Voter’s education in Nigeria
Voting is a process through which someone shows that he or she supports a person, political party, or plan, by marking a piece of paper or by raising his or her hand to support a particular person or party. Voter education means providing citizens of a democracy with basic information about participating in elections. Voter education is often provided by the state itself, often through a national electoral commission, so it is therefore important that it is politically non-partisan. Government departments that focus on voter education are often highly scrutinized by a third party
To vote therefore means to show which plan or a party. To vote therefore means to show which person you want elected to which plan or a party you support.
Before the election, the government explains the voting process to the electorate. It shows the people through various media that they are free to elect whoever they want among the contestants; and shows them how to actually vote.
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Qualified and registered voters are collectively referred to as the electorate.
All those who are qualified to vote have to register with the independent national electoral commission. Such people must be up to 18 years old. Those who do not register will not be allowed to vote, even if they wish to do so.
The book kept for this exercise is called the voter’s register. Generally, the information demanded from the prospective voters are: name, residential address, occupational and age. The officials also take a photograph of each prospective voter, every registered voter is given a voter’s registration card.
The objectives of maintaining an up-to-date voter’s register are many and some of them are as follows:
- To enable those who have just turned 18 to register.
- To compile the list of those who will vote, and get their exact number, in order to prepare the materials needed during election
- To be able to determine if an election was rigged or not, at the end of the election, for instance, where the total number of votes counted at the end of an election are found to be higher than the number of registered voters, it becomes obvious that the election in that areas was rigged.
- To determine the level of political consciousness of the people in a place.
The importance of voting
Voting is an important feature of the democratic form of government. In practical terms, voting is important for the following reasons:
- It gives the people an opportunity to choose their leaders.
- It shows whether the people are interested in democracy or not.
- It is supposed to be an easy and fair means of a country or state should be.
- It makes it easy to determine which political parties and which candidates are popular.
The process of voting
The first step to take is to get registered with the electoral commission. The voter should go to the voting centre (or polling booth) with his or her registration card. Ordinarily, the voter should have made up his or her mind about the party and candidate to vote for, after confirming that his or her name is on the voters’ list at that centre, the voter would queue up with other voters.
The ballot paper would be given out to the voter, upon receiving the ballot paper, the voter would be allowed to enter the polling booth alone, and then vote for his or her candidate or party. The voter would then place the ballot paper in the ballot box.
After voting, voters are expected to go back to their homes and wait for the result of the election. The practice of waiting after voting which is common in Nigeria usually leads to political violence, representation of political parties at eh polling booths is to serve as watchdog against election rigging.
An election is the process of voting to choose people for official positions. Some of such positions are that of the president, governors, legislators and local government chairpersons.
Types of election
Elections could be direct or indirect elections
The direct election
The direct election is the kind we have in the presidential system of government. The political parties and their various candidates present themselves and their proposed programme to the general public. On election day, the people go to the voting venue and elect the parties and candidates of their choice for the various positions.
The direct election has two forms, they are open election and secret election. In an open election system, the pictures of the candidates and their names are displayed. The names and logos of the political parties are also displayed in the open. Voters will the queue up before the picture of the candidate and party of their choice. The officials will then count the number of voters who have lined up before each candidate (or party) and then record the figures.
In the secret election system, the voters would privately mark the candidate and party of their choice on the sheet of paper provided at the voting centre. They would fold the sheet of paper and place it in the ballot box, at the end of the election period, the officials will count the number of voters for each party and candidate, and then record the figures.
The indirect election
The indirect election is used by countries that practice the parliamentary system of government. In this system, the members of the public will elect the parliamentarians, that is those who will represent them in parliament.
The parliamentarian will then on behalf of the people elect the prime minister, the president and the governors.
The importance of elections
Elections are regarded as the most important feature of the democratic system of government. Here are some reasons why elections are important.
- Elections give people the opportunity to choose their leaders.
- Elections are a fair and civilised way of placing people in positions of authority.
- It is through free and fair elections that different interests in a country could be represented in government.
- The people generally accept, support and respect an elected government.
- Elections promote political consciousness and mobilization of people towards government. Experience has shown that political activities, discussions and interests are usually very high when elections are to be conducted in a state.
- Elections are the celebration of the concept of self-rule. The people are confident that the country is theirs and they determine how they want to be governed.
In Nigeria, the major electoral body that handles elections is the independent national electoral commission. This is a body which the constitution of Nigeria has charged with the responsibility of organizing, conducting and supervising elections.
The body has a chairman, who is referred to as chief national electoral commissioner and eight other members. Members of the commission are expected to be persons of integrity, who must not have been involved in party politics. The constitution also gives the president the power to appoint from each of the states of the federation a person to be known as state electoral commissioner.
Functions of the independent electoral commission are:
- To organize, conduct and supervise elections to all elective offices in the country.
- To provide guidelines for the setting up of political parties and to register parties
- To register all persons who are qualified to vote.
- To appoint and train all electoral staff of the commission
- to divide the country into equal constituencies for the purpose of elections
if after the elections, some political parties or candidates are not happy with the results, they can go to the election tribunal. It is a special court set up to handle cases about elections.
The need for free and fair elections
It will be impossible for elections to serve their purposes if they are not free and fair. In other words, democracy cannot be effective if elections are rigged, when voters are intimidated, where ballot boxes are stolen or snatched away and where false results are announced.
When elections are free and fair, the following things will happen:
- The candidates whom the people want to rule them will be voted into power.
- There will be peace in the society because the people will not feel cheated.
- Developed countries will respect any country that succeeds in conducting free and fair elections, and will do business with her.
Electoral malpractices in Nigeria and how to prevent them
Electoral malpractices are things done that hinder free and fear elections. Electoral malpractices occur when the electoral officials, the parties and their representatives or the voters do not do their job properly.
Here are some forms of electoral malpractices:
- Loading the voters register with the names of fake (non-existent) voters
- Voting more than once.
- When dishonest politicians bribe voters to vote for them
- Intimidation of voters by politicians or their agents. Some politicians pay people to force voters to vote for them.
- Stuffing ballot boxes with fake ballot papers: sometimes ballot papers are loaded into ballot boxes by party agents after they have had the ballot papers thumb-printed in favour of their party or candidate. In some instances, party agents and electoral officers tamper with ballot boxes.
- Falsification of election results: election result can be falsified by those who are expected to be unbiased referees in the electoral process. Candidate that have lost elections could sometimes have elections result announced in their favour
- Corrupt electoral tribunals: one of the essentials of free and fair elections is an independent judiciary to interpret the electoral law and to settle fairly, all election disputes. However, it is possible for some official of the electoral tribunal to be unfair in their judgement.
How to prevent election malpractices
Election malpractices can be prevented in the following ways:
- Political education and awareness must be developed among the generality of the citizens. Every citizen must know his or her rights and obligations to the state.
- The level of poverty must be reduced considerably. When voters are able to meet their basic human needs, temptation for them to be bribed by dishonest politicians will reduce drastically.
- All politicians must keep to the rules.
- Elections must be by (secret) ballot. This will give the voters enough privacy to vote for whoever they wish.
- The population must be equally distributed into constituencies. This will prevent over representation or under representation.
- Thugs should not be allowed to force voters to vote for any party or candidate.
- Election results must be announced as soon as votes are counted, this will prevent the manipulation of electoral figures in favour of defeated parties or candidates.
- Those supervising elections must be impartial.
- Explain democracy
- Give five feature of democracy
- Mention three democratic institutions
- Explain two function of each institution
- Explain two functions of each of these arms of government
- The executive
- The legislature
- The judiciary
- Give two reasons why voting is important in a country like Nigeria.
- Daniel will turn 18 next week. He is eager to vote in the forthcoming elections, but he does not know what to expect. Explain the process of voting to Daniel
- State two ways in which electoral malpractices can be prevented