The much expected 2019 General Elections have come and gone, leaving a lot political ripples, bubbles and splash all over the country. There is no doubt, a lot of permutations and predictions were floored while some sailed through. Perhaps the most striking thing about the 2019 elections was the number of inconclusive elections across the various states. One will also not forget in a hurry, the shocking postponement of the elections which came at an unprecedented five hours to the election. Nigerian citizens were particularly surprised at the postponement, given the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, had only a few days to the election reassured the nation that elections would go-on as planned. But eventually, the elections were did not go-on as initially planned.
As expected, AfriHeritage devoted substantial attention to issues of the election, before and after, this is due to the importance of the elections to good governance and nation building. There were series of engagements beginning from several tweet chats where various issues/topics pertaining to free, fair and credible elections; voter education, etc. were discussed and analyzed by different resource persons including the Executive Director of the African Heritage Institution, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike. There were also radio programs where the Executive Director along with the Communications Manager featured as studio guests to provide factual and statistical analysis of the 2019 elections, as well as canvas for policy reforms and changes based on empirical evidence.
In one of the advocacy engagements, AfriHeritage had made a strong case for proper and effective voter education as a way of overcoming low turn-out of voters during elections. For instance, in the 2019 presidential election, while a total of 84 million Nigerians registered to vote in the elections, only about 28.6 million people eventually determined who is going to be the President of the country for the next four years. This figure represents only 35.6% of the voting population (figures from INEC), with the Southeastern states of Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi toping the states with the least voter turn-out. From the statistics above, it is very obvious that Nigerians are still largely indifferent to election of political leaders. Therefore, INEC should lead other stakeholders in the business of mobilizing citizens to political participation; not only INEC, but political parties, civil society organizations, the media, etc. The Institute also decried the negative effect of the last minute postponement of the elections by one week. It is to be noted that given the peculiar nature of elections in Nigeria, a good number of people usually travel to their villages or wherever they registered and intend to vote. But given the last minute cancellation, not everyone who may have travelled was able to return the following week to cast his/her vote.
Also, in its post-election advocacy, AfriHeritage joined other civil society organizations to condemn over militarization of the election. In its view, election is an institutionalized system by which the people choose their leaders, this system is a purely civil activity, it should be made as simple and less chaotic as possible. The police who by our laws, is the lead security agency in the conduct of elections in Nigeria, should be empowered through training and retraining, well equipped, rightly re-orientated, adequately remunerated and mobilized to carry-out this all important role, instead of always relying on the military who by their very training and orientation use force and coercion to achieve their objectives. Infact, the institution noted that in some other democracies, their entire country’s economy is not shut down as we do here, with all entry bothers closed; internal transport system halted; movement restricted; markets, schools, malls, banks and all other business activities brought to a halt as if the country is at war, just because of election. The Institution further advised that the government and all other stakeholders should begin now to work and prepare the minds of citizens towards a system whereby elections can take place even as all other economic activities are equally going on at the same time; where people can come from their offices, markets, etc. cast their votes and return to whatever they are doing. The Institution believes this is achievable, though with the right orientation and planning.