Thursday, August 23, 2007

Country's Standard

FORMER Senate President Chief Kenneth Nnamani was effusive with praises about the recent election in Sierra Leone.

Chief Nnamani was a co-leader of the 42-member ECOWAS team that monitored the election.

"It was like a dream to me that this type of thing can take place in our part of the world. There was not a single death and it went beautifully," Chief Nnamani said of the election that has also drawn praises from other quarters, putting to shame the predictions of violence as the opposition tries to wrestle power. "It was an incredible sight for me to behold; people queued up as early as 5.00 am.

"There was no fighting. They used real ballot boxes not bags. Voting in secret was guaranteed with the kind of cubicles that were used. They are poor but the conduct of the election was superlative. There was transparency in the real sense of the word. They had voters cards with photographs on them and it was a permanent card and not a piece of paper. Sierra Leone made Africa proud," he said.

Lessons from the election in Sierra Leone abound. Chief Nnamani may have refused to be drawn into comparing the election with Nigeria's, last April, but the comparisons are inevitable in the light of the muted plans for electoral reforms in Nigeria.

What form will the reforms take to change elections in Nigeria to the beautiful portraits that Chief Nnamani and other commentators have from Sierra Leone? When will Nigerian politicians understand that peaceful and fraud free elections are fundamental to democracy?

Violence is institutionalised in our elections. The perpetrators of the violence are known. They boast of their exploits in similar manners as sellers of mass consumer goods advertise their goods.

Instead of the security agencies arresting and prosecuting them, power seekers worship them, and give them more powers in order to leverage on their army of thugs to gain power.

The rule is to be more violent than the opponents, in order to scare them away and stuff the ballot boxes.

An easy answer to the achievements of Sierra Leone is to look at its size - about six million people (less than a couple of local government areas in Nigeria, and a land area that is about 12 times less than Nigeria. These are not what made its election exemplary. The authorities and politicians invested in a peaceful election.

In Nigeria, violence is so deep-rooted that even a bye-election in one constituency is marked with violence appropriate for the importance and size of the constituency.

Our electoral reform should be profound enough to deal with the issues of violence before, during and after elections. The thugs have made an enterprise out of violence, aided and abated by security agencies and the desperation of politicians, who kill to lay their fingers on the nation's resources: they call it service.

While an effective legal framework can help, the attitude of politicians, to power, has to change for electoral violence and fraud to stop.

allAfrica.com: Sierra Leone: Country's Standard (Page 1 of 1)