Nigeria's electoral process for the April 14th and 21st elections is in limbo as preparations are months behind schedule, declares the Nigeria Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-Nigeria) on Thursday in Accra.
The processes for compilation of the Voters Register, exhibition of the provisional voters list, and issuance of Voter Identity Cards to the electorate are yet to be completed a month to election day," Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, CDD-Nigeria Executive Director told the Ghana News Agency in an interview after attending a think-tank discussion on [email protected]; Tribe or Nation in Accra.
He said the road map for Nigeria's Elections 2007 was in trouble, stressing that the National Assembly has also not reviewed the Constitution to give real autonomy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said civil society activists, political parties, governmental agencies, and INEC had identified four critical obstacles to free and fair elections and urged the National Assembly to remove them before the April 14 and 21 elections.
Dr Ibrahim said the first was for the review of the constitution to give real autonomy to INEC to ensure that the President was restrained from appointing INEC Chair, National Commissioners, and resident state electoral officials.
In addition, elections are funded directly from the consolidated fund and not under the ambit of the executive.
The second was the enforcement of the revised electoral law, which imposed limitations on campaign expenditure by political parties.
He said the third obstacle identified was the failure of INEC to strictly adhere to the Electoral Act, which required continuous registration of voters and issuance of new voter identity cards with embossed photographs and biometric features.
Dr Ibrahim said INEC had not paid attention to most of the essential signposts on the road map to free and fair elections in a timely manner and, "It seems as if a plan is unfolding to produce failed or no elections in 2007."
Added to these electoral debacles the CDD-Nigeria Executive Director said the major political parties have woefully intensified inter and intra party wrangling for elimination of opponents.
He explained that many political parties in Nigeria are operated by "Political godfathers," who use money and violence to control the political party process.
"They decide party nominations and campaign outcomes, and when candidates try to steer an independent course, they use their preferred instruments to deal with them."
According to Dr Ibrahim, the political godfathers raise the level of electoral violence and make free and fair elections difficult, although the parties have formal procedures for the election of their leaders, "the political godfathers have means of determining the outcomes."
The CDD-Nigeria Executive Director gave detailed techniques employed by powerful and influential individuals to eliminate popular candidates from party primaries.
He said sometimes the techniques included; "a declaration by the party owners that those entitled to vote must support one candidate and other aspirants were forced to withdraw, zoning and to exclude unwanted candidates by moving the party zone out of the seat or position in question to an area where the excluded candidate is not a local.
"Others are subjection of candidates who opposed the godfathers protégés to sadistic intimidation by thugs and security personnel, financial inducement and bribing of officials and voters to support the godfathers protégés and the employment of results by declaration tactics - polling officials disregard the outcome of the elections and declare the loser as winner", he added.
Dr Ibrahim called on the mass media to play a more significant role in promoting and strengthening the credibility of the electoral system.