It never reached our waiting ears with surprise. We all expected the national lawmakers to do what they did going by their antecedents on matters of national importance that has to do with strengthening the democracy and blocking possibilities of rigging.
The growing demand for free, fair, credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, suffered yet another setback, courtesy of the legislative powers of our weak national assembly with some as beneficiaries of rigged elections and some received dictation and remote-controlled from the dark as some pretended to side the executive while others were mere sycophants hiding under the cover of protecting their region.
The ‘Honorable’ parliamentarians deliberately and myopically killed and buried at the bowel of the national assembly complex a growing national aspiration with mere obnoxious technicalities yet to be reasoned by sane minds.
Surprisingly, the same lawmakers approved the use of any other electronic means during elections as INEC deems fit but insisted that electronic transmission of results be on the express approval by the National Assembly and the Danbatta chaired Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu said of the matter: “The National Assembly’s decision to allow INEC the use of electronic voting without the electronic transmission of results is counterproductive. You cannot permit INEC on one hand the use of electronic voting and not use electronic transmission of results because usually, they go as a package. Once there is a robust soft and hardware for doing so, it now brings efficiency, transparency and real time ability to see the result as they are transmitted from the polling unit to a national Collation Centre”.
The will of the majority is abused or circumvented if and when policies and institutions established to drive credibility of elections are handicapped or chained. In Nigeria, the need for free, fair and credible elections has been in the front burner of electoral reforms. The Electoral Reform Act of 2010 was borne out of a genuine desire to advance and address this course. But the amendment of Clause 52(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which seeks to adopt electronic transmission of election results in the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on INEC, was roundly rejected. On the clause-by-clause consideration of the report, selfish, partisan and regional interests prevailed over national interest. Both chambers came up with a surprise package; a self-serving package not reflective of the wishes and desires of Nigerians. While 52 out of 88 Senators at the plenary voted against e-transmission of election results, 28 said yes. Incidentally, all the 52 senators who voted against the proposed amendment are all members of the ruling APC. One sore reminder of the disingenuous nature of our brand of politicians was that even the chairman Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya actually voted against the very recommendation of his own committee report which was a clear case of hypocrisy and political rascality at best.
One had envisaged that the APC could take a detour from the old ‘normal’ by bequeathing a legacy of unprecedented electoral reforms before 2023. Instead they came up with a damning retrogressive clause which stands logic on its head and hands over power of determining how and when to transmit election results to NCC and the sleeping national assembly. No Act of the national assembly or any other piece of legislation for that matter is superior to the 1999 Constitution. The powers of INEC as enshrined in the third Schedule, Part 1(f) Section 15 states: “INEC has power to organize, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the president, vice president, governor and deputy governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly of each state of the federation”. The Constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.” In fact, INEC understood the letters of the law and the constitution as they relate to their responsibilities and shunned the invitation by the House of Representatives on the issue. This strange parliamentary enactment could possibly be applicable only in our Nigeria where misfits fire the shots. What this invariably means was that we now have three electoral bodies in Nigeria namely; INEC, NCC and NASS. The hallmark of democracy is deeply engraved in free, fair and credible elections. One vital element is the transparent nature of the process in arriving at the desired answers. Election rigging which involves all sorts of desperate measures and manipulations in forms of ballot snatching, ballot stuffing, change of results at polling units or along the way to submission, intimidation of candidates using political thugs and conventional, compromised security agencies and even killing of innocent citizens are all good reasons to transmit election results direct from the polling units.
But our national lawmakers and the election rigging cartel they represent in their wisdom, will not respect the wishes of the majority. It is now clear that politicians are the clog in the wheel of the progress of transparent elections in Nigeria. Most of them are bad products that win elections by other means and have nothing to offer in the offices they occupy other than selfish interest. Therefore, voting in favor of e-transmission of results puts a lid on their profession and aspirations come 2023 and beyond. But, there are other ways if applied can confine them to the dustbin of history in 2023 along with their rigging mechanism.
Their willingness to support the level of crass rigging and all forms of electoral malpractices which has characterized our electoral process since 1999 is clear. Before the APC won election in 2015 through divine intervention, they had brilliants ideas on paper on all sorts of rot bedeviling the country including electoral reforms they espoused. What then stops the APC from implementing those robust plans six years after accessing power beats an imagination. Anyway, every Nigerian opposition political party always prophesies brilliant and great ideas to deceive the gullible and access power to do the opposite.
When Nigerians mistakenly allowed APC to mount the saddle of power in 2015, the reverse of what they preached while in the struggle is now glaring and their albatross against 2023.
The honest and better recognized process in respecting the will of the majority in selecting who they prefer to govern them is what stands out in global best democratic practice. This will of the majority in selecting who they want to lead them is what makes any government responsible and democratic at variance with dictatorship and monarchy.
The conspiracy theory of the greedy national lawmakers against Nigerians was glaring and insulting to the sanctity of right. Imagine inviting NCC to make a presentation on an issue right at the heart of elections which the House of Representatives plans to play a vital role using their planted stooges at the Commission or their spouses to make final decision on the franchise of the people, is most disturbing and attempted murder of right to freedom of choice.
The conclusion of the national assembly was hastily without the input of INEC- the statutory electoral body directly involved. No one bothered to ask why INEC refused to honor the national assembly invitation. The absence of INEC sent an important message invalidating whatever the suspected compromised NCC presented. As if that was not enough the co-opted eager to do the dirty job, NCC presented a 2018 report showing 43%, national network coverage just to push a weak defence in support of the ‘rigging’ plan of the national assembly hawks. However, it has been established that as at 2021, the national network coverage stands at 74%. Good enough, INEC has repeatedly said it has the capacity to transit election results from polling units all over the country without hitch. The belief that the country is on its path to genuine and true democracy has been decimated by this self-serving action of our national lawmakers. For now this is the end of the road for electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria until may be in 2023 when the present masquerades must have been changed.
On the other hand, only the president has the executive power to revive the hope of a transparent electoral process by withholding his assent on that piece of self-serving escape route from the wrath of the electorates which has complicated the electoral process and seeks to take the country many years backward. The vote to stop e-transmission of election results is an open conspiracy against democracy and good governance. The cowards were at work in association with the weak and the dull including the clueless and the dummies. Allah de!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues