There is this palpable feeling of injustice after the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections. The nation is sad, very sad. Unlike in 2015 when Buhari defeated the then incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, it was fun and boisterous all over the country especially in northern Nigeria. People felt that their votes counted. Many Buhari’s supporters merried all through the week in clubs, markets and streets; sacrificed rams, cows, waxed songs while some named their male children born at that period after him. A winner must emerge in every contest, however, the process through which the winner emerged matters a lot. Many were disappointed at the outcome of the result of the presidential election. It was flawed. It is right to submit without any fear of contradiction that the election was a charade. Eze Onyekpere, Director Centre for Social Justice in a well thought out piece entitled, “Electoral Act 2022 and the Presidential Election” captured the mood of the nation thus; “but there are a lot of matters arising from the election, a national feeling of injustice as it appears the votes may not have been properly counted. There was hardly a celebration when the result was announced.”
The international observers/communities we always invite to lend credence to the credibility of our electoral process were the first to point out the flaws inherent in the election. What actually went awry? The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fits into the description of the lizard which spoiled its mother’s funeral. The reason why INEC failed to upload/transmit results from poling unit level after several assurances is an important question to be answered. What about INEC’s sudden pull down of results already uploaded on the IReV portal and blockage of access of those who had registered to view results real time? Why the password given to ad-hoc staff for result upload at poling unit level failed should be addressed. Moreover, viral videos, photos trending online and on the spot testimonies of individuals regarding the apparent lack of transparency of the election remain additional answers INEC needs to provide moving forward. Armed thugs commissioned to cause mayhem by politicians had a field day especially in Lagos. They were seen operating freely or under the cover and or protection of the police. The police were seen also moving ad-hoc electoral officer to unknown destinations even when results were not announced.
Over the years the Electoral Commission has bluntly failed to live up to the billings of Nigerians. After every cycle of national election, Nigerians will find one reason to be heart-broken by a supposed neutral electoral umpire readily disposed to be used as a pawn in the hands of politicians. The notorious ten years period of Maurice Iwu was characterized by brazen announcement of fake results and stolen mandates. We have not forgotten in a hurry how a current Senator and former governor of Abia state and a former deputy governor of Osun state and chieftain of APC detained for alleged corrupt and murder cases won elections from the four walls of the prison.
March 18 is another day of reckoning in our quest for a new and better Nigeria. We must remember the flawed democratic process maintained by governors at the state level. Life in states throughout the nation is brutish. We have governors who live like emperors and care less about the welfare of their citizens. It is payback time for their bad governance. We must totally reject their candidates and godsons presented to take over. Do not give in to or succumb to the antics of the old order – they will not fold their hands and allow you pull the carpet off their feet. Therefore, they will definitely fight back! Nigerians should be commended and rightly so for taking the driver’s seat on issues of national importance like electing who leads them. Therefore, sliding into despair at this point of bracing the tape is suicidal for the nation. We should all come out en-masse and vote for a better Nigeria. How prepared is INEC for the gubernatorial election taking place in 28 states?
It is heart-warming to hear and read that INEC has taken stock of the unfortunate events of the presidential election and put appropriate measures in place to forestall a repeat of the events of two weeks ago. The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, was quoted by channels television to have assured Nigerians that; “the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be used in the forthcoming governorship and state legislature elections.” Yakubu gave the assurance on in a meeting with all state Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at the INEC headquarters in Abuja. According to him, the BVAS machines will be used for the elections, though the devices are being reviewed to avoid a repeat of the glitches recorded with last Saturday’s elections. “On Election Day the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will once again be deployed for voter accreditation and result management,” Yakubu said; “the deployment of BVAS has gone a long way to sanitise voter accreditation as can be seen from the result of recent elections. Since last week, the Commission has intensified the review of the technology to ensure that glitches experienced, particularly with the upload of results are rectified. We are confident that going forward the system will run optimally.”
Further to that Yakubu revealed; “as we approach the Governorship and State Assembly elections, we must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election. Nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians. All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including Collation and Returning Officers, must not be involved in forthcoming elections. RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established. Election Day logistics must be finalised days before the election and handled by the Electoral Officers (EOs) at Local Government level. This has been our standard practice. Centralising the process as was done in some States resulted in delayed deployment of personnel and materials and late commencement of polls. RECs will be held responsible for any tardy arrangement or the failure to deploy electric power generators to collation centres or polling units where such facilities are needed.”
He affirmed that; “the Commission has enough facilities in all the States of the Federation. Failure to deploy them is simply inexcusable. Refresher training must be conducted for ad hoc staff that participated in the last election. Where they are replaced for good reason, they must be properly trained so that processes are not delayed or compromised at any stage. Arising from last week’s election, the Commission has received reports from our State offices as well as complaints and petitions from political parties and candidates. Where infractions of any kind are proven, there will be redress. I must add that any action taken by the Commission is without prejudice to the rights of parties and candidates to seek further remedy as provided by law.”
Nigerians are aware that Peter Obi of Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively have already challenged the presidential election result at the tribunal. The observed flaws are now left in the hands of the judiciary to decide. But the history of the sham we all witnessed as the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25 must not be allowed to repeat itself come March 18 guber election. INEC should do everything at its disposal to ensure that it reinvents itself. The commission should prove its mettle and neutrality. Let Nigerians Vote Count come March 18. The nation will not accept another rigging for victory!
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze is a Media and Development Communication Specialist. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and 08060901201
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