Stakeholders Seek Multi-level Engagements To Rebuild Trust In Institutions, Election Process | Independent Newspaper Nigeria

2024-04-06 23:28:44

Independent Newspapers Nigeria

LAGOS - Experts say the recounting or verification of cash withdrawals from Auto­matic Teller Machines (ATM) at various bank locations by an average Nigerian best depicts the lack of trust in the nation's electoral process and other insti­tutions generally.

Stakeholders present at a One-day Multi-Stakeholders Dialogue on Rebuilding Trust in the Elec­toral Processes, Institutions and Elections, held on March 25, 2024, at Radisson Blu Hotel, Lagos, Nige­ria, held different perspectives that could restore trust in the electoral processes.

The European Union-funded public forum hosted by the Inter­national Press Centre (IPC) had the presence and representation of the political class, the media, civil soci­ety organisations, political parties, security agencies, students and re­ligious groups that reflected on the need to restore trust in the elector­al process.

Stakeholders identified the culpability of an array of state actors, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and non-state actors, just as the elec­torate received knocks for selling their votes for peanuts.

In his welcome, Mr Lanre Aro­gundade, Executive Director of International Press Centre (IPC), said perception-wise, misconcep­tion-wise, or reality-wise, some contentious issues arising from the 2023 elections had created mis­trust among Nigerians, saying the elections were characterised by a variety of unexpected challenges which ordinarily should not over­shadow its significant milestones including the meticulous prepa­ration and the use of technology for voting via BVAS which remain highly commendable.

He observed that the challenges provoked local and international observations including the one led by the European Union, Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), which highlighted elements of waning public confidence and trust in the electoral process.

Emphasising the urgent need to rebuild public trust, Arogundade any development short of rebuild­ing public confidence might be dif­ficult to get the electoral process right in the next round of off-cy­cle governorship elections in Edo, Ondo and Anambra States and by extension the 2027 general elec­tions.

According to him, the theme of this forum was purposely framed to reflect IPC's concern that enough searchlights is often not beamed on the conduct of some other key players in the electoral process whenever elections are be­ing previewed or reviewed.

He charged the media and civil society organisations, "Are we as journalists doing enough to live up to the basics of social responsibili­ty by being factually accurate, con­flict-sensitive and setting citizens' agenda in reporting the elections, "I posit... the task of building trust in the electoral process is a collec­tive responsibility."

The Lead Speaker, Prof. Isaac Albert in a presentation titled: 'The Role of Critical Stakeholders in Rebuilding Trust in Electoral Process, Institutions and Election in Nigeria', called for the urgent rebuilding of confidence in Nige­rians, saying that recent develop­ments from the African continent, especially the Sahel showed that Nigerians are getting increasing­ly frustrated and time seems to be running out.

He described the trust level of Nigerians as abysmally low as the leadership of the electoral umpire, and other stakeholders have failed to protect their interest, saying trust deficit is capable of leading to post-traumatic disorder.

He said, "If elections are import­ant and no alternative to democ­racy and we have a trust deficit there is a problem. Without trust, democracy is a facade," he added.

To entrench trust in people he urged the leadership "To value long-term relationships, be honest, honour commitments, admit when you are wrong, be vulnerable, be helpful, show people that you care, stand up for what is right and be transparent.

Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu of the Development Alternatives Incor­porated (DAI), lamented that the level of mistrust among Nigerians is widespread such that users of ATMs cross-check cash withdraw­als because they do not trust oper­ators in the sector just as worship­pers also doubt claims of miracles in religious circles.

In other contributions, Hon. Yusuf Dantalle, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Ad­visory Council (IPAC), called for the inclusion of the people at the grassroots to deepen the plans of Nigerian Democracy, saying that it is undemocratic in a situation where only a few Nigerians at the local government level are bene­fiting from the national policies.

He urged electoral commissions to make democracy work in the lo­cal government areas.

To state governors, he said, "Democracy does not exist at the local levels because the state gov­ernments usurped their rights to have independent choices."

Identifying why trust may have broken down so much, Alhaji Yu­suf Dantalle said that politics is seen in Nigeria as a form of busi­ness as political office transforms the economic status of political of­fice holders within a few months of their tenure.

He lamented that the expecta­tions of the electorate on their rep­resentative to lessen burdens are met with disappointments because their elected leaders abandon them by concentrating on how to recoup investment during campaigns.

Dantalle blamed some of the se­curity challenges in the country on the actions of the political class equipping persons they engaged as their thugs during the electioneer­ing process but had no means of recovering the arms and ammuni­tion from them after the elections.

To deepen democracy and cater to the interests of disadvantaged groups, the IPAC has made room for the inclusion of minority groups such as women, youth, and persons with disabilities by creating directorates for them at the IPAC secretariat.

The Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, represented by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations), Lagos Com­mand, ACP Emmanuel Oyewole, urged the stakeholders and the cit­izens to take security as a general responsibility that should not be neglected.

To address the insecurity chal­lenges during the elections, the IGP said has commenced the pro­cess of creating a special depart­ment and units which will focus on electoral matters and also address issues bothering the electorates.

Lagos Director, National Ori­entation Agency (NOA), Dr Mu­stapha Adedeji Tukur, decried the menace of vote-buying during the polls and urged the political elites and political parties to refrain from encouraging members of the public to sell their votes during the elections.

He added, "The government, Civil Society Organisations and the media must work with the agency to eradicate vote buying during the elections in the coun­try."

Addressing the need for peace in the country, especially during the electioneering process, Ezrom Ajanya, the Programme Director at the Kukah Centre, emphasise that the effort to institutional peace should be given more re­gional attention than the national outlook concentration.

Mr Ajanya stated that cases of electoral violence are triggered by different reasons in different re­gions of the country, adding that even though the outcomes of vio­lence are similar, the causes must be approached differently.

He also urged the political par­ties to embrace the paths of peace and avoid sensitive actions that can trigger electoral violence in the country.

Peluola Mary, a representative of Women Advocates Research and Research Centre (WARDC), in her advocacy for more women inclusion in the electoral process, advocated that for trust to be built in the electoral process, there is a need for credible, free and fair elections.

She further explained that for elections to be considered fair, women must be included in the process. She urged policy makers to always put women's rights into consideration, adding that this would give more room for wom­en's representation in leadership positions across the country.

She also called for active wom­en's participation in the electoral reform process, indicating that it would make their voices more heard.

Ms Florence Jimoh Austin from the Centre for Citizens with Dis­abilities, urged the electoral com­mission to ensure that the PWDs are not left behind in the critical discussions to promote the coun­try's democracy and electoral pro­cess.

Commending INEC in the past elections, Ms Austin acknowl­edged the past efforts of the elec­toral commission in providing a conducive atmosphere for the PWDs to exercise their voting rights in the past general elec­tions; however, she called for more improvement.

In his submission, Bishop The­ophilus Ajose, the Director, of the Directorate of Politics and Gover­nance (DPG), Pentecostal Fellow­ship of Nigeria (PFN), Lagos State chapter, asked for more participa­tion among the citizens to hold the government accountable at all lev­els of government.

He also called for grassroots par­ticipation among the Nigerians, calling the citizens not to create the gateway for the politicians.

Mr Adeola Soetan said the trust has broken down in the electoral process because policymakers don't walk their talk.

Soetan called on INEC to al­ways promise what it can deliver because trust is affected when it promises to do something and eventually fails to do it.

However, amidst the barrage of comments about the flaws of the electoral umpire in the 2023 elec­tion and previous exercises, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Yakub Mahmud represented by Prof Ayobami Salami, Lagos State Resident Electoral Commis­sioner, paid rapt attention to the feedback from the gathering and promised to improve its processes and procedures in the next round of off-cycle elections.

2024-04-06 News