The 2015 Nigerian elections are only a few weeks away and society is beginning to heat up with different opinions of those who should be voted into various political offices. The electorate are the most significant agents of an electoral process not just because they are the ones who vote, but also because they serve as the observers of the process – who can measure the level of fairness adopted during voting exercises. The general populace has a major role to play in ensuring that elections are conducted in the most peaceful and orderly manner possible by exposing all forms of violence and foul play that may occur during the process. Good citizens have a duty to their state to always support the electoral process, thereby promoting sustainable democracy.
Some of the ways in which it is possible to positively support the electoral process include;
• Saying no to all forms of violence during elections and reporting suspicious movements made towards starting any form of social unrest.
• Educating neighbours, co-workers, friends and family about their duty to their country where it concerns the elections and voting.
• Following news trends concerning the elections in order to stay abreast of key issues and recent happenings.
• Saying no to those who desire to buy your votes and blowing the whistle on others willing to sell their votes.
• Do not vote based on religion, gender, race/tribe or age. It is advisable to vote your desired candidates based on their level of competence.
Nigeria’s democracy is still arguably considered to be a young democracy. However, having witnessed more than 4 democratic administrations so far Nigerian citizens should possess some level of experience where it concerns the voting process and how to support/promote orderly elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can only do so much to prevent rigging and that is why ordinary but good citizens must rise up to the occasion and support the commission in performing its duty at this time when it needs Nigerians the most.
The use of video cameras and social media platforms to capture footage of what occurs at polling units is very critical to preventing rigging and violent activities during an election. Young Nigerians must ensure that they take pictures or record activities at the polling units and even tweet preferably at international media houses to notify the world on the nature of the electoral process.
Even if one does not desire to vote, he or she must preach peace during elections to prevent any acts of violence in society. Some people do not like voting based on their personal reasons, but such people must ensure that others are not used as thugs to perpetuate violent acts during the electoral process.
Nigerians need to follow debates and manifesto speeches of the various political aspirants as this will assist the electorate in making better choices concerning who to vote into what office. Competence is key in promoting good governance in society and aspirants must be tested in order to measure such competence before they enter office.
The electorate must also have dignity when voting. Selling one’s vote is equal to selling such a person’s rights to the elected. It is arguably assumed that rigging occurs most at the grass-root level where many of the citizens are not enlightened and suffer from abject poverty. The inhabitants of rural areas are suspected to be the easiest targets to approach where it concerns buying/selling of votes. Thus, such individuals must be properly educated on the wider impact of them selling their votes.
On a final note, the only way to ensure peace in the country is by accepting all possible outcomes of the election. As long as it is popularly considered to be a free and fair election, no matter who wins, the loser’s supporters should not go on a rampage towards making a statement. If the loser feels cheated, then the issue should be settled in court and not through violent acts executed by his or her supporters.
Nigerians must endeavour to be good citizens now and beyond elections, as the positive change needed cannot come just from the government but must also come from the citizens.