Renowned Scholar and Director of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, Dr Sam Amadi, says the recently concluded February 25 and March 18 general elections, are validations that the country is no longer a democratic state, but rather an autocratic one.
Amadi stated this at the 2nd Ariyo Dare-Atoye memorial election management and governance dialogue series, themed: “Is Nigeria a democracy? Reflection on the 2023 general election”, held during the weekend, in Abuja.
Amadi, stating that the outcome of the 2023 general elections was not entirely a reflection of the people’s choice, also averred that the conduct of the elections would further hew down public trust and participation of Nigerians in subsequent elections.
Describing the election as a ‘total desecration’, Amadi, however, wondered why politicians could not allow for a seamless, peaceful and keenly contested electoral process, but resorted to violence.
Particularly making reference to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, refusal to transmit results on the IREV, among other anomalies that greeted the 2023 general election, Amadi said that they were lucid indicators that the elections were overtly flawed, adding that the fundamental principles of democracy were omitted during the elections.
He said: “Nigeria is not yet a democracy because the fundamental features of democracy, the three of them coming to these elections, fair institutions that should provide equality for everybody, and guarantee basic freedoms have been denied largely in this election.
“We’ve seen the innovation; the most recent innovation which is the electronic transmission of results was truncated by INEC in a very reckless and lamentable manner. We’ve also seen that in many countries and in many parts of the states, even with different parties, PDP APC, or whatever they are, we’ve seen governance incumbents use security to distort elections, drive away voters and rewrite results.
“We’ve also seen the high point of it for us is what happened in Lagos where Nigeria citizens of a particular ethnic group were disenfranchised in large scale; structurally, institutionally, with leaders saying that the reason for that is that they are going to interfere with the electoral act. Now, interference is when they make their preference
“So, we are saying that if you look at the rating from rating agencies, the rate of democracy by the University of Guttenberg says Nigeria is an electoral autocracy. It means that we have to focus not much on INEC but we should be focused on how we ensure that the state institutions are neutral because as long as they’re not neutral, politicized, as long as they are within the control of politicians and incumbent, you can’t have fair and free elections.
“So, the fact that Nigeria holds elections every year, doesn’t mean we’re a democracy. Russia holds this kind of election where the outcomes are predictable. How can you form a government based on clear suppression? To give an example, look at Nasarawa. Women came out naked. What will make a woman, these are not porn stars, we are talking about mothers of any help of 70, or 80 years, coming stalk naked, and crying to God, that their mandates have been stolen.
“Why do we have to have those kinds of sins? This suggests even something more autocratic than Coronial rule when colonial masters forcefully hijacked your land and hijacked your state and basically brutalized you. What the Abuja school is saying is that we are drifting now to real autocracy. We are no longer a Democracy. We are not saying that alone, international rating agencies are saying that Nigeria first is a hybrid Democracy; meaning that we are functional or formally democratic but the logic of why Democrats are authoritarian.
“Now they have further downgraded us to electoral autocracy, meaning you are an autocracy that holds elections, not that the outcome will represent the people’s will but that you will check the list that you held of the election.”
Corroborating, a Public intellectual, Paul Obi, alleged that what happened during the presidential election was a clear case of political sabotage, stating that the result does not reflect the choice of the people.
He said that the outcome of the 2023 general elections further dashed the hopes of many in Nigeria, predicting that subsequently the country is set to suffer widespread voter apathy.
His words: “This series, is to reflect on the 2023 elections and see where we got it wrong in terms of the complete derailment of the processes that guarantee trust and brought about nine million new voters to come out and register and vote. I do not think that public trust is going to be there because the process was derailed. And there have been also attempts to derail the narrative in terms of people saying that the country should heal, the country should move ahead.
“No, we have to ask questions. What happened? What really happened? who were responsible for derailing the democratic process in Nigeria, you can see the EU have come up with a statement, the British government, American government, a lot of these things have interwoven relationship in terms of the impact it will have on Nigerian democracy.”
Speaking also, a legal practitioner, Victor Opatola, pointed out that Nigeria is divided among several lines, adding that if the country must thrive if only the rule of law prevails.
He established that thorough consideration of the balance of power, and party system, among other factors are basic ingredients for a working democracy.
He, therefore, kicked against power dominance among the certain ethnic groups, saying power dominance by certain individuals is a major bane affecting the growth of the country.