2023 elections: Democracy and elections in Nigeria

Democracy is said to be a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Many democracies that transition into the 21st face challenges in their path of successful consolidation including economy, unemployment, inequality in income and wealth and inflation.

Many challenges facing democracies in Africa and Nigeria can be attributed to the lack of proper enlightenment of citizens to the tenets of democracy and rule of law. The winner is supposed to take all while the loser is expected to resist.

In spite of these challenges to democracy, a system is taking shape in Nigeria to strengthen democracy. The National Peace Committee comprising statesmen and elders have taken it on themselves to forestall after election violence and commit candidates to peace before, during and after elections.

The accord was meant to bind political parties, candidates and their supporters to resort to the constitution if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the elections.

Similarly, local and international observers including the West African Elders Forum, Commonwealth Observer Group and others have made significant contribution towards enshrining democratic ethos in Nigeria. These election monitors have been a part of the various election processes in the country since the return of democratic rule in 1999.

After the Feb. 25 presidential and national assembly elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Bola Tinubu as the winner with 8,794,736 of the over 24 million votes cast.

The two opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the Labour Party (LP) have gone to court to challenge the result. This is the most expected decision that various monitors and observers envisaged. For democracies to thrive, the citizens must imbibe this culture exploring the option of the constitution to resolve issues.

On the outcome of the election, an editorial by Premium Times, states that while some logistics challenges, malpractices and violence in some locations undermined the election, it is excessive and inaccurate to describe the exercise as totally flawed or as the worst in Nigeria’s history, as some want the world to believe. If anything, the election demonstrated appreciable progress in the nation’s electoral process, in comparison to past ones.

In a write up in the Vanguard, Magnus Onyibe, a former commissioner in Delta state, wrote stated that the shortcoming of the 2023 election has laid bare that not enough critical thinking went into organizing the event which is supposed to be so epochal and consequential that it should not have been treated with such levity.

‘’For instance, the election is setting our country back by about N355 billion that was appropriated for INEC to conduct the election. That is just the direct cost of tax payers’ money. When the down time of locking down the country on election days twice are factored in, the cost burden on an economy which is tottering on the brinks of collapse would be much higher.

Similarly, the Washington Post editorial ‘’Nigeria points the way toward democracy in a region in which it is scarce’’, while calling on INEC to assess what went wrong in the 2023 elections, noted that the March 28 governorships and state assembly elections seemed to be much better managed in spite of ‘’some scattered report of violence’’.

It stated that a flawed election in Nigeria can set a standard in a part of Africa where staging a coup is more common than canvassing for votes, adding that ‘’an election in Nigeria won’t turn Africa into a democratic utopia, but it can point the way to a different path’’.

On their observation of the Feb. 25 presidential and national assembly election, the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) gave insights on the way forward.

While the forum notes that some political parties and concerned citizens have raised procedural questions and allegations of infractions of the electoral law in the process of collation of results, it called on all aggrieved parties to document and laid their claims to INEC, in accordance with the Electoral Act 2022.

‘’The Mission notes the imperative of retaining the confidence of Nigerians in the on-going electoral process and, therefore, urges the INEC to thoroughly investigate those concerns and comply with the electoral law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the process of collating the election results.

‘’As former leaders who are committed to peace and stability in our sub-region, we have begun a round of consultations with some of the presidential candidates and other key stakeholders, taking to them our message of hope, understanding and peace.

Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former Nigeria president, also reflected on effective and transparent leadership in the country at a function recently in his home state of Bayelsa.

“As a leader in the country who had the privilege of serving at the state and national level, I can only advise that politics is not about that you must be there. If God wants you to be there, you will be there. If it is not yet your turn to be there, you will not be there.

“So, I advise people who are interested in these offices and their supporters to conduct themselves very well. They want to serve us, not themselves.

“If you want to serve us as people, then you must be humble, and you will not kill us before you serve us. So, people must conduct themselves peacefully, and if God wants them to win their elections, they will win their elections.”

**If used, credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

***This article is with support from Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF), a pro-peace and good governance initiative dedicated to preserving and promoting democratic principles as a prerequisite for peace and prosperity in Africa.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria