FREE AND FAIR ELECTION AS A PANACEA

LECTURE DELIVERED
BY
DR. SARATU BINTA DIKKO-AUDU
CHAIRMAN, KADUNA STATE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION

THEME: FREE AND FAIR ELECTION AS A PANACEA FOR POLITICAL STABILITY IN NIGERIA

 

VENUE: MARTIN LUTHER AGWAI INTERNATIONAL

LEADERSHIP AND PEACE KEEPING CENTRE, JAJI

DATE: WEDNESDAY 16th NOVEMBER 2022

PROTOCOL

INTRODUCTION

First of all I wish to thank the Commandant of the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre as well as organizers of the Course on Election Monitoring for inviting me again to share my thoughts on the topic “Free and Fair Election as a Panacea for Political Stability in Nigeria”.

This is an Election Monitoring Course so you are all potential Election Monitors.

Election Monitors are neutral, independent and non-partisan groups of persons who “assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of the legislation and international best practices”.

The work of an Election Monitor begins weeks before the actual Election Day, through the Election Day and even after the Election Day.

  • Before Election Day, Monitors look at the Candidates registration, legal frame work, media situation, election administration and election campaigns.
  • On Election Day, they monitor opening of polling stations, actual voting, counting of votes and collation of results.
  • After Election Day, they monitor how election related shortcomings and complaints are dealt with by the administration and the judiciary and publish a report.

 This lecture today is to show how Free and Fair Elections in Nigeria can be a Panacea for Political Stability in the Country. I will also be sharing my experience as the Chairman of Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission, which introduced the first electronic voting machines (EVM) into the Nigerian Electoral space, placing Nigeria as the first Country in West Africa and 2nd in Africa to deploy electronic voting in its elections.  The credit goes to our visionary, proactive and progressive Governor, Mal. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufa’I OFR, who insisted that he wanted Kaduna State citizens to actually vote on an electronic devise.   

The theme “Free and Fair Election as a Panacea for Political Stability in Nigeria”, implies that Nigeria suffers from political instability occasioned by elections that are neither free nor fair therefore lacking credibility.  It also implies that conduct of free and fair elections could be a remedy for the Political Instability suffered in Nigeria.

I will consider the theme under four broad sub-headings as listed below.  I will also take the liberty to introduce you to our Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) so you have firsthand knowledge and experience of Kaduna’s EVM.

I           POLITICAL STABILITY IN NIGERIA

II          FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

III        HOW CAN FREE AND FAIR ELECTION LEAD TO POLITICAL STABILITY

IV        TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

I.          POLITICAL STABILITY

Let us consider the two words in this phrase

  • Political – relates to how power is achieved and used in a country/society to drive the economy
  • Stability – not likely to change, fall apart or end abruptly
  • Consistency, acceptability, peace, absence of conflict.

Political Stability therefore pictures a situation where there is peace, no conflict but economic and sustainable growth. Can we say that we enjoy political stability in Nigeria today?

Political Stability indicators include absence of violence/terrorism, government effectiveness, application of rule of law, policy continuity in governance, economic advancement, economic growth, better quality of life of citizens.

Considering the Nigerian situation we can identify some indicators of political stability or instability such as:

Threat to war/terrorism (North East & North West), breakdown of law and order (North West & South East), threat to peace and security (wide spread).

Economic growth – negative, inflation rate is at a 17year high, at 23.12% in August 2022. According to World Bank records, Nigeria’s GDP in 2021 was worth 440.78 billion USD which represents 0.05% of the world’s economy! The GIANT of Africa contributes only 0.05% of the world’s economy! Official exchange rate of USD/Naira is $1 = N439. However, in the parallel market it went up to $1 = N900! 

Political Stability/Instability indices have been developed primarily to inform international investors of the political risk involved in investing in various countries.

The Political Stability Index is based on three variables:

  1. Possibility of regime/government change
  2. Possibility of violence e.g. banditry, kidnappings, assassinations, demonstrations etc.
  3. Degree to which policies are subject to change e.g. property rights.  

The Political Stability and absence of violence/terrorism index in 2020 ranked Nigeria in the 4.7th percentile of the 197 countries surveyed.  This means that Nigeria was more stable than just 4.7% of the countries studied.

In another rating of political stability on a scale of -2.5(weak) to +2.5(strong), over a period of 26years (1996 – 2022), Nigeria’s worst rating of -2.21 points was in 2010. Nigeria’s best rating was in 1998 at -0.59 but has dropped to -1.86 points in 2022.

Also important in attracting international investors is the Corruption Perception index, but we are not talking about corruption today even though it can be argued that corruption can play a huge role in the political stability of a nation.  From the ratings of Nigeria in our political stability indices and what we know about the political situation in our country today, we can conclude that Nigeria is not doing well. If indeed free and fair elections could be a panacea for Political Stability, how then can elections in Nigeria be made more free and fair than has been the case so far? 

II.        FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

Now let us look at what constitutes a free and fair election.

One definition of free and fair election is:

  • where all citizens are able to vote for candidates of their choice (free)
  • where all votes have equal weight (fair)

There are 8 Standards for achieving free and fair elections

  1. Voter registration – only citizens who are registered will be allowed to participate in the election.
  2. Eligibility to vote and be voted for (open access) – Every eligible citizen should have equal access to vote and be voted for.
  3. Voter education (access to credible information) – Voters should be adequately educated about the method of voting and the candidates contesting in the election.  
  4. Equal access to polling units – Polling Units should be easily accessible to all voters.
  5. Devoid of intimidation (equal access to media coverage) – all candidates should have equal access to media and campaign coverage.
  6. Integrity of each vote (each vote must count just once) – every vote only counts once no multiple voting.
  7. Accurate transmission of votes – all votes must be equally transmissible.
  8. Integrity of results (loser must accept the results) – Results must be acceptable to and respected by all candidates.

How have Nigerian elections measured up to these standards? Nigeria could probably be rated above average in the first three (3) standards but not so highly in the last five (5) standards.  Elections that are not free and fair will breed Political Instability.  People will feel disenfranchised and voter apathy sets in.

III.       HOW CAN FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS LEAD TO POLITICAL STABILITY?

The nature of democracy is that elected officials are accountable to the people and they must return periodically to the voters to seek their mandate to continue in office. Consequently, an elected government must be responsive to the yearnings of its citizens otherwise it would not be returned to office. There are seven reasons for promoting free and fair elections:

  1. Install legitimate governments – choice of the majority of the voters.
  2. Promote stability and peaceful co-existence – no need to challenge their own choice.
  3. Bring about political development and growth – they are looking at continuity in office.
  4. Political parties and candidates test out their popularity – citizen support.
  5. Give citizens faith in the political system – citizen will be eager to vote.
  6. Encourage political participation – credible candidates will offer their services.
  7. Promote competition – most popular party/candidate will win.

When elections are free and fair, the results will be accepted by the generality of the citizens.  Consequently, the citizens will have faith in the electoral system and be agreeable to the policies instituted. Thus implementation will be peaceful, dividends observable and stability guaranteed. 

IV.       TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

  1. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) model.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, in its attempt to improve credibility of its elections first introduced the Smart Card Reader (SCR) in 2015, which accredited registered voters by recognition of their finger prints. Credibility was further enhanced by the recent (2022) introduction of the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which uses both the finger print and the facial recognition to accredit registered voters. INEC also introduced the electronic transmission of results as contained in the 2022 Electoral Act.

  • The Kaduna State Model.

In his desire to make elections more free, fair, credible and acceptable to the citizens of the State, Kaduna State Governor, Mal. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufa’I OFR, initiated the use of technology in the State’s Local Government Councils Election.  Consequently, when he inaugurated the State Independent Electoral Commission in 2015, he charged the Commission to come up with suitable technology that will allow citizens to actually vote on a machine, not just accreditation via a Smart Card Reader (SCR) as was done by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the 2015 General Election.  This was successfully done in the 2018 Kaduna State Local Government Councils Election (LGCE) via use of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and repeated in the 2021 LGCE.  Both elections were free, fair, non-violent, credible and acceptable to the generality of the citizens of Kaduna State.  

  • In a Post-Election survey conducted in 2019, over 95% of the respondents applauded the performance of the EVM and recommended its use in elections thereafter, because it proved to be faster and more credible than the paper ballot election they were used to.  In fact, during the rescheduled 2021 Local Government Councils Election, it was possible for the election to be conducted without restriction of movement.  The election was peaceful and results acceptable.  The result of the election was acceptable because the integrity of the result was backed by four (4) levels of capture: the ballot receipts, summary sheet, EVM memory, USB data and transmitted data.  When results are verifiable and backed by data from the machine, the integrity of the election is high and results accepted by the citizens.  What is now left is for the elected officers to deliver the dividends of Democracy (political stability, peace, economic growth and development) to the people that elected them into office, otherwise they will be shown the way out in the next election cycle.
  • As a result of the use of the EVM, Kaduna State Local Government Councils Elections have been considered as most credible where the will of the electorate prevailed. This was evident from the results of the elections where the opposition party won some Chairmanship and Councillorship positions which until now was never heard of. This gave the electorate confidence in the system so that they overwhelmingly recommended that the use of EVM be extended to the National Elections.
  • Use of the EVM in Kaduna State LGCE, has placed Nigeria in the list of World countries that deploy electronic voting machines in their elections. Nigeria is the first country in West Africa and second only to Namibia in Africa to deploy electronic voting machines in its elections. Kaduna’s feat has also been recognized by bodies outside of the state. A cyber security company, CYBERCHAIN, all the way from Lagos has presented a special award to the Government of Kaduna State, under the brilliant leadership of His Excellency, Mal. Nasir Ahmad El-rufai OFR,

“FOR BEING THE FIRST STATE TO CONDUCT ELECTRONIC VOTING IN NIGERIA”

We are very proud of this achievement and are glad to be a part of it.

We believe that the credibility of elections in Nigeria could be further enhanced if the technology of the EVM, BVAS and PVC are combined with electronic transmission of the results. This, the Kaduna State EVM has the capacity to do with the cooperation of INEC.

It is our hope that eventually the Election Management Bodies in Nigeria will go the whole hog by providing for both election and transmission of results electronically.  This will greatly enhance the credibility, acceptability and participation in elections in Nigeria.

V.        POWER POINT DEMONSTRATION OF THE KADUNA EVM

Since the Kaduna State EVM has been such a huge success and the Federal Government is also working on introducing more technology in its elections, I would like to show you how the Kaduna State EVM works.

I do not know how many of you have seen the EVM or had a chance to vote on the machine.  I will however at the end of this lecture give everyone a chance to experience the Kaduna State EVM first hand.

SLIDES           1 –       ELECTRONIC VOTING FOR KADUNA STATE

                        2 –       ADVANTAGES OF ELECTRONIC VOTING

  • Uses processor, flash memory & other safe electronic components
  • Guarantees security & vote integrity
  • Cuts out blank & void votes
  • Fast counting
  • Whole process automated
  • Customized to your need
  • Terminal weighs 5-10kg, hence easy to transport
  • 10-16hour battery life

3 –   SIECOM ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE (EVM)

4. EVM’s MAIN FEATURES

  • Thermal printer
  • Transparent windows
  • Touch screen
  • Contactless reader
  • OK and cancel (green and red) buttons
  • Ballot box with locks and windows
  • LED indicator

5. ELECTRONIC VOTING PROCESS

  • Presentation of PVC
  • Voter Register verification
  • Authorization card accreditation
  • EVM activation via PVC
  • Selection of Candidate’s Party Logo
  • Verify/cancel
  • OK choice, ends chairmanship election
  • Repeat for councillorship election
  • End of process; EVM shuts down

6. BALLOT RECEIPTS

  • SIECOM LOGO AND NAME
  • CHAIRMAN / COUNCILLOR
  •  PARTY LOGO
  • NAME OF PARTY
  • DATE
  • TIME
  • EVM SERIAL NUMBER

7. IN USE IN THESE COUNTRIES

  • Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil
  • Curacao
  • Haiti
  • Mexico
  • Namibia
  • Philippines
  • USA
  • Venezuela

8 Thank you

You will have a chance to see the machine and vote on it if you have your Permanent Voters Card.  The machines are located right here in front of the room.

VI.   CONCLUSION

It is believed that when the citizens are confident that their votes will count and the contestants know that they owe their positions to the votes of the citizens, they will be more responsible in delivering the dividends of democracy, knowing that their performance will determine whether or not they get re-elected in the next round of elections. Also when the most popular candidates get into office, politically instigated violence will be less likely. Consequently, political stability is achieved resulting in peace, progress and economic growth. This then justifies our theme: Free and Fair Election as a Panacea for Political Stability in Nigeria.

As election monitors, you will assess the extent to which elections are free and fair and therefore be in a position to predict the probability of stability or otherwise of an elected government.

Finally, I wish to thank the Commandant of the MLAILPC for this opportunity to share my thoughts on the impact of free and fair elections on political stability in Nigeria.  I also wish to thank His Excellency Mal. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufa’i OFR Governor of Kaduna State for introducing electronic voting to the Nigerian Electoral Space and giving citizens of Kaduna State the chance to actively participate in choosing of their leaders.  I also thank you all for listening to me I hope this lecture has been worth your time.

Thank you

God Bless