Editor's note: Moses Oluwaseyi, an election expert and Program Officer at YIAGA AFRICA, writes on the election process in Nigeria, urging citizens to organize and engage government in order to shape appropriate accountability relationships before, during and after each election cycle.
Election is a process which comprises of 3 basic phases; pre-election, election day and the post-election. However, the trend of election in Nigeria is that, the average electorate have restrained themselves to voting alone after which they show low or no concern in engaging with the elected until another election year. This style has created a huge lacuna and made greedy politicians take undue advantage of the electorates.
George Santayana a writer and philosopher said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Should the docility of electorate continue in the previous pattern of ignorance, sentiments of ethnicity, religiosity and stomach infrastructure; then issues of underdevelopment as well as absence of the dividends of democracy will not elude every sphere of our dear country. The extent to which electorates engage with their representatives in Nigeria is highly very poor.
In emerging democracies, citizens must organize and engage government in order to shape appropriate accountability relationships. Therefore, for electorate to be beneficial of a workable social justice and improved human well-being, an environment of gender equality, zero corruption, equal health care, laws respected and reliable livelihoods; a dogged commitment for a sustainable electoral system is required as this is the only legitimate process of deciding leaders who are expected to represent citizens at every level.
In the National Democratic Institute publication “Putting Elections To Work For Accountability” it captures that; Quality elections matter a great deal, but only insofar as they put citizens in the driver’s seat when it comes to steering the work of government. For this reason, elections should be treated as opportunities that not only allow citizens to choose leaders, but that can also begin to position citizens as informed, organized and active participants in policy making.
It is imperative that electorates must take drastic steps and move from sentimental and cheap political activities of engaging representatives with trivial issues of marriages of their wards, naming ceremonies and the likes of their village festivals which keep us down making us fodder for the rapacious cannons of the exploiters to more developmental issues that will drive infrastructural and human developments in the nation at large. This means shifting the balance of power, so citizens have more influence as influencing positive change requires exploiting entry points across the entire political cycle. Youth involvement should go beyond rallies, thuggery and been used for vote mobilization.
As the nation prepares towards the democracy day which will mark the beginning of a new era for newly and returning elected officials; my clarion call for caution to the electorate will be to develop a progressive agenda setting for all newly electorate without any form of sentiments. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) need to see this act as a shared agenda thereby assisting in ensuring that adequate knowledge building for citizens especially at the rural areas who are mostly at the receiving end of selling their votes amongst other electoral malpractices.
Accordingly, to help rescue electorate in Nigeria from the brink of helplessness and hopelessness, the religious institutions who are the gate keepers of the nation’s moral conscience need to take conscious efforts in developing citizens’ who are most vulnerable on voter education to be immune to the ravages of corrupt political leaders who make conscious efforts to disfranchise electorate from informed choices.
Electorate must understand their inherent political rights which implies a responsibilities from the Elects this includes the need to make politicians realize that, the bases for their election or reelection is premise to accountability and developments in relation to needs and the absence of such guarantees a removal. Such informed decisions will not just drive developments but translate the mind set of politicians.
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