Nigeria - the Politicisation of Election Management Bodies Comes At a High Cost to Democracy and Must Stop


The massive outcry by Nigerians over their president's nomination of his social media aide, Lauretta Onochie, as an electoral commissioner puts the spotlight on the importance of safeguarding the autonomy, neutrality and objectivity of election management bodies.

Samson Itodo is a Standard Bank Derek Cooper Scholar and Master of Public Policy candidate at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. He serves as the executive director of Yiaga Africa and the convener of the Not Too Young To Run movement. He is a member of the board of advisers of International IDEA, an intergovernmental organisation that supports and promotes democracy around the world. He tweets @DSamsonItodo.

Across the world, election management bodies operate as bulwarks of the democratic process. By superintending electoral competition, the election management bodies uphold democratic values, influence political behaviour and shape the character of democratic institutions.

These daunting tasks vest substantial responsibility in electoral institutions to ensure that decisions, policies and programmes are guided by principles including integrity, objectivity, neutrality, transparency, accountability and professionalism.

These values are essential for democratic stability in any society. Once an electoral institution fails the neutrality and objectivity tests, public trust is broken and voters disengage from participating in civic...

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