FG’s obsession with wanting to suppress free speech makes credible polls questionable in 2023 – President, TMG, Akiyode-Afolabi
The President of the Transition Monitoring Group, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, speaks on the rejection of the electronic transmission of election results by the Senate, the financial autonomy of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the participation of women in politics among others in this interview with VICTOR AYENI
What What is your opinion on the controversy over the appointment of Lauretta Onochie as commissioner of INEC?
Free and fair elections in Nigeria are the basis of a functioning democracy. Knowing the importance of the Independent National Election Commission and the need for electoral integrity, any candidate for the commission should be an impartial person. The legislative intention in adding the provision not to be a member of a party is to ensure non-affiliation with a political party. To admit that she was a member of a political party and also the fact that she is currently still affiliated as the President’s media assistant is reason enough to refuse her; thus, the decision of the Senate is welcome.
We already have a battered electoral system; we must resist anything that can make the system even more vulnerable. We have had a terrible story of INEC officials jailed for corrupt practices and fraud. We need an electoral commission that can defend the integrity and whose reputation does not compromise the integrity of the process.
Looking at Lauretta Onochie’s past and her active participation as a member of the All Progressives Congress, her appointment will arouse suspicion among citizens, giving them the opportunity to assume that her appointment is for a hidden agenda and this will be a contributing factor. to the current lack of confidence that citizens have always had in elections. We need credible people to launch credible elections.
What do you think of the controversy over the electronic transmission of election law results?
Majority of Nigerians do not believe in the manual processes used for our elections as they can be manipulated which is why we are calling for an electronic process even though we know that cybersecurity in Nigeria is very weak and needs to be invested in. in the technological age where even schools take lessons using their computers for homework and exams; thus, our electoral process from accreditation, voting, counting of votes and compilation of results should be done electronically.
It will also eliminate election violence, ballot snatching, rigging and multiple voting, among other issues, and allow transparency. The huge amount of money still budgeted before and during elections will also be minimized and diverted to other important issues. The transmission of votes to Edo and Ondo also made it faster and more credible; we can avoid human error if we support the electronic transmission of results; it is more advantageous for us than disadvantageous for the process.
What do you think of the electoral reform underway in the National Assembly?
The ongoing electoral reform is an important reform that will make or break our electoral processes and our country as a whole. There is a need to look at the way we do things over time and make room to do things in a better way and the only way to do that is to review our election laws and bring the necessary modifications. Even though there was a lack of political will in 2018, now is the time to look at the current situation the country finds itself in with regards to leadership, economic and security challenges we face. There are several areas in which we have to develop problems regarding offenses and penalties; impunity must be addressed in the electoral process. Our major achievement will be the codification of technology in our elections.
I am aware that there are a number of positive criticisms that we hope the debates will pick up on, but the critical areas are campaign finance, inclusion and sensitive elections. We cannot continue to monetize our elections and think they will be credible; if politicians invest, they will want returns at the expense of citizens.
With the development of things in the country, is there any hope that there will be a credible election day?
Considering the current situation in the country and in view of recent events, the thought and reality of a credible election in 2023 is far-fetched, but it can be achieved if there is political will and if the CENI continues to rise. bar ; where there is will, there is a way; the current leadership has shown this to a large extent, but the broader political agenda may be more important than the wishes of INEC. The government’s obsession with suppressing free speech and freedom of the press is one of the reasons the masses will doubt the reality of the 2023 electoral process. Second, the harassment, the disappearance and the arrest of government critics come to mind as well as the shutdown of the media. A government that does not tolerate criticism will do anything to retain power.
Finally, the appointment of Lauretta Onochie, card holder of the APC, to the post of commissioner of the INEC is worrying. Although the nomination was rejected by the Senate, the intention behind it cannot be ignored. There is, however, no reason to believe that there will be a credible election in 2023.
Looking at Nigeria’s political history, what do you think can be done to ensure credible elections?
The 2010 electoral amendment bill was supposed to have been amended and forwarded to the president about two months ago to allow rapid preparation by the CENI. The bill was supposed to address the discrepancies found in the 2019 elections. The new electoral law is supposed to incorporate electronic transmission of results from electoral units to the collection center to prevent manipulation of the results.
At no point in the history of Nigeria has the manual electoral process worked for us; it is time to embrace the electronic electoral process. We cannot compromise that; it will be the best if we really want to have credible elections. Political parties must commit to ensuring internal democracy and meet expectations to enable the best. We have other players who can help clean up the system; we need informed and active citizens and the role can only be played if CSOs activate their engagement, but the truth is that the CSO space is underfunded and support goes more to government than to CSOs to strengthening elections.
Financial autonomy is also important to ensure an independent electoral commission. An electoral commission funded and regulated by the Presidency can be compromised. There should also be an institution established to prosecute electoral violators; one may also have appointed an electoral offenses commission through the three election cycles.
How should INEC members be appointed in order to have fair elections?
The board of INEC should be constituted by an independent body composed of eminent Nigerians such as retired chief justices of the Supreme Court, members of the clergy, diplomats, academics, captains of industrial universities, etc. INEC members are expected to be patriotic Nigerians, who have a good track record and are non-partisan. Members, former members or aspiring members of political parties should not be considered for appointment. The appointment of the president of the CENI must be made by the body or commission and transmitted for confirmation to the National Assembly and sent to the president for confirmation.
How is the participation of women in politics essential to political life as a whole?
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted in 1979 by the United Nations is the benchmark for women’s participation in politics. In a world where the conversation is about inclusion and gender equality, it is important to have women in politics. The equal participation and leadership of women in political and public spaces is essential to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Currently, women are heads of state / government in around 22 countries. Balanced political participation and power-sharing between women and men in decision-making is the internationally agreed goal set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, but most countries in the world do not have not yet achieved this gender balance.
It has therefore become imperative for women to participate in political life in Nigeria. This will increase voter turnout; more women will participate knowing they can vote and be elected; women will no longer feel marginalized and the issue of gender inequality will be resolved. There will also be confidence in the electoral process; using the question between Natasha Akpoti and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, the latter being accused of colluding with INEC to disqualify the former, this can lead to voter apathy and women’s lack of confidence in the electoral process in Kogi State or the nation as a whole. She has been threatened and harassed because of her political aspirations.
Events like this, which seem to prevent women from participating in politics, have negative effects on politics and the future participation of women in politics. The call for more seats reserved for women is a temporary measure; we need to right historical injustices and put more emphasis on gender sensitivity in our political space.
What do you think of the frequent defection of politicians from one party to another?
I think the defection of politicians shows a lack of loyalty to political parties as well as a lack of ideologies. Party membership should result from alignment with party ideologies; you can’t just change ideologies. Normally, when a member of a party fails, he has to lose his post or his seat, because it is on that party’s platform that he campaigned and was elected. However, it should be noted that with the current political system, it is more a matter of convenience than ideology.
We need to correct our policy; we need to overhaul the system; we need to get more people interested in a space devoid of all the current complications. Organizing political rallies means engaging in the process of educating people about the basics of politics and educating people about political economy; we need a new lease, new patriots who can move the country forward. We need young people and women to change the face of politics.
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