Free and Fair Election in Nigeria – an Overview

The conduct of a free and fair election in Nigeria has always been an issue. Most election in Nigeria are marred with rigging, gerrymandering falsification of election result, use of armed men to rig election, intimidation and harassment of electorates and candidates for election etc. 

The use of law enforcement agents to rig elections has also been reported. Most elections in Nigeria witness bloodshed, clashes among youth wings, arson, kidnaps, acid bath, ritual murder etc.

At the higher level, there are manipulations in the conduct of primary elections and party registrations, manipulations in the appointment of electoral commissioner and electoral officials, huddling of registration materials and voter’s cards, delay in arrival of election materials and electoral officials.

However, all this does not give room for free and fair election. Recently, the electoral law is a matter of concern because it is used to manipulate and consolidate the position of the rigger in the election. The election tribunals hears their cases after the winner has been sworn in. this makes it difficult for the petitioner not to have any chance of fair play.

The factors that facilitate free and fair election in any given democratic state

The factors that facilitate free and fair election in any given democratic state include unbiased division of constituencies, adequate arrangement for registration of voters and review of voters register, qualification for election must be on adult suffrage.

Candidates must not suffer any intimidation or harassment during elections. Voters must be allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice. Party system must be such that voters must have alternatives choice of candidates. Secret voting must be encouraged.

Electoral officials must be qualified men and women of unquestionable character. The provision of electoral materials should not be used against opposition. Election result must be seen to represent the actual vote cast.

The election tribunals must be up of justices with credibility and disputes over election results must be determined within three to six months after the election before a candidate is sworn in as duly elected person.

For free and fair election to exist the country must be divided equally into electoral constituencies. There should be no gerrymandering to favour one political party against the other or to favour one political group against each other.

The constituencies must be based on equal population or equal units. The division of constituencies must not be used against opposition, or community that does not support the party in power. The electoral body must make adequate arrangement for the registration of voters and the review of voters register.

Those qualified must be allowed to register and to vote and be voted for. The situation where under aged citizens are registered and allowed to vote should be discouraged. The electoral body must also discourage the use of money to influence people vote for a candidate at elections.

The voters must be protected during election. They must be allowed to freely vote for candidates of their choice or to have choice of an alternatives candidate. Election materials must be evenly distributed and the handling of election materials must not be used against opposition.

Secret ballot must be encouraged to protect the independence of choice. No voter should be allowed to vote more than once in an election. Anybody who is below the age of 18 should not be allowed to vote. Politicians should be encouraged from registering under aged children to vote. Voters should be allowed to choose the party and candidate of their choice.

Electoral officers must be people who cannot be easily influenced by money, financial, or political gain. The counting of election votes must be done in the presence of all interested parties. The result must not be altered to favour one group.

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