A vote for same-day general elections in 2015

(By Dipo Dosumu)

If Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science, and former president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and the current INEC chairman, has his eyes on making history, then the opportunity beckons in 2015 and same-day general elections may just be the clincher and provide him that unique opportunity, perhaps second to, or will rank pari passu with the famous June 12 (1993) elections, which produced the late Bashorun Moshood (M.K.O.) Abiola as the incontrovertible winner. June 12 election was remarkable in Nigeria because the winner at each polling booth was known on the spot and thus left no room for any manipulation of figures!

“The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” – Joseph Stalin.

 “Politics – the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.” – Oscar Ameringer.

 “No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems— of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.” – Thomas Sowell.

NIGERIA is at the threshold of another general election and, as usual, the electoral umpire will definitely play a significant role. The recent gubernatorial elections in Osun and Ekiti states may have won accolades for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because they generated fewer controversies and indeed re-kindled the concept of free and fair elections, which is the minimum acceptable standard worldwide. However, we must not forget the fact that these two elections were held in isolation, with the additional presence of heavy security personnel, and were held after the highly controversial Anambra gubernatorial and Delta Central Senate bye-elections which were similarly held in isolation. One would never forget in a hurry the disastrous 2007 general elections which witnessed many reversals of initial electoral victories through various courts judgements.

   According to INEC, presidential and national assembly elections will be held on February 14, 2015 while gubernatorial and state assembly elections will be held two weeks after, on February 28, 2015. A further clarification made by the INEC apparatchiks was that the number of weeks used for general elections reduced from three in 2011 to two in 2015. A clamour for same-day general elections might have been somehow jettisoned simply because “this is not how we have been doing things here.”

   If Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science, and former president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and the current INEC chairman, has his eyes on making history, then the opportunity beckons in 2015 and same-day general elections may just be the clincher and provide him that unique opportunity, perhaps second to, or will rank pari passu with the famous June 12 (1993) elections, which produced the late Bashorun Moshood (M.K.O.) Abiola as the incontrovertible winner. June 12 election was remarkable in Nigeria because the winner at each polling booth was known on the spot and thus left no room for any manipulation of figures!

   The advantages of same-day elections are many – first, it eliminates the bandwagon effect of presidential elections on other elections, witnessed in 1983 and as recent as in 2011 elections.

   Second, significant amount of costs savings will be made in staff allowances, security men allowances, ballot papers and a whole day shutdown of the economy.

   Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the tally of votes for each level of election acts as a form of check/control on the other levels. The most important ingredients of a free, fair and credible election are the anonymity and simultaneity of the voting process. For example, let us assume that the last two gubernatorial elections in Osun and Ekiti states were also general elections held simultaneously, wherein the President, National and State Assembly members were similarly elected, and only the two major parties participated – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), some facts will become very obvious.

· Total votes cast in Osun gubernatorial election was 687,000 – APC: 394,000; PDP: 293,000.

· Total votes cast in Ekiti gubernatorial election was 324,000 – APC: 204,000; PDP: 120,000.

· Total votes combined are 1.011 million.

· Total votes cast in the presidential elections cannot exceed 1.011 million (including invalid votes).

· Total votes cast in each of the presidential, gubernatorial, National Assembly, State Assembly elections in Osun State cannot exceed 687,000.

· Total votes cast in each of the Presidential, Gubernatorial, National Assembly, State Assembly elections in Ekiti State cannot exceed 324,000.

   If this scenario is replicated nationwide, then you will clearly see the bigger picture. Therefore, the possibility of rigging or manipulation of votes / figures is inherently eliminated. Even if there is a difference in the number of votes at every level, the margin should be quite minimal, and would probably have arisen from the varying number of invalid votes. Of course, wherever there is a material variance, this can easily be detected, investigated and resolved.

    I, therefore, put it to Attahiru Jega, a professor of political science, an ex-president of ASUU, and the National Electoral Commission, if truly independent, to take another look and adopt the same-day general elections in 2015, which will guarantee a truer reflection of the wishes of the people, make it easier for losers to congratulate winners, and eliminate the expensive litigation expenses usually incurred by the applicants and defendants in pursuit of justice. It will also force aspirants to focus on wooing voters, rather than exploiting the loopholes in the electoral process to their advantages.

• Dosumu lives in Lagos

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