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    3rd Inaugural lecture: Omotola advocates stronger institutions, democracy as elixir to Nigeria’s development problems

    By Wole Balogun

    A professor of Comparative Politics, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Prof. Jeremiah Shola Omotola has advocated for urgent strengthening of our institutions to ensure credible elections which will guarantee strong democracy. He added that strong democracy, when achieved, will lead to meaningful growth and development for Nigeria.

    He therefore urgedthe Federal Government to promote quality, free and fair elections that will build strong democracy.

    Omotola, who is FUOYE’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, made the remarks in his inaugural lecture, titled “The Troubled Trinity: Elections, Democracy and Development in Nigeria”, which was delivered as part of activities marking the 5th and 6th combined Convocation ceremonies. The lecture was delivered on Tuesday, 14, 2021 at the Faculty of Science auditorium on the Oye-Ekiti main campus.

    Prof. Omotola critiqued the nation’s democracy, noting that despite all the imperfections, Nigeria can still boast of having a democracy for over two decades now.

    He x-trayed the issues with the Nigerian polity leading to weak democracy, one of these according to him, is the challenge with the appointment of electoral umpires, Omotola argued that those being appointed are not professionals in the area. He cited an instance where a Vetinary Doctor is appointed as the national chairman of the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), adding that such development amounts to” a deficiency, a capacity gap”.

    The University don also pointed out that lNEC’s operations are being centralized to the detriment of federating states that should be allowed to have independent electoral bodies to cater for their peculiarities.

    “We claim to practice a federation but all powers are virtually centralized at the detriment of the federating states. This makes INEC the only body conducting elections for all the states. “

    He therefore recommended that INEC should be unbundled and made to delegate the conduct of elections and not centralize it.

    Noting that political parties should ideally be building blocks of democracy, the Professor of Comparative Politics and Governance said rather than serving as solution to the problem, the political parties in Nigeria have become problems to find solutions to, as the parties are performing bellow expectations simply because they lack clear-cut ideologies:

    ” In terms of ideology, in Nigeria today, it is absolutely impossible to talk about differences in ideology of political parties as we have the same political gladiators in all the parties leading to easy cross carpeting and impeding their capacity to play the role of building blocks of democracy…”

    Speaking further on issues with the Nigerian polity leading to weak democracy, Omotola also identified gender inequality as impediment to progress by preventing the provision of viable platforms for adequate representation. While warning that no country can survive without paying attention to gender equity in politics, Omotola gave statistics of the absymal performance and representation of women in the Nigerian polity since the emergence of democratic rule in 1999. He cited in particular
    that only seven women have dared to contest the Nigerian presidency since we began democracy and none of them have performed significantly well inspite of the fact that ours is a country that have a male versus female population ratio of 50:50 if not that women are even more than men in population.

    He also lamented that of about 74 women who have contested governorship polls in the country, none has won. He stated the consequences of this development, saying: ” …in terms of symbolic representation in politics, women in Nigeria are far behind. This has made it very difficult for Laws that would favour the women to be made in the country”.

    Another factor militating against strong democracy in Nigeria according to Omotola is electoral violence which mars the elections.
    The seasoned political scientist noted also that there is increased judicialisation of elections with politics putting pressures on the judiciary and judiciary influencing politics.
    “There is multiplicity of election petitions before the judiciary, resulting in politics poluting the judiciary and this is leading to unwholesome attacks on judges. Desperate politicians are putting pressures on the judiciary in order to win polls at all cost. Poor polls will lead to weak democracy which will impede progress and development.”

    Omotola also pointed out that lack of internal party democracy on the part of political parties have made them to fail the nation in serving as building blocks of strong democracy that would engender meaningful growth and development.

    “…the process of conducting the political parties’ internal affairs is fraught with deficiencies, they are nothing but democratic… no internal democracy, and this makes the political parties fail as building blocks of democracy.”

    Weak opposition parties as present currently in the Nigerian polity is identified as another issue against Nigeria having strong democracy:

    “…opposition parties are largely and seriously fragmented and autocratic with the results that virtually all of them are incapable of providing alternative government… when the foregoing issues are there , weak democracy is inevitable.”

    Taking his critical stance from the perspectives of international bodies monitoring democracies of the world, one of which he is a board member as only African,
    Omotola said these global bodies have scored Nigeria very low and adjudged our democracy as very weak. He added that while this development calls for concern, weak democracy in Nigeria has led to so many problems such as unemployment, widespread poverty, uneven distribution of wealth and opportunities and lack of basic social amenities among others.

    While concluding his lecture, Omotola cautioned that the management of our debts has become a crisis. He also added that there is poverty of legislation as legislators are not living up to the expectations of Nigerians.

    Proffering solutions, Omotola strongly advocated for strong institutions that would bring about credible polls which will in turn strengthen our democracy:

    “Due to the shortcomings in the integrity of our elections, it is likely for Nigerians to have weak democracy.

    “In my comparative research, I was able to find out that our democracy is still very weak and it is largely connected to the poor integrity and poor quality of our elections.

    “Unless those weaknesses and contradictions are addressed, it is going to be extremely difficult for our elections to promote democracy and when democracy is not deep and strong, development is going to be faulty for years.”

    .The university don recommended that government should give autonomy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), saying that autonomy and electoral administration must be handled by independent, professional and competent institutions.

    He charged political parties to provide opportunities for the formation of coalition of powerful political interest to sustain government. He also advised government to provide political stability in societies to absorb increasing level of political participation by the new social forces generated by modernisation

    He urged the Federal Government, INEC, civil society organisations and political parties to work together and stop electoral violence, noting that electoral violence would continue to have negative impact on Nigeria’s democratic development if not properly addressed and curbed.

    As part of his efforts to salvage the situation, Omotola promised to continue his research in the area of elections and democracy as they affect development. He particularly promised to keep mentoring younger scholars as his Department begins graduate studies in political science from next academic session.

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