PoliticsEdo, Ondo Polls Raise Issues of Trust in Electoral Process

Edo, Ondo Polls Raise Issues of Trust in Electoral Process


April 1, (THEWILL)- As the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC prepares to conduct two-off season elections in Edo and Ondo States this year, two months after it issued a comprehensive report on the 2023 General Election, issues of apathy, trust and accountability in the electoral process are being raised in the polity.

In the days and years ahead, polls will hold in Edo and Ondo polls on September 21, 2023 and November 16, 2024 respectively, and then Osun and Anambra State in 2026 before the general poll in 2027.

On Saturday, March 30, 2024, INEC published the names of political parties and their approved candidates that will participate in the Edo State governorship poll on September 21, this year.


INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun, said the Commission, in keeping with the provisions in Section 29 (3) of the Electoral Act, has to publish the personal particulars of the governorship candidates and their running mates on March 30, a week from the last date for the submission of nominations by the political parties.

He said the 17 parties that fulfilled the requirements are the following: Peoples Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress, Labour Party, Accord Party, Action Alliance, African Democratic Congress, All Progressives Grand Alliance, and the Allied Peoples Movement.

Others are Action Peoples Party, Boot Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party, National Rescue Movement, Peoples Redemption Party, Social Democratic Party, Young Progressives Party, African Action Congress and Zenith Labour Party.

While electioneering kicks off on April 24, 2024 in Edo State, primary elections are about to be held in Ondo State on April 6-27, 2024, with the campaign date fixed for June 19, 2024.

During these outings, the electoral process and institutions, including political parties, candidates, voters, security personnel, government and civil society organisations will come under scrutiny.

“The 2023 Election Report has sufficiently addressed what happened during the General Election and INEC will continuously improve with every election that it conducts henceforth,” Professor Ayobami Salami told THEWILL, when asked about the Commission’s preparedness to handle the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship polls amid some gaps disclosed in the report.

Salami, who is the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, added, “With the feedback the Commission has got from the public and other outcomes, we are better prepared to improve on the conduct of the next round of election in the Edo and Ondo States.”

He disagreed with the suggestion that the generality of Nigerians have lost trust in INEC over “Whatever you say will not be agreed to by everybody. You can only explain to the best of your ability and people will still stick with their opinion.”

For Mr Ajanya Esrom, an operational officer with the Kukah Centre, which often gets candidates and their political parties to sign and commit to pre-election peace agreements, trust in the political process is not a given.

He told THEWILL in an interview, “It must be earned. It can be taken and it can be given.”

Speaking from experience during his interaction with political parties, Esrom said the country is at a point where political parties and other stakeholders in the electoral process have to begin to earn the trust of Nigerians.

He however maintained that the process of earning trust is not an overnight task because it must be demonstrated by evidence. “That is part of the work we are doing at the Kukah Centre, to help political parties demonstrate that evidence. They have to show the Nigerian citizens through manifestoes that they can be trusted with the position of governance which they must administer inclusively.”

He submitted that the elected politicians must be held accountable through a multi-stakeholder approach of different state institutions, which operate at every layer of the electoral process before, during and after the conduct of elections. “For example, during elections politicians will present their party manifestos to Nigerians, who should interrogate the contents. During voting, INEC, the security agents, voters and the media should be involved. The issue of democracy is a contested process.”

This multi-stakeholder approach on rebuilding trust in the electoral process, institutions and election was the focus of a workshop in Lagos last week. Organised by the International Press Centre, IPC, with its co-partner, the Centre for Media and Society, CEMESO, under the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria Project, the workshop drew participants from the academia, media, civil society organisations and the security agencies.

Isaac Olawale Albert, a Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and the pioneer Dean of the Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies at the University of Ibadan, who gave the lead presentation, titled, ‘The Role of Critical Stakeholders in Rebuilding Trust in the Electoral Process, Institutions and Elections in Nigeria,’ said, “There is no alternative to democracy and elections are important in the process. Without trust, democracy is a façade.”

Albert said public perception is key to effective participation in the electoral process, adding that key institutions and actors in the electoral process, such as INEC and the Judiciary, have to deal with institutional credibility, while politicians have to deal with procedural credibility and National Assembly have to deal with personal credibility.

He outlined a five-step approach to stakeholder engagement in the political process, viz; engagement strategy whereby vision is set for future appointment; stakeholders mapping dealing with definition criteria for identifying and prioritising stakeholder engagement; preparation which focuses on long-term goals to drive the approach and set rules; engagement to mitigate tension while focusing on priorities and action plan to revisit goals and plan next step.

A former National Commissioner of INEC, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, held that trust is fundamental to elections and the society at large because it is about social solidarity. For Ibeanu, there are three critical factors in building and retaining trust in the electoral process.

“The first is a normative framework which provides for a system of rules, particularly for institutions because they are created by rules. The second is the ability to implement the rules by those who have the professional capacity to do so and thirdly is a robust system of redress for holding accountability and rewarding those who do the right thing. Trust is the basis of legitimacy,” he said.

Curiously, political parties, which are the major beneficiaries of the electoral process, ought to be the fulcrum of the views canvassed at the workshop were found wanting because of the view expressed about politicians by the National Chairman of the umbrella body of political parties in Nigeria, the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, Yusuf Dantalle.

According to Dantalle, many politicians in Nigeria see politics as business and political office transforms the economic status of the political office holder immediately after election.

“What this means is that politics in Nigeria is business. It is not about service to the people. That is why it will be difficult to trust elected office holders,” he said, adding: “Today, if as a farmer or businessman you go to the bank for a loan, you will have to go from one end of Nigeria to the other to get the requirements.

But the moment you are elected into office, the banks will come for you, to give you a loan that you did not seek or need. What this means is that the economic status of the elected person has been transformed and he would be able to pay the loan.”

Dantalle contended that democracy is only practised at the state and national levels, with the grassroots, where it matters most, being left out. The reason, he adduced, was the strangle hold governors maintain on the electoral process through state independent electoral commissions.

He said that plans are afoot by his administration which came into office in November 2023 to reorganise the parties through a well-articulated code of conduct for political parties before 2027 polls. He disclosed that some strategic plans on this had been drawn by the political parties with support of Westminster Foundation, adding that democracy as currently practiced in the country was still far from the reality let alone the ideal.

IPAC, he said, has also created a Directorate of women affairs and People with Disability for more inclusion clauses for parties.

“These challenges are part of the culture of impunity I have seen from the first to the second, third and now fourth republic, robbing me of my trust of the system; hence building trust is a multi-stakeholder problem,” said Dr Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director of CEMESO, co-host of the workshop.

“The task of building trust in the electoral system is a collective responsibility,” said Mr Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director of IPC.

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Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

Amos Esele, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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