The Sanctity of Votes In An Electoral Process - The Citizen’s Perspective –
George Ashiru [Convener, Town Hall Meetings Project (THMP)]
On the occasion of the Roundtable On Santity Of Votes In An Electoral Process
Organised By: United States International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) Lagos State Alumni Association.
Held 26th October 2010 at the Afe Babalola Auditorium, University of Lagos
Your Excellency, The Executive Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The Chairperson of this occasion, Senator Joy Emordi
The Representative of the U.S. Ambassador, Mr Mathew Trumbull.
The President and members of the IVLP Alumni
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
• In year 2000, heads of 189 governments, including Nigeria, agreed to meet 8 goals that will halve extreme poverty by year 2015 – The MDGs.
• All 8 of the MDGs were agreed to be achievable if governments live up to their responsibilities.
• Because of the direct benefit to citizens, they were expected to hold their governments accountable for achieving these MDGs.
• The only methodology for citizen action for responsible governance is democracy, where the citizens can reward or reject political leadership for achieving these and other developmental goals.
• The instrument for achieving this citizen action is through the ballot box. The electoral process provides the direct means of the citizens of a country to, in the majority, determine the leadership, direction and methodology and ideology of governance for the common good.
• The sanctity of this process and the value of each individual vote determines the progress a country makes towards achieving her developmental objectives.
• Time and time again, we have seen a political system in operation in Nigeria, where a select few have acted like they have debenture holdings of our collective votes, and can allot the votes and the resulting value as they will.
• We the citizens have come together to say No, NEVER AGAIN!!!
A Corporate Analogy:
• Nigeria can be likened to a large corporation, FRN-PLC, founded 1914, established 1960.
• An American Intelligence Factbook estimated our collective value at $159Billion. Furthermore, the expendable GDP per capita was given from $300plus to a useful GDP/capita of $2400 (2009) per citizen, young or old.
• This translates to each of us having an average net worth of $2400, which in equity terms, is 2400 shares per head (assuming $1 per share).
• During our annual AGM (elections), I exchange my shares for votes. My shares are equal to all others, but by proxy, some of us wield slightly more shares, on behalf of our non-voting shareholders (children). In any case, it is a fair and equitable distribution of shares.
• My equity exchanges for a vote during the AGMs. I expect dividends for my equity, I vote for Directors and CEOs that will guarantee me return on my shares. My shares are not a subvention or donation to anybody, they are my holdings in the corporate entity called FRN-PLC.
• I attend the AGM personally, and I see my co-shareholders diligently exercising their duty of casting their shares in votes as their conscience leads them.
• But, Alas, at each AGM, till now, an unscrupulous few brokers, directors, and line managers, collude to turn our experiment into the “Animal Farm” (Apologies, George Orwell), where some persons allocate our shares and trade in our shares, without our consent, acting as though their own 2400 equity are debentures with exponential values. Where, instead of their shares to have a $1 to a share, they magnify their shareholding to $million to a share . Equating themselves to a majority, and making nonsense of the equal equity we have been bequeathed.
• So, at our various shareholder association meetings (town hall meetings), we have new resolutions we want activated for the upcoming AGM in 2011.
• Our shares/votes must have equal values
• That our citizens must be educated not to trade their shareholdings for a bowl of porridge or undervalue these shares by trading it at N500 for a vote.
• That the citizens, being equal partakers of the commonwealth of Nigeria shall no longer deliver their votes through political proxies, but each man/woman will personally cast their votes and ensure the sanctity of the tabulations.
• That we recommend that previous beneficiaries and perpetrators of such unsanctified votes shall not be allowed to stand for further elections, whether through the judicial process or through citizens’ action.
• We also demand judicial compensation for the erstwhile mis-alloted votes.
• We all agree that the corporate entity called Nigeria is a viable entity with awesome potentials, and we will ensure the delivery of a just electoral process and good governance to the upcoming generations, through aggressive citizen education, and issues driven enlightenment campaigns.
• That citizens’ apathy is the result of the loss of sanctity of their votes. Additionally, citizens’ apathy is increased by the following;
-Ignorance about electoral processes. –Ignorance of issues in governance –Cultural mindsets that presume elders, the wealthy, etc are better leaders. –Election violence and political thuggery. –I religious misapplications on the role of the citizen in ensuring the sanctity of votes, and good governance.
• During an election cycle, the scenario the citizen expects is;
-Parties, after internal democratic primaries, present candidates.
-Candidates present their case.
-Voters make their choices.
-INEC tabulates, endorses, and announces these choices as it is.
• We also admonish INEC to consider the following actions; -Educate the citizenry through Town Hall meetings, etc and, -Work with NGOs to create awareness on voter registration, responsibilities, etc -Empower voters to defend their votes through an accountable voting system.