As the 2023 general elections draw nearer, everything humanly possible should be done to engender active participation by the people. The importance of elections in the democratic process cannot be over-emphasised. The electorate not only use such legitimate platform to elect candidates of their choice, deficient and non-performing political office holders are replaced with more competent persons. Therefore, partaking actively in the elections oils the machinery of the democratic process. Today, experience has shown that many people do not participate in voting and other electoral activities.
A number of reasons can be linked to this practice. These range from the violent nature of our politics, apathy based on the notion that votes do not count, and shoddy arrangements by the electoral umpire that discourage participation. No matter how we may perceive it, lukewarm participation in politics does not augur well for the country. This is because wrong persons are given the free ticket to assume leadership mantle to control the lives of others; educated or otherwise. It is on this basis that those aspiring to political offices should have what it takes in terms of passion to serve, qualifications, support of the people and having the grasp of the task ahead. To settle for the less is to compromise quality leadership on the altar of mediocracy.
What do we need to put in place to make it possible for those that have been shying away from participation to turn a new leaf for better engagement in politics. To begin with, the electoral umpire such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should ensure that the confidence reposed in it by the people is not compromised. This, it should do, by ensuring that pre-election, election, and post-election matters are carried out without any fear or favour. To guide against losing their autonomy, adequate funding should be allocated to the electoral body at the appropriate time. This is to prevent moneybags and politicians from hijacking the mantle freely given to the body.
Officers of the electoral body should shun corrupt practices that could affect their independence. The high cost of nomination forms by the political parties should be reduced. I cannot understand how an aspirant into an elective position that is meant to be a platform to serve the people are made to cough out outrageous sums like N100m, N50m or N40m to contest for an election. Where do we expect a technocrat or seasoned aspirant with the desire to serve his nation to have such a huge amount of money? It is almost impossible to raise such, except the contest is serving as an opportunity to recoup his heavy investment at the expense of quality service.
Another point that we need to look into is that of independent candidacy that is not recognised in our electoral laws. Presently, aspiring into public offices can only be achieved on the basis of belonging to a political party. This makes it possible for easy manipulation and unnecessary compromise. As obtainable in other climes, opportunities should be given to candidates to freely contest for any political office without joining any political party, especially when they is a mismatch between the available political platforms and the personal philosophy of the aspirants.
Again, we need to make the perks of political offices less attractive to elicit the participation of more aspirants that are ready to make a difference and touch peoples lives positively. It is common knowledge that what is currently available is that political office holders are heavily remunerated such that there have been several instances that such payments cannot be justified. This resultant effect is that people become too desperate to get into such offices at all cost. This makes the process unduly fierce that many people would want to win without minding what it takes to be there.
The role of our judicial system should be strengthened in such a way that the rule of the law would not be trampled upon because of avoidable litigation. There are available instances that the Nigerian legal system has not helped matters with specific reference to the delivery of conflicting judgments, adjournment if cases, and frivolous filing of election petitions. These should be looked into such that the judicial system would always be respected to truly serve as the last hope of the common man. The confidence reposed in the bar and bench should be sustained in bestowing a sound electoral system for the nation.
More importantly, relevant stakeholders in government and non-governmental organisations should not relent in media advocacy, enlightenment programmes, creation of awareness on voter education, citizens rights, and democratisation. It is imperative to embark on this to ensure that the electorate are encouraged to take active part in the process, knotty issues are addressed, and what we need to improve our electoral system takes the front burner in a bid to elicit a more active participation in the general elections. This is not only a requirement of the electoral act, but a necessity as far as the electoral process is concerned in Nigeria.