The word “electorate” is a political term that uniquely defines the segment of the society that is saddled with the responsibility of electing political leaders into office in a democratic setting. And by extension, they also decide who and who are qualified to be appointed into political offices even though the constitutions of most nations and states are silent on this role. In other words, the electorates give power to elected leaders and empower the appointees of the elected.
Democracy on its own has many definitions, but by far, the most popular and more widely accepted is, “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. This definition suggests that the elected and electorate are inseparable in democratic governance, meaning that the two are equal stakeholders in governance. Everybody is a voter but few are elected and appointed. The elected and appointed are assigned roles after elections but the non-elected who form the bulk of the electorates are left with no specific roles beyond mere voting.
The lack of clear constitutionally assigned functions to the electorate beyond elections places a question mark on the definition of democracy, particularly in countries like Nigeria. Neither the majority of the electorates nor the constitution appreciates the enormous power of the voters. Their (voters’) influence ceases after elections. Many of them place little or no value on themselves. They go as far as accepting peanuts as inducements to vote wrong people into offices and still blame the wrongly voted individuals for bad governance while in actual fact, they are the ones that initiate the beginning of governance (whether good or bad) for the elected politicians to conclude it (whether poorly or excellently).
It may sound like a new political theory, but the fact remains that the electorate ought to be given more duties beyond voting in elections with proper knowledge of what those duties are, mean and how they impact negatively or positively on the state of affairs in their nation.
Since political office aspirants begin their journey into such offices by seeking the consent of the electorates at both the party primaries’ level and the election proper, it is only logical that this segment (electorates) of the democratic arrangement be legally empowered to monitor and control the conduct of those (politicians) they laboured so hard to ensure their victories in elections. A politician should not go scot-free with conducts that amount to deceiving the public for the simple reason of receiving their votes.
If a man presents himself as a member of a political party with a particular ideology and manifesto, it is immoral and fraudulent for such a person to deviate from those principles without the permission of the people who consented to his victory at the polls. The process of recalling or impeaching erring political office holders like this should not be as cumbersome as they are at present. There are many Nigerian politicians whose political backgrounds cannot be traced by the newer generations of the society because they have belonged to more than three political parties in just ten years. The case of men in the calibre of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is even more worrisome. He defected from PDP to float his own party and contested under it as a presidential candidate and failed. The man defected from the party he struggled to found to the All Progressive’s Congress, APC where he won the Abia North Senatorial seat in 2019. What an irony!
Meanwhile, the time has come for the review of Nigeria’s electoral process, especially the voting pattern. It is true that politics is a game of numbers. Thus, the politician with the highest number of votes in an election wins. But, given the level of ignorance in the country, majority votes cannot be trusted to produce the best candidates in the country’s democratic elections. Poverty and illiteracy have impacted so negatively on the process that many voters make choices based on ethnicity, financial inducement, religion, unsubstantiated claims, ability to manipulate results, gross unwillingness of many people to participate in voting, stage-managed court cases, and highly influenced fake religious prophecies. All these and many more are to the detriment of credible elections that ensure the right leadership choices for good governance.
As a panacea to the bad democratic arrangement, the voting process can be arranged in stages, in such a way that each segment of the society should first vote to select their “first eleven” for general elections. For example, the award presents its twenty-five wise men while the local government, senatorial districts, and states do the same. So, depending on the election, it is the “first eleven” that comprise the trusted wise men in an area covered by the election that use their votes to decide the final choice of the electorate, not everyone that include many “political idiots”.
Things to consider in the choice of the “wise men and women” will include past accomplishments of individuals, level of awareness (including education), integrity, past participation in managing resources (including humans), and so on.
We cannot continue with the present style and expect things to change for the best. According to Zig Ziglar, “doing something the same way continually and expect a different result is another definition of insanity”. The country’s Institute for Democratic Studies, Abuja, the politicians themselves, and all the legislative houses have great jobs to do along this line. Otherwise, our own democracy will continue to assume its own peculiar meaning – “government of the elected, by the people and for the elected”. Let us accept the axiom that change is the only permanent thing in life, including politics.
WRITTEN BY AUGUSTINE OMILO