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Opinion, Viewpoints

The high cost of institutionalizing democracy

Posted: Apr 3, 2015 at 5:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ikechukwu Ozemena


An American diplomat was quoted as saying that while democracy cannot solve all social problems, none of it can be solved without democracy. There is no doubt, therefore, that democracy is capital intensive. Corporate governance enthusiasts and analysts have also made the case quite strongly that the more democratization, the higher the cost of governance. Welcome to the first segment of post-2015 general elections as I congratulate successful candidates and wish courage to those who lost. It is not the end of the world as 2019 is just a couple of years from now. Perhaps the major observation by politicians and non-politicians interested in this election and those not interested appears to be the sudden postponement from February 14 to March 28 and April 11, 2015. This observation is major if you consider the cost implications. Six weeks extension of electioneering campaign must have dug a huge hole in the pockets of politicians and parties. This alone had made mockery of the seal placed on cost of electioneering. The other aspect of the postponement is political.

By February 14 the number of electorates that had received their PVCs was put at 62% compared to 88% nationwide as at March 28. What that means is disenfranchisement of about 20% of eligible voters. No one knows how it would have tilted the pendulum. That would have amounted to: “I eat what I see” which is totally different from “I see what I eat”. The real cost of these delays can hardly be quantified. Apart from the postponement, it would also be difficult to quantify the actual cost of shutting down the economy by various states either to enable pick up of PVCs or other reasons associated with 2015 polls. Cutting of income and loss of productivity during these periods can hardly be an advantage for a country in perennial search for Direct Foreign Investment (DFI). Voters’ education and enlightenment is an acknowledged budget item that goes with every election to guarantee hitch-free elections.

It entails huge human capital investments and resources; and remains critical for voter enthusiasm and free and fair election. Failure to incur these costs would affect the integrity and the outcome of the polls. Then comes the day everybody has been waiting for. The economy is shut down as electorates arrived earlier than INEC officials; and because of no fault of theirs, the delays and slow moving procedure may lead to some electorates sleeping at the polling booths in order to cast their votes. And these are polling booths that proximity and convenience of voters were not taken into account when they were created. Perhaps to ameliorate these discomforts and stress induced by the situation, INEC created voting points in some polling booths with huge registered voters’ turnout.

believe that the difference may not have been noticed especially where the card reader failed and manual list resorted to. Why was replacement a big deal, when the supply should have been in excess of the number needed? To save the time, delays and attendant costs, card readers should have been configured to authenticate genuine INEC cards with their serial numbers. Corroborated by, either, photograph, finger print or name instead of insisting on authenticating all of them. Another point of waste of time and resources is after accreditation. If voters could arrive at the polling booths earlier than INEC officials, I am wondering why arrangements could not be made for them to cast their votes and leave if they so wish. If you consider the number of eligible voters on the register and the percentage that came for accreditation, you may agree that nobody has the luxury of time to be wasted in an activity that has no immediate pecuniary rewards.

One thing that INEC should keep in mind towards 2019 general elections is for it to device a procedure that could allow voters to cast their votes immediately after accreditation. Also consider the embarrassment of President Jonathan being rejected by the Card Reader and finally got through. It would have been appropriate for him to cast his vote and leave the spot. The delays that arose from late arrival of voting materials can be curbed. The phenomenon can be attributed to staff indiscipline. Anyone who is conscious about time possesses the discipline to works within the prescribed time. If you succeed in wasting a man’s precious hour, it amounts to several millions of productive hours of all the voters who have volunteered to cast their votes!

A civic activity such as 2015 general election should attract public complaints. The existence of such committee enhances the validity of elections. Public complaints committee is a special committee that receives complaints with powers of investigation and sanitizes government activities and state institutions beyond INEC elections. The introduction of incident form became one of the electoral innovations as a substitute to PVCs that failed card reader authentication. However, it was noticed that the card readers, either failed to recognize finger print or malfunctioned ab initio. The cause may be technical as claimed or human error. It is probably the latter if INEC chairman’s claim that only 374 card readers failed out of 150,000. And so their adhoc staff training was either haphazard or not properly understood by majority of the staff. If the rationale of the use of smart card reader accreditation is to enhance credibility, saving of valuable time and voters’ convenience, it has achieved that partially even though the image and perception of that device by an average voter was battered beyond 0.25% malfunction.


•Ozemena, wrote in via www.corporateleadersboard.blogspot.coma