By Fred Nwaozor
Democracy is simply a rule or leadership that involves the majority. In a wider description, it is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives among themselves to form a governing body such as a parliament. Another school of thought, particularly Political Science, describes it as ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people’.
The above definitions indicate that democracy is characterized by the people. It’s equally worth noting that election is peculiar to democracy. In other words, any democratic system is required to embrace an electoral process. It is through an electoral procedure, or elections, that the needed leaders emerge.
Elections are means of making political choice by voting. They are used in the selection of a leader and in the determination of issues. This conception implies that voters or electors are presented with alternatives that they can choose among a number of proposals designed to settle an issue of public concern. It is thus not needful to assert that, in elections, electors are expected to act as kingmakers.
Elections are central to the existence of stability and development of democracy. The Encyclopaedia of Social Science defines election as ‘the process of selecting the officers or representatives of an organization by the vote of its qualified members’. It could be defined in a technical sense as the process by which an office is assigned to a person by an act of voting needing the simultaneous expression of opinion by many people. On the other hand, in a social sense, election is the process by which a person is voted into an office with due provision for the participation of the people meant to be under the awaited victor.
On December 28, 1978, the leaders of the then Nigeria’s five political parties issued an unanimous pledge to the nation, to keep election free and fair. The leaders in question promised that their leadership of the country would curb excesses in speech and behaviour by their party members.
They further stated that they would restrain their members from engaging in political thuggery and ensure that nothing was done to disrupt the peace of any community where election is to be conducted or upset the unity of the nationhood. Above all, they disclosed that they would accept the verdict of the electorate in the elections which they would help to make peaceful, free and fair.
Recalling the recent Nigerian electioneering eras, even the blind could attest that several things are no longer at ease as against what it used to be. The assertion that things have fallen apart is not unconnected with the fact that practices that include thuggery and election rigging are now the key attributes of most elections. It becomes pathetic when realized that the supposed kingmakers (electors) are the primary cause of the ongoing unfortunate situation.
If the above perception is anything to go by, then a sane person would wonder the reason a ‘kingmaker’ would partake in any act targeted at rigging a scheduled election let alone indulging in such dirty act as thuggery. It’s more baffling to acknowledge that those electors – particularly the youth – who sell their birthright would stand to gain nothing, not even reasonable cash.
Even those who would not want to associate themselves with activities that could lead to election rigging would prefer to act like mere onlookers as long as the election lasts.
Funnily, most of them would be present at the polling unit just to engage in frivolous interactions like issues bordering on sports, relationship or what have you, and not to cast their votes; when scrutinized further, you would observe that majority could not even boast of voter’s card.
Owing to the acknowledgement that electors are ostensibly the kingmakers, the constitutions of most countries across the globe, of which Nigeria’s is no exception, captioned a clause that relates to ‘Vote of no-confidence’. The aforementioned term is a constitutional matter that empowers the electorate, or the governed, to recall any elected officer if found wanting.
In such case, the concerned electors are required to act as a body by collectively endorsing a written document, stating that they no longer have confidence in a particular elected officer thus ordering him/her to return home. This tool shows that the electors are meant to be in charge, both in the pre and post–election eras.
It is as well worthy of note that the teeming Nigerian electors have equally abused such a lofty democratic tool. They are often marred by apathy when expected to act as one indivisible body, thereby allowing themselves to be cajoled into a state of mockery by the elected officers who they have chosen to worship. Of course, there is no tangible reason a legislator, for instance, who does not have a befitting constituency office shouldnot be recalled by his/her constituents.
It is not anymore news that most of the present lawmakers cannot boast of a constituency office in their various constituencies let alone observing ‘Constituency briefing’ as a priority. Some don’t even know the ward chairmen of their respective political parties; they are invariably interested in acquiring such information when elections are by the corner. Worse still, the affected electors would claim ignorance of the injury they have incurred in the process.
This trending unwarranted and mind-boggling attitude of most Nigerian electors has succeeded in raping the God-sent democracy. The gravity of the rape is arguably colossal. It is, therefore, needless to state categorically that there’s a compelling need to carry out an all-inclusive sensitization among these individuals before the worst is witnessed.
Nwaozor writes from Owerri