A don, Prof. Grade Ojo, has advocated for electoral inclusiveness for all Nigerians, especially women and people with disabilities, to further enhance democratic stability.
Ojo, of Department of Political Science, University of Ilorin, stated this in a keynote address presented at the Yusuff Olatunji Colloquium in Ibadan on Friday.
According to him, elections do not only serve the purpose of peacefully changing government, it also enhances and confers political legitimacy on the government.
To the don, who is also a former Chief of Staff to the late Governor of Oyo State, Sen. Abiola Ajimobi, elections are an instrumentality through which people choose their leaders and keep them accountable.
“Where an electoral system lacks inclusiveness through outright marginalisation of a large chunk of the society, the canon of democracy, in terms of free and fair election, becomes questionable.
“However, the snag in Nigeria and indeed several other African countries is that elections are far from being free and fair,” he said.
The political scientist expressed concern over what he described as the ‘criminal neglect’ of PWDs in the electoral process.
He noted that as at 2020, in a projected population size of about 200 million, there were more than 27 million Nigerians living with some form of disabilities.
“Thus, where a large chunk of the population is excluded in the electoral process, elections cannot be adjudged free and fair,” Ojo said.
Ojo, while comparing a study on voter participation in Nigeria with that of United States of America, noted that it was aside PWDs, women too had become endangered species in the electoral process.
“Empirical fact shows that the Upper Chamber (Senate) has 109 members, distributed along gender lines, with 102 male members (93.6 per cent) and only seven female members (6.4 per cent).
“The Lower chamber (House of Representatives) has 360 members, with 349 males (97 per cent) and 11 females (6.4 per cent).
“Also, the poor are not sufficiently carried along in the political process.
The recently held primaries by political parties are also a demonstration of lack of inclusiveness,” he said.
Ojo also cited the whooping N100 million and N50 million charged for presidential and governorship nomination and expression of interest forms respectively by All Progressives Congress (APC) as further instances of hindering political inclusiveness.
“The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, also towed similar lines, with N40 million and N20 million for presidential and governorship nomination and expression of interest forms,” he stated.
The don, however, described as cheering news the concession granted women and people with disabilities in the payment for expression of interest and nomination forms by the political parties.
According to him, it is pathetic that the poor and the middle-class were completely marginalised with the nomination forms that were skewed beyond their.
He also noted that the greatest form of electoral exclusion was the ongoing debate on the secular status of Nigeria.
Ojo said lack of inclusiveness in a political system was nothing but an infringement of citizens’ fundamental human rights.
“While one can not dispute the fact that no system is 100 per cent compliant in terms of inclusiveness, however, the more inclusive a system is, the better for democracy and political stability.
“I like to advocate for a specific quota, even if it is just one per cent for a start, in the parliament and the executive arm of government for people with disabilities.
“To ensure this, the recently amended Electoral Act (2022) may have to be amended further to accommodate people with disabilities.
“The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) too also needs to make adjustments by making adequate provisions for personnel that can assist people with disabilities to perform their civic obligations at polling units.
“To do otherwise is for successive governments to suffer serious legitimacy crisis which may be antithetical to Nigeria’s struggle for consolidation of its nascent democracy,” he said. (NAN)