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Can we afford the 2019 elections?

August 8, 2018

This article is part of a series I will be posting for a month in collaboration with my friend, Olamide Egbayelo. We challenged each other to become better writers and will be posting our articles together once a week.

Election season is just around the corner. The battlelines are being drawn. I’ve been watching the latest rounds of defections among Nigerian politicians with some amusement. INEC gave its usual warning that if you haven’t registered to vote by 17th August, you should forget about voting in the next election. Registration units have been seeing very long queues since.

election

What really made me pause in my tracks was the recent statement by the President to the National assembly that INEC would need ₦242 Billion to carry out the 2019 elections. Regular elections are a trademark of a stable democracy. We need peaceful elections to ensure a smooth transition of power every few years. The alternative is not a path any well-meaning Nigerian would want us taking.

However, in a Country where nothing works right. A Country that does not have uninterrupted power supply, fails to refine its own crude oil and has not been able to provide either universal health coverage nor high quality public education for the youths, can we honestly afford to spend ₦242 billion for what amounts to a two day exercise every four years?

Olamide wrote about the awesome experience she had at the city of friends concert this week. Do check out her post here. Her excitement seeps into the words.

It’s important to think about the way we run elections in this country. There is a pressing need for stakeholders to get together and suggest possible ways to make elections cheaper in Nigeria. One possible way of cutting costs might be to allow registered voters send in their votes by sms. INEC already has the names and phone numbers of all registered voters. These can be cross-referenced with SIM registration with the various GSM networks for accreditation. One likely problem that will come up with this method is the number of voters who might not have enough skills to vote via text message. It could also disenfranchise voters who do not have phones.

vote phone

If properly done, however, this voting process could bring down the cost of elections significantly. It would also allow people to go about their legitimate businesses on Election Day unlike the current arrangement where elections bring all economic activities to a standstill.

Regardless, what happens in the 2019 elections, it is my opinion that we really need to find a way to make elections cost much less than they currently do. We need to channel as much money as we can into getting the foundations of economic development right. Expensive elections are simply a waste of resources at this point. What do you think?

Umar Amir Abdullahi is a young writer who is passionate about social causes and wants to play a role in shaping the minds of the Nigerian youth. He also does freelance writing work so if you want something written and are willing to pay for it, do get in touch.

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