Election, which is the process of electing representatives of the people into public offices, is one that has become all the more challenging in many states of the world, especially in the developing countries like Nigeria. The aftermath of periodic elections in Nigeria is characterised by election tribunal verdicts, nullifying and re-conducting election, investigating electoral malpractices and various other election misconducts. This is emphasising the fact that electoral perfection has not been reached, and as such, all stakeholders are to mobilise resources – human and material – in pursuit of a viable and reliable electoral process and representative election results.
Aside the key institutions such as the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, are the political parties, the media and election observers/monitors. The latter is comprised mostly of civil society organisations. These election observers are seen as independent and completely impartial in the discharge of their duties. Hence, their reports should be based on evidence and not hear-say. In their conduct, observers are expected to declare any conflict of interest where such exists.
But events around the just concluded elections in Nigeria have proved otherwise. Considerations other than patriotism to a large extent determined the focus and tone of most of the reports churned out by these observers. This is evidenced by the reports released by local and international observers. One wonders how a group of observers that monitored election in a particular area/state would issue different reports of same election.
Unfortunately, Nigerian civil society organizations have become Nigerian churches and mosques, which theoretically preach for an end to evil doing, but practically opt for same so as to benefit from the “seeds” sowed by the victims and the victors of the evil doing. Sincerity, selflessness and consistency are fundamentally lacking in the present day Nigeria civil society community. What now rules are mercantilism, engendered by neo-colonialism, neo-capitalism, and crude class consciousness.
It is on these notes that we condemn, unreservedly, the flooding of southern Nigeria, especially South East and Rivers state by every manner of group in the civil society industry, in the name of “election monitoring” or “observation”. We are not aware of any civil society, local or international, that monitored the last two elections in the core northern states. This explains why the atrocities that were perpetrated during the elections in that region were either not well reported or not reported at all. These included underage voting, over voting and voting without the card reader. Except Taraba state which the authorities want to deny the ruling party, the other states where the All Progressives Congress, APC won were ‘marked’ good because no observer group cared to venture there.
It would therefore be correct to say that most of so called civil society observer groups are on a hired mission to record how many people are killed or maimed on Election Day, forward the records to their funding agencies and get their balance of the funds so promised. Funny enough, none of these groups was interested in ascertaining the level of preparations by INEC, which include: whether proper voters’ education was carried out; whether most, if not all the eligible voters were registered; whether the voters’ register was credibly updated; whether there was underage voting in the northern Nigeria; and whether the card reader was working or not.
Today, but for few credible groups and individuals and a section of the Nigerian Media, the rot rocking the INEC’s card reader machine would not have been exposed. Even when electorates alerted some of these latter-day election monitors, to record irregularities been perpetuated in some states, they shied away because Whiteman’s hard currency had not come. When an already rigged election is monitored, mechanical legitimacy is so conveyed.
Agreed, election monitoring should not be the only role of civil societies in Nigeria. They should have important role in lobbying for legislative reforms, and in engaging in discussions about the best way to regulate money in politics. In the long run, the main role of civil society organizations is to raise awareness of the dangers of certain behaviours among voters. When the electorates cease to sell their votes, and when they are no longer impressed by vast misuse of state resources in relation to an election, politicians would stop votes buying and abuse of state resources, as these activities will no longer be effective. This is a very long-term goal, but the focus of civil society groups in this area should always be that, what they do today, should aim towards change that future generations can enjoy.

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