The 2011 polls were described as credible by both international and domestic election monitoring observers. The African Union (AU), ECOWAS, Commonwealth, European Union (EU), International Republican Institute (IRI), the United States Mission and so many others, perhaps for the very first time, commended Nigeria for the way and manner she conducted the elections. On the home front, the Nigerian Democratic Institute, (NDI), the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), and other civil-based organisations applauded INEC for a job well done.
Most of these institutions and missions, foreign and local, traversed various parts of the country to evaluate the election process and adjudged it free and fair, and described it as one of the most successful elections ever conducted in the country.
Indeed, credit should be given to the Professor Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission for a job well done and for putting in place a transparent and credible electoral process. 2011 elections, in fact, constitute a radical departure in our electoral process and a watershed in the annals of the nation’s political history. Kudos should also go to our president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan for not interfering in INEC’s job. At least, he kept faith to his words which was evident in some state elections where his party, PDP lost to other parties, despite incumbency factor.
Yes, the elections have come and gone and adjuged to be successful, free and fair. Yet there are questions we need to answer and issues to be tackled to improve the process and better our performance in subsequent elections. No doubt, there is no election anywhere in the world that is totally free and fair or perfect and without some level of irregularities and the 2011 polls were not an exception.
From the National Assembly elections to the Presidential, then the gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly elections, there was a relative level of orderliness, peaceful conduct, calm and no much tension in many of the polling centres across the country. And this was the situation in some of the geo-political zones as evident by confirmed reports.
Nigerians from all indications seemed more enthusiastic and willing having learnt from their mistakes in the past to get things right this time around. But for the pockets of violence that engulfed some states in the North and parts of Delta and Akwa Ibom States as well as isolated cases of irregularities such as under-age and multiple voting, ballot box snatching, we witnessed some measure of sanity that was alien to our electoral process in the past.
The level of awareness and political consciousness of the average Nigerian electorate was indeed commendable. As the campaign of one man one vote and making your vote count was carried out, many voters stayed back patiently at various polling centres to hear their results announced as directed by INEC. This awareness and act of vigilance contributed, in no small way, in guaranteeing a credible election with minimal cases of rigging and electoral malpractices.
In all fairness to the ruling party and the entire INEC team, results of gubernatorial election from Ogun, Oyo and even Imo State where you had PDP sitting governors losing to the opposition despite the so called incumbent factor lays credence to the integrity of the elections. And that Nigerians voted candidates of their choice whom they felt could perform and deliver democracy dividends not based on party lines, represents radical departure from our ugly past.
Consequently there is need to strengthen internal democracies within the various political parties to accommodate all shades of opinion and interest groups. Also, our politicians should move from personality to issue based ideology hinged on realities of our time. The political class really needs re-orientation. The violence and breakdown of law and order resulting from the elections in some parts of the North and some other areas visibly shows that Nigerian politicians are not good losers and thrive on sentiments and parochialism.
Our security forces can do more in the area of enforcement of the law and all electoral offences should be handled with dispatch. Though, the security operatives need to be educated on election and electoral emergencies to forestall violence.
Moreover, the political parties both those who have won and lost at the various levels including the politicians should commence reconciliation process or fence-mending across the board. There are so many aggrieved parties and individuals, so. There is the need to reconcile them and assuage their feelings. Politics is based on consensus. Dialogue demands a give and take sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, it should not be a do or die affair. Politicians should go back to the drawing board, plan, strategise and prepare for the next outing.
INEC should not rest on its oars but strive to better its performance in subsequent elections. INEC and other stakeholders should start preparing for the 2015 general polls. We need to be a model for other African countries. Jega and his team have proved that Nigerians can always rise to the occasion when the occasion.
There is something about the Nigerian spirit, dream and resilience. Let the electoral body evaluate the process, plug all loopholes, improve on its modified open-secret ballot modus and see if it can borrow some aspects of the option -A4 modus. In order to be able to better the past performance and evolve a Nigerian solution to our peculiar electoral and electioneering process.
In all, kudos must be given to INEC for its forthrightness and will power in the conduct of the last general elections. Our hearts also go to the 500 corpers who paid the supreme price in the course of serving their fatherland. They paid the ultimate price to move Nigeria to the next level of her political and electoral development.