Wednesday, 28 August 2013
THE STATE OF NIGERIA’S ELECTORAL PROCESS: Key issues and considerations
Interview with Mr Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)
Good evening Sir. It is nice to meet you. Election Monitor Newsletter serves to provide readers with a rich source of current and useful electoral information. This is particularly useful as Nigeria heads into its most keenly contested elections in 2015. Many of the issues that will define the 2015 polls will be discussed in this newsletter with a primary focus on analysis of electoral data with a view to understand trends and interprete likely outcomes of the political process.
Please could you tell us a little bit about the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)?
Basically PLAC as you know is a non-governmental organisation working to create access for citizens to the institutions of democracy in order to strengthen the democratic process in Nigeria. We provide the opportunity for CSOs to assess policy documents, access the process of working policies and laws for the country. We work essentially in the areas of legislative strengthening, both for CSO access and the institutions by themselves as well as elections.
How would you rate the 2011 General elections on a standalone basis and also in relation to other general elections that have been held in Nigeria?
The 2011 general elections witnessed some improvements in terms of the conduct of the elections generally. A major concern for us is that we haven’t gotten to the point that elections are what they should be in Nigeria, otherwise I believe that there were significant advances with the 2011 elections. There is a need for a lot of work to be done to improve the electoral process, particularly to improve the quality of the voters’ register and increase citizenship participation and awareness.
What are the lapses that you have observed in the current state of Nigeria’s electoral process?
Again it goes back to the observations that civil society continues to make in its observations of the elections. In the collation of results we still don’t have a full proof mechanism for achieving tamper proof collation of results, we still don’t have a voters’ register that has the level of integrity that we can all say is absolutely unimpeachable. We also need to look at how citizen’s vote. Do they vote because they appreciate the issues, the candidates, the political parties and are able to make free choices or do they vote simply because they are pushed into that direction? All of these are issues, which are of concern to all of us who are doing the work of observing elections.
How would you rate INEC’s current level of preparedness for the 2015 general elections?
I think INEC can answer that question by itself (laughing). I think as civil society groups we can only ask questions and indicate what we think INEC needs to do which again is going back to the integrity of the voters’ register, the impartiality of its officials, its preparedness in terms of putting in place adequate infrastructure in place that will help to improve the electoral process. We can only lay out our expectations and then it’s for INEC to say to us ‘yes we are ready or no we are not’.
Do you believe that Nigeria has what it takes to hold the general elections on a single day by 2015?
Yes I think that Nigeria can do it.
I think that why not really. If we look at the elections as they are organised today we basically have just two days of general elections. One is for federal elections while the other is for state elections. And I don't see why those choices cannot be made in a single day. What it requires is adequate preparations, provision of adequate logistics, increased education of the voters by INEC, civil society and by the candidates of political parties. I think a lot of education will provide that opportunity and in If you have a federal electoral commission that is controlled by the federal government what we need to do is to create one electoral body that is clearly and unquestionably independent then, they can deliver on elections at all levels.
Do you ever aspire to hold elective office?
If my people say yes, I will (laughing).