Professor Remi Sonaiya who touched on the nature of democracy in Africa. noted that democracy is not inherently natural to any country but rather requires efforts to educate people on its practice.
In an effort to bolster democracy in Nigeria, a former Presidential Candidate, Professor Remi Sonaiya, has advocated an urgent review of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2023 and the constitution to shorten the timeline for election petitions to be dispensed before candidates are sworn in into office.
The Professor of French and Applied Linguistics made the call on Friday while emphasising the importance of a well-functioning legal system in upholding democracy during a discourse held in commemoration of this year’s International Day of Democracy (IDD 2023) by OrderPaper Nigeria as part of its online parliament series, OrderPaper Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria (OPEN Space).
Speaking on ‘the Role of Parliamentary Elections in Strengthening Democracy,’ focus for the special episode of the OPEN Space, Professor Sonaiya highlighted the importance of parliamentary elections; as she emphasised the need for voters to consider the character of the legislators they elect. The former KOWA Party Chieftain also highlighted the significant influence of the media on voters’ decisions and encouraged them to provide airtime to as many candidates (including parliamentary candidates) as possible.
“We must be mindful of who we are voting into office. Whether it’s as Governor, President or as a legislator. The character of the legislators must be taken into consideration during elections. We need to set up a system that will scrutinize our lawmakers,” she stated.
Drumming up the position of FixPolitics; a citizens-led movement seeking to structurally change and innovate politics in Nigeria and globally, on constitutional amendments, she called for the inclusion of a provision on referendum as a fundamental way to ensure that people’s voices are heard. The Alexander von Humboldt Fellow further advocated a balanced representation that reflects the country’s demographics in the National Assembly, which she noted is currently lacking inclusion.
On voting trends observed during the 2023 National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly elections, Oke Epia, Founder and Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria, emphasised the need to sensitise citizens about the role of the legislature.
“The citizens don’t quite appreciate the role of legislature in the democratic process. And that is what OrderPaper Nigeria has been trying to sensitise the citizens about. The role of the legislature and why those individuals should be taken seriously. Until that is done, we will continue to criticize the institution,” he stated.
Pointing out the importance of getting the right individuals elected to parliament to provide effective oversight and uphold the principles of checks and balances, he expressed worry that some people seek office without a commitment to the principles of democracy. This is as he emphasised the necessity of scrutinising the character of parliamentary candidates.
Epia thus highlighted OrderPaper’s efforts in this regard, including organising town halls with parliamentary candidates, while reiterating his organisation’s recommendation that executive and legislative elections be held on separate days to allow citizens to assess each candidate independently. and avoid a bandwagon effect which has a huge impact on the democratic process.
The International Day of Democracy discourse moderated by Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq and Uchepuh Blessing Simon, served as a platform for meaningful dialogue on critical issues related to democracy, parliamentary elections and civic engagement, with the aim of strengthening democratic processes in Nigeria and beyond.
Put together by OrderPaper Nigeria, the country’s foremost independent parliamentary monitoring organisation and policy think tank that serves as a bridge between the people and parliament, this special episode of the OPEN Space is the seventh in the year 2023 and was arranged to mark the 15th celebration of the International Day of Democracy with the ‘Empowering the Next Generation,’ which was celebrated globally on September 15.
The discourse is part of OrderPaper’s mandate (using its convening power) to rally the voices that matter (Members of Parliaments- past and present, public servants, civil society, the media, academia and active citizens) to discuss key issues around the institution of parliament globally, all geared towards ensuring effective service delivery and the strengthening of democracy.
An initiative in furtherance of OrderPaper’s mission to provide simple and authoritative parliamentary data that empowers citizens to take action and enable informed decision-making by public and private entities, it is anchored on our vision to become the most authoritative organisation of choice and reference for parliamentary reporting, advocacy and public policy advisory in Africa.