptation to stay unfair and bring no real democratic changes to the country.
Temporary staff problem
It is cheaper to hire a temporary team to work during elections. On one hand, this is a great solution as it helps to save Nigerian money. On the other hand, temporary people can be influenced by the fraudulent elements because, they most likely do not have the level of sense of responsibility and service that someone who has been working in the electoral commission for 30 years would have.
Such people sometimes feel the need to quickly make some extra cash during elections, since they'll go back to their joblessness once elections are over.
There is little or no discipline in different spheres. There are problems with infrastructure, logistics, security staff, and low electoral interest among Nigerians.
How can electoral malpractices can be prevented in Nigeria?
Only the major changes in minds, thoughts and strong desire for positive and democratic future can make the difference. It also takes a long time and hard work to reduce and prevent malpractices during the elections. Here are some ideas what can be done to improve everything.
Strict rules for everyone
Fraud activities can be decreased with high fees and real responsibility. Politicians who will be punished financially or even end up in prison and finish their career will think twice before organizing any manipulations. Election teams and all staff involved in the processes of voters registration, votes counting and announcing the results will also be responsible if they really fear the penalties.
Training and educational programs can help raise the political awareness, get professionals among electoral staff and political parties and explain to citizens how important each voice is. Only political training can describe the importance and consequences of what can be done, and what is taboo.
The Nigerian government has to perform reforms. It is necessary to figure out the problems in the electoral system and present solutions for them. Existing system needs to be improved. It requires more transparency, better control, and attention from the public.
These are some of the changes that can minimize the electoral malpractices. Nigerians can improve the electoral experience. Democratic countries are constantly working on improvements in different spheres of life. It takes time but, it can be done.
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