Six things Nigeria can learn from Ghana’s elections
One month after the wind of change blew across West Africa’s poster child of democracy, Ghana’s newly elected President, Nana Akufo-Addo was sworn into office in an atmosphere of jubilation and elegance.
It is not surprising that the wave of change that blew across Nigeria and Gambia was also experienced in Ghana. The opposition party defeated the incumbent in what was termed the most expensive and fiercest electoral battle in Ghana’s history.
This election also signals the first time, an incumbent seeking re-election will lose an election since the country’s return to multiparty democracy in 1992. Just like the 2015 Nigerian elections, the ruling party, NPP campaigned on rooting out corruption.
Ghana raised the bar on election management, democratic transition, party politics and citizen participation.
Here are six lessons Nigeria can learn from Ghana’s election:
1) Effective electoral governance
The Electoral Commission (EC) was applauded for its stellar performance and
upholding the tenets of democracy.
What must not be easily forgotten is the fact that prior to the election, stakeholders in several quarters queried the capacity and neutrality of the EC.
Charlotte Osei was heavily criticized for some reforms she introduced on assumption of office; they include the introduction of new logos for the EC; disqualification of candidates and discrimination against smaller opposition parties. At a point she was also accused of being a member of the National Democratic Party (NDC).
Despite the challenges faced by the EC, It did not undermine the credibility of the elections. A lesson here is the importance of building institutions guided by independence, integrity and professionalism. Despite the appointment of Ms. Osei as the EC chair a year into the elections, the EC was able to deliver credible elections that reflected the will of the people.
2) Professionalism of election officials
The 148,000 election officials deployed by the EC in the Ghana elections were professionals in managing the elections. In all the hysteria the elections generated, there was no allegation that polling officials were compromised or bribed by politicians to rig the elections.
The officials comprising largely of young people displayed significant level of capacity and competence.
Some polling stations recorded intimidation of election officials but they remained calm and coordinated in the face of intimidation and hostility by some voters. The officials also received adequate training in preparation for the elections. Training of election officials in Nigeria requires large scale improvement.
3) Innovative mechanism to reduce rejected ballots
In Ghana’s 2012 elections, the EC recorded 251,720 rejected ballots. In the 2016 elections, the EC introduced a new mechanism to reduce the number of rejected ballots by redesigning the ballot paper design to make the boxes bigger and the separating lines thicker.
The EC also used a different ink color for indelible ink and thumb print pad. This perhaps can be attributed to the reduction in the number of rejected ballots. The electoral commission in Nigeria should consider
adopting this approach to reduce the number of rejected ballots.
4) Participation of persons living with disability (PWDs)
Recognizing the challenges experienced by PWDs in exercising their voting rights, the Ghana EC made adequate provisions to facilitate their participation. For instance, the EC provided tactile ballot jackets for visually impaired voters to enable them vote unassisted.
In Nigeria, there are several instances PWDs are unable to cast their votes due to inaccessibility of polling units or lack of PWD focused voter education. It is important that the electoral commission make adequate provisions to ensure PWDs exercise their rights effortlessly in future elections.
5) Special voting and voting right of prisoners
There are many reasons why Ghana will continue to shine as a beacon of democracy
in Africa. Their ability to promote inclusion through special voting and prisoner voting
Special voting allows certain categories of citizens providing essential election services on election day to vote before election day (this include election officials, accredited media personnel and security agencies).
Prisoners also participate in the voter registration process and are allowed to vote. Nigeria is lagging behind in mainstreaming early voting in the electoral process. Prisoners were not allowed to vote in the 2015 general elections despite a federal high court ruling directing INEC to make provisions for prisoners to vote.
6) Engaging citizens
The introduction of reforms to the electoral process was designed and implemented in consultation with the political parties through the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC).
Prior to the elections, IPAC and the EC reached an agreement on several issues like manual voter verification and electronic transmission of results.
The EC visibly engaged citizens in the elections. This engagement served as an
accountability mechanism between the EC citizens.
While as a continent we have made strides in peaceful political transitions, it is time to begin the arduous task of making democracy work for citizens.
Samson Itodo works with the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth Advancement
(YIAGA) in Nigeria. Twitter: @DSamsonItodo
The views expressed in this post are of the author’s and in no way reflect those of The Election Network.