The dictionary defines it as “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives”. Simply put, it is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.
Elections are a main feature of democracy and for them to truly express the will of the electorate (registered voters), they must be ‘free and fair’.
‘Free’ means that all those authorized and entitled to vote have the right to be registered, the right to vote and must be free to MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICE!
An election will be considered ‘free’ when the registered voter can vote freely for the candidate or party of his choice without fear or intimidation. An election will be considered to be ‘free’ where the registered voter is also confident that their chosen candidate remains their secret.
A “Fair” election on the other hand is defined as an election in which all registered voters vote and have all votes counted, and where the declared results mirror the actual vote totals.
What we have witnessed in Nigeria in the last 3 weeks is nothing short of unlawful and deplorable.
National and international observers have witnessed the conduct of the election exercise amid allegations of irregularities, bigotry, rigging and manipulation of the results. There has been inadequate communication and a lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
At the recently held gubernatorial elections in Nigeria, it was also observed that the late opening of polling locations, the last-minute change of polling locations as well as the logistical failures created tensions for the voters while the secrecy of the ballot was greatly compromised in many polling units.
Some have said that Nigeria is not prepared for real democracy yet. In a democracy, gunshots and thuggery are not necessary ingredients of elections because sovereignty belongs to the people. But in a system where the definition of democracy is threats to life, assaults and violence, gunshots and thuggery, and where those who are rejected by the people force themselves on the people, then a cancellation of the election will be in order.
Merely looking at the outcome of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, it feels as though the country has retrogressed to the FEDECO years of 1979 when figures changed between the polling units and the collection centres such that the winners became the losers and vice versa.
A close look at the just concluded 2023 elections in Nigeria has proven that democracy is still a myth in Nigeria and the electoral integrity is as much in doubt now as it was before the introduction of the BVAS.
The consequence of the alleged electoral malpractice has sadly, given rise to the evaluation of the Legal Framework of the election, the Electoral Management, the Elections Rights, the Voters Registers, the Voting Process, the INEC officials and lastly, the Counting and uploading of the votes.
The constitution assures Nigerians freedom of religion, expression, movement, and assembly and protects them from discrimination based on sex, religion, origin, or political opinions. Thus far, fundamental rights are time and time again challenged in our failing justice environment.