Reports have it that President Goodluck Jonathan have assured that the 2015 general elections will be better than the 2011 elections. I hope his comment will not go the way of his predecessor when the focus settled on his implied admittance of flaws rather than on supporting him and holding him accountable to actually display the necessary will to deliver better elections.
Dr. Jonathan was said to be saddened by post election violence and he believes that an improved election will make results more acceptable and subsequently nip the issue of post-election violence. Nothing wrong in his reasoning. However, he has to carefully match words with decisions and actions. In our system, a president is a powerful person who routinely has the opportunity to cause real change to happen. The problem most times is that real change often involves radical steps that tend to challenge the status quo and make the comfortable experience some unease. If he means well and is not playing games with the people, the president will confront change fearlessly. If on the other hand the president is preoccupied with political future and party allegiance, he will have to consistently water down most changes.
A clear example of how this can play out is the manner Dr. Jonathan did very little with the Uwais report. He had the glorious national support behind him but choose to listen to his party rather than Nigerians. Rather than reform the electoral laws to include the popular wishes of Nigerians as represented by the Uwais report, Dr Jonathan choose to replace Prof. Iwu and some state resident electoral commissioners and called that electoral reform.
When you match such action to his earlier promise at his searing in: "Our total commitment to... electoral reform...... would be pursued with greater vigour" you begin to wonder whether total commitment has a different meaning from the usual. This is why it is of the utmost importance that Nigerians from all endeavours should start holding Dr Jonathan to task on his promise to enhance our electoral performance in 2015.
As he rightfully implied in the latest reports, believability is the most essential factor in good electoral process. If a person is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the results of an election is a true and accurate account of an election, he or she will have no business either protesting or resorting to violence. The issue then is how do we make our elections to be believable.
Firstly, both the electorate and the contestants must know and indeed accept what will happen during the elections before the elections take place. Our electoral process (not just logistics but the real issues of transparency and accuracy) must be defined, laid bare, examined by all and proven secure before implementation. Otherwise, so many loopholes will not be spotted and exposed for correction. Instead some politicians with the right connections will know more than those without "legs" in INEC and thus prepare differently and effectively to unfairly and immorally benefit from all the vulnerabilities inherent in the secret INEC plan.
For example many Nigerians including some political parties thought the DDC machines INEC used for voter registration for the 2011 elections will be used to authenticate voters during the elections proper. When INEC refused to use the DDC machines for authentication some parties cried foul but others in the know of the secret plan just laughed off the issue because they had already factored it into their plans. Yet such action by INEC eroded some persons faith in the electoral process so much so that the campaign to break the law and stay within 300 metres to see votes counted at polling stations as against the electoral law, gained foot across the nation. Bottom-line is INEC should not be left free to make it up as it chooses and as it implements. It is like an ongoing experiment with real life outcomes. Moving the goal post as it suits the referee is not good for the game.
The process for examining different detailed plans can be anchored by either the executive or the legislative arm so that the most competent and user friendly plan to Nigerians can then be backed by law and given to INEC to implement. This is what obtains in most successful democracies. In the USA, the HAVA 2002 act created the election assistance commission (EAC), which among other functions, tests and certifies voting system produced by both public and private entities before they can be implemented in any part of the USA.
Let us separate the plan from the implementer. It enables easy assessment of the implementer since we all know what he ought to be doing. Examining and proofing electoral plans makes the success of the elections more predictable and the results more believable and therefore reduces the need for both protests and violence. This is a good place to start if we are serious.