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Need for Nigeria to take a cue from Kenya’s election

Since independence, Kenya has had four presidents: Jomo Kenyatta (2 December, 1964- 22 August, 1078), Daniel Arap Moi (22 August, 1978- 30 December, 2002) Mwai Kibaki (30 December, 2002- 9 April, 2013) and President Uhuru Kenyatta (9 April, 2013-12 September, 2022).

Daniel Arap was the country’s longest serving president, having been in office for 24 years.

William Ruto was on Tuesday sworn-in as Kenya’s 5th president at a ceremony in the capital Nairobi following his narrow election win last month.

Tens of thousands of people cheered the process as Ruto hailed it as “a moment like no other,” adding that a “village boy” had become president.

Defeated candidate, Raila Odinga did not attend the event as he said he had “serious concerns” about his opponent’s victory.

Mr. Ruto won the election with 50.5% of the vote, to Mr. Odinga’s 48.8%.

Mr. Odinga had alleged that the result was rigged, but the Supreme Court ruled the election was free and fair.

Mr. Ruto – the former deputy president – was handed a copy of Kenya’s constitution and a sword to represent the transfer of power from President Uhuru Kenyatta.

With his hand on a Bible, the 55-year-old swore to preserve and protect the constitution.

Lessons for Nigeria

Kenya led in many respects with organization of the elections, diaspora voting, electronic collation and transmission and transparent tallying of results which were acknowledged as revolutionary. 

In the court, diligent prosecution and meticulous attention paid in adjudicating the case within a 14-day window made Kenyan judicial sector stand out.

Continuous quality improvement is the hallmark of a society or institution that steers towards excellence.

Diaspora voting

The provision for Kenyans residing abroad to vote was an exemplary provision in Kenya’s electoral law.

Out of country vote was permitted for the presidential election only.

According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, IEBC, Kenyan voters living outside the country voted in twelve countries based on the number of Kenyans living there.

The countries are Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, South Sudan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the United States.

A public Affairs analyst, Mr. Jide Ojo said a total of 10,444 Diaspora voters, registered for the 2022 elections, and voted at their country’s consulates and embassies in those countries, stressing that It is quite unfortunate that despite the enormous contributions of Nigerians in Diaspora to the country’s economy and image laundry, they have no say in determining the political leadership of their fatherland except they take the cumbersome option of travelling down to Nigeria to register and later to vote.

Independent candidacy

Kenya introduced independent candidacy, which Nigeria has been rejecting for a long time. Kenya also allowed the ballot paper to bear the party logos and candidates’ photos and names. Nigeria has also been rejecting this. Because of the similarity in party colours, acronyms and logos, some Nigerian voters end up voting for other parties.

Jide Ojo said, ‘’It is interesting to note that there is a provision for independent candidacy in Kenya. Thus, you need not belong to any political party to run for political office in the land of safaris. Not only that but prisoners also vote in Kenya, however, this is only in the presidential election

Unlike Nigeria where elections are held for just six hours, in Kenya, it is 12 hours. Elections held from 6am to 6pm! That’s still a feat my dear motherland dreams. The Kenyan constitution stipulates that for one to win the presidential election, a candidate must receive over 50 per cent of the total votes cast and at least 25 percent of the votes in at least 24 of the 47 counties. A runoff is scheduled within 30 days of the first election if no candidate receives more than half of the votes cast in the election and at least 25 percent of the votes cast in 24 counties’’ Ojo stated.

Result

Kenya’s IEBC introduced the uploading of results to its online portal. The masses followed the results as they got uploaded and could calculate them to see who was leading. When, therefore, the final result was announced and Ruto declared the winner, it was not surprising.

Though Odinga rejected the result and contested it legally but lost at the Supreme Court, his dissatisfaction had not triggered riots like in the past. In 2007, the announcement that the then incumbent president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, had won the election in which Raila Odinga was his opponent led to violence which claimed the lives of at least 1,200 people.

The Presidential election petition was only heard at the Supreme Court. This saved time and ensured that the matter received the attention of probably Kenya’s most experience Jurists.

Nigeria’s start at the Presidential Election Tribunal is domiciled at the Court of Appeal and ends at the Supreme Court. This takes time but some will argue that it provides room for greater scrutiny and judicial review. In Nigeria, it would have taken up to three months to consolidate the petitions and possibly rule on preliminary matters.

The whole processes leading to writing the judgment was concluded within 14 days. The land mass of Kenya is approximately 580,367Km2, while Nigeria is approximately 923,768 Km2, about 59% larger than Kenya. This may make matters more difficult here, but should it drag for more than six months to dispense with the cases? The chief Judge of Kenya Martha Koome even promised to release to journalist a summary of the judgment to assist in the dissemination of its judgment in the media.

In Nigeria, sometimes, judgments are given and declarations made while parties are referred to a later date for the full transcript of the judgment. There’s a need to re-examine once again this practice. 

The judgment was delivered openly and even televised before the whole world.

A Nigerian casting his vote
Electoral transparency

According to a political analyst, Azuka Anwuka, the more transparent an election is, the less the likelihood that it will elicit anger and protest. Electoral transparency makes the people trust the system better. It makes the people feel important and powerful.

The efforts of INEC to make elections safer, freer, fairer and more credible deserves mention but the pace must be quickened as no nation stands stationary to wait for crawling ones.

Other Aspects

Another interesting thing about the election was that Ruto’s party, the United Democratic Alliance, was only formed in 2020.

Ruto, who has been the Deputy President to Kenyatta for the past 10 years, fell out with his principal, Kenyatta.

Kenyatta backed Odinga, who was his opponent in the 2017 election.

However, the majority of the electorate chose Ruto over Odinga as their new president. That is the way the power of the people should work.

They should have the final say in who rules over them. If that person or party does not perform to their satisfaction, they should have the right to replace that person or party.

It was heart-warming to see that the incumbent President Kenyatta did not have the influence over the IEBC to decide whom to announce the winner of the election.

When the electoral body is independent and conducts elections repeatedly in a transparent way, the trust of the people in the power of the ballot is rekindled and the leaders buckle down because they know that the electorate holds the power over their fate. That creates stability which helps the country to plan better.

On his part, a former Director General of the Nigeria Television Authority, Professor Tony Iredia said INEC and the courts should take a look at the recent elections in Kenya with a view to distancing themselves from what can erode their credibility while embracing areas where Kenya’s IEBC and Supreme Court did well.

Writing by Daniel Adejo; Editing by Tina Oyinsan