A frontline governorship aspirant in Imo State on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr. Okey Ezeh, has called on Nigerians to defend the sanctity of democracy by making the culture of credible elections thoroughgoing.
Looking back at Nigeria’s more contemporary experience with elections, what emerges is a set of hollow rituals, simulated landslides, direct captures and bandwagons in which votes did not just count, or worse still, votes were not counted. In many of our elections, snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes, falsification of election results, intimidation of electoral officers, financial inducement of voters and underaged voting still define and defile the system. These realities do not only undermine the credibility of elections but also impugn democratic consolidation in the country.
The centrality of credible elections to a democracy is akin to the primacy of money to an economy. As the value of money signifies the robustness of an economy, so does the value of the vote signify the vigor of a democracy. The value of the vote can be approached from three dimensions: Promissory Value, Content Value and Psychological Value.
Promissory Value of a vote refers to the promises made by those who ask for the vote to deliver the value of the vote on demand in terms of programs (manifesto) for which they have received the vote. The more these promises are kept, the higher the Promissory Value of the vote. The central question which Promissory Value raises is: Are the promises made at elections kept?
On the other hand, Content Value of votes has to do with the value of each vote measured against the value of another. Do the votes and opinions of some count more than those of the others? Technically, the Content Value of a vote in any democracy is measured by the tendency towards zero of the comparative value of two votes. The main question Content Value raises is: Are all votes equal? Finally, Psychological Value of votes refers to the value attached to the vote in the minds of the electorate. It measures the subjective belief of the voter that their vote will make a difference. In a normal democracy, the value of the vote in all three aspects tends to be high.
However, Nigerian voters do not attach great Promissory, Content or Psychological Value to their votes, and they have no illusion about the importance of their votes, because they always suspect that their votes will either not be counted or that their votes will not count. The vote is greatly devalued and the mandates claimed by most public officeholders are effectively dubious. Empty promises are made at elections and voters know that the deposits they are making in terms of their votes will be worth little or nothing in the end.
We need to defend the future of democracy in Nigeria. We need to reestablish the credibility of elections in Nigeria. We need to make votes not just be counted but also to count in Nigeria. We need to restore the sanctity of the electoral process in Nigeria.
To realize these, there must be mass mobilization for election monitoring and mandate protection. This is a role Nigerian youths and civil society groups must take up. Their compromise, laxity and collusion with the “enemies of their progress” have in the end paved the way for those who abort their vision and abbreviate their dreams to hold sway.
Again, there is need for voter education. Faith-based organisations, political parties, women groups, students and labour unions, traders’ associations and town unions must realize they have a role to play in restoring and preserving the value of the vote in Nigeria through sensitisation and popularisation of the best electoral practices.
Also, electoral reforms that will aid the emergence of a potent regulatory framework and an unbiased electoral umpire peopled with men and women of integrity must be carried out. There is need for an honest police force and an incorruptible judiciary. The mass media, as a collectivity, in Nigeria must live up to its Burkean designation as “the Fourth Estate of the Realm” to serve as a watchdog against electoral fraud in the country. With these factors in place, the task of regaining the credibility of elections and defending the future of democracy in Nigeria would have been accomplished.
Prince Collins Opurozor
Director, Media and Publicity.