BY RICHARD ODU
Away from the controversial judgment of the Presidential Electoral Petitions Court (PEPC), the ordinary mind appears rather befuddled when several issues surrounding the conduct of elections generally in the country come into consideration. One of such issues is the reluctance in leaders to embrace a fully electronic system of voting and transmission of results.
From the formation of the electoral laws and their reviews just before the 2023 general elections, a good number of the members in the National Assembly have maintained a vehement opposition of full cycle electronic voting and transmission of results. The amazing aspect of this is that it is globally accepted that electronic voting is the best system as it ensures precision in the voting process. This guarantees authenticity of the results to the extent that it becomes obvious to a loser that he or she has lost the election and should not go to court to challenge that the sun truly shines in the day.
The easy thing to discern from this apathy to electronic voting is that those who strongly wish that the system does not gain root in Nigeria are the ones who depend on crooked means to climb to the pinnacle of power. They know that they stand no chance in a level playing ground in their localities.
Unfortunately, the army among politicians shooting against electronic voting appears to be defeating those that seek righteousness in Nigeria’s electoral matters. Some, especially those from the northern part of the country, had advanced the reason that a great majority of the electorate in that region is illiterate and so cannot function well with it. We all know it does not hold water because the voting system requires just the push of buttons and no university education. As many as they are who have such mindset against electronic voting, so are the numbers of rogue politicians in our society.
Beside, such conservatism is inimical to the progress of a nation and cannot be grouped as sympathetic to the electorate. It is indeed self serving as it offers the dubious politicians the opportunity to rewrite results in the supposedly illiterate areas. The politician canvassing illiteracy as excuse for not admitting electronic voting is indicting himself and reporting to the world that he has not been doing his job of lifting up the standard of living of his people, which includes improving on their literacy level. If there is a ground for the knowledge of a particular phenomenon, people are bound to adapt by learning. Insistence on the status quo means that the politician who is already literate wants the majority among the electorate to remain illiterate and able to be manipulated. Any Nigerian not seeing it from that prism ought to be advised to re-examine his or her thinking patterns.
The PEPT verdict on the petitions filed by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), respectively, in the February 25 election appears to have worsened the situation. The five-man committee of justices had averred that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not bound by law to show results real time in the IReV.
It’s common knowledge that INEC vowed at different public outings before the election that they were going to upload the results on the INEC Results Viewing portal (IReV) for the public to see real time. That affirmation, which I believe was tendered before the court, procured for INEC the people’s confidence.
Eventually, INEC failed to carry out its own laws. In other words, there is a breach. The people’s confidence had been obtained by trick, which contravenes a section of the criminal code popularly referred to as 419. Again, if INEC makes a law and the court declares that it is not bound to keep its own rules and laws, does it mean that an organisation, even a nation like Nigeria, can make laws and cannot be bound by such laws?
By not keeping to the rule that requires it to publish the results real time, INEC created a fertile ground for suspicion. They claimed that there were glitches as the results began to hit the IReV platform. Then, there was the commonsense question why the so-called glitches did not affect the National Assembly election results which were conducted simultaneously with the presidential. No one, not even the INEC and its team of IT experts, has been able to give a full explanation of that seeming glitch in trickery.
As we got prepared to accept the excuse of glitches, we were stopped on the track by the hindsight that INEC had, by their posture, actually attested to the infallibility of the system. Indeed, INEC had an assemblage of crack IT people before the election, which gave them the temerity to boast of their ability to deliver. Along the line, as the commission frantically prepared for the conduct of the election, the arrowhead of this crack IT team got transferred away from his area of competence to the pedestrian area of administration. Unabashedly, INEC spokesman defended this deliberate faux pas by arguing that the concerned INEC staff member was a commissioner in the organisation and that the INEC reserved the right to transfer him wherever it desired. That’s an explanation for the daft onlooker. Easily, we can reason that those opposed to electronic voting ab initio, were responsible for the glitches.
Had INEC not created the “glitches”, Obi and Atiku or any other would not have had a reason to challenge the presidential results because the results would have been as obvious as a televised football match at Old Trafford.
Coming to the campaigns and the elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been in charge since it wrested power from the hands of the PDP eight years ago at the presidential level. By various indices, the fortunes of the nation had continued to dip almost in geometric progression. On the economy sector, global indices showed that more poverty crept into the nation within the period. Insecurity multiplied from a single Boko Haram to more complex bandits and herdsmen scrambling for people’s ancestral lands and killing the land owners in the process. The population of the internally displaced persons (IDP) quadrupled and natives paid excruciating taxes to bandits from foreign lands that forcefully occupied their lands. The prison in the nation’s capital was invaded and dangerous terrorists set free, even with threats to Aso Rock. In the South East, separatists rose in intensity. All happened under the APC rulership that appeared helpless.
The nation’s debt burden became a major source of worry even to children yet unborn. Petrol, the driver of the nation’s economy and the determinant of the inflationary trend, went up more than five times in price. Unemployment worsened and, in the area of education, the nation recorded the greatest number, and the longest lasting, strikes by the university teachers in the annals of Nigeria.
When all these happened, there were shouts of “go and get your PVC” to change the narrative through the ballot box. In obedience, the youths, most affected by the bad governance, rushed for the voters cards, almost fighting for it and in many cases, getting denied of it. That’s APC in charge. Then, and then, after the entire exercise, all INEC did was to convince us that the people’s mad rush for PVC, their resistance of pugilistic and deadly APC supporters at the polls, their confrontation of the evident shenanigans of this ruling class, was for them to return the APC government to power, to continue in agony!
The glaring APC mischief showed clearly when Adams Oshiomhole, then APC chairman, celebrated the Supreme Court installation of Hope Uzodimma as the governor of Imo State after ousting PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha.
Oshiomhole admitted clearly that the APC did not do well in the state with Rochas Okorocha as governor. How then was it that the Imo electorate went ahead to return the same party to power through the ballot box? If we are not to see the Imo people as silly, the return of APC in Imo cannot be seen as having been actualised through the electoral process, just as the nation doubts the party’s return to power in Abuja after the 2023 elections. So, how foolish is the Nigerian, foolish enough not to ask questions surrounding his destiny in a nation that he belongs?
At this juncture, If wisdom and common sense do not dwell in the wig, then, the benchers should shove their appellation “learned” to the dust bin. The people would be better off without them, knowing that the last hope of the common man for justice has become his lost hope.
Dr. Odu can be reached via email@example.com, or SMS 08115711108.