The just concluded February 25 presidential elections will go down in the annals of Nigeria as the most crooked, manipulated and rigged. The much promised and expected free, fair, credible and transparent election never saw the light of the day. The election was awfully conducted to say the least. It ran short of anticipated fairness and transparency. It was a well-choreographed electoral fraud. The uploading/transmission of results electronically from the Poling Units as stipulated by the Electoral Law 2022 as amended was the expected game changer.
Many Nigerians who never trusted the electoral process became ardent believers and champions of same on account of the electoral gains embedded in the newly signed law. It expressly handed over the electoral mandate to the people unlike previous years when politicians do everything by hook or crook to muzzle their ways to power. However, that provision of the law was flagrantly abused and violated.
Many Nigerian are disappointed that the nation has reverted back again to the political abyss of yester years where the popular will of the people was roundly truncated and subjugated by politicians. The Nigerian youths registered in their numbers and were ready to take back their country through a transparent electoral process. The international communities and the global electoral institutions also saw a new Nigeria unfolding with the new law.
They arrived Nigeria for the election early enough and assurances of a free, fair and transparent elections was given by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). The INEC had never left anyone in doubt on its stand concerning the transmission of the result electronically. Categorical statements made by the INEC chair, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu and other senior INEC officials like Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education on the commission’s readiness to upload/transmit results from the Poling Units abound.
It should be noted that electronic transmission of results was applied in the staggered elections of Ekiti, Osun and Edo states. The outcome reflected the wishes and aspirations of the people, thus, Nigerians applauded the process for its transparency. That sort of transparent process was in the air until all hopes were dashed. If there were lessons learned from the electronic transmission of results in the above states INEC should have before now tightened the loose ends.
The technical hitches the commission blamed for not uploading results from Poling Units in the middle of collation of final election results was unacceptable and complete hug-wash. Many would align with INEC for moving on with and finally announcing Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the election. After all, the tribunals are already constituted for the aggrieved to ventilate his displeasure.
However, the commission’s insistence to continue with the collation of results despite genuine concerns raised by many political parties on observed infractions from Poling Units cast doubts on the neutrality of the commission, the integrity of the results and the entire process. How come most of the Senate and House of Representative results were uploaded while that of the Presidency became problematic? Many Nigerians were of the view that, this was an election the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) vehemently refused to abide by its own set standards, rules and regulations. The assessment of the international communities aligns with the above position of Nigerians.
According to International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Joint Election Observation Mission (IEOM), led by Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, while presenting its preliminary report on the presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria, she observed that; “…the mission notes that despite the much-needed reforms to the Electoral Act 2022, the election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations. Logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and impeded a substantial number of voters from participating…
The delegation observed that late opening of polling locations and logistical failures created tensions and the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in some polling units given overcrowding. At the close of the polls, challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner, undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process. Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) about their cause and extent created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process.
The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many areas, although the scope and scale is currently unknown. Despite these issues, Nigerians once again demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process. Voters displayed extraordinary resilience and resolve to have their voices heard through the ballot, and INEC administered a nationwide election according to the electoral calendar for the first time in the country’s recent history.”
The European Union on the other hand did not hide its displeasure on the anomalies which characterized the election. The Chief Observer, Barry Andrews, member of the European Parliament, who presented the preliminary findings of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) said among other things, “…election day was marked by late deployment and opening while polling procedures were not always followed.
Polling staff struggled to complete result forms, which were not posted publicly in most polling units observed. The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) were perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of the elections. However, uploading of the results using the BVAS did not work as expected and presidential election result forms started to appear on the portal very late on election day, raising concerns. INEC held the elections on schedule despite a very challenging environment. Stakeholders overall expressed confidence in INEC independence and professionalism in the preparatory phase. However, INEC’s lack of efficient planning in critical stages and effective public communication reduced trust in the process, including on election day.”
At this critical juncture of our national life, wisdom is profitable to direct. Remain ye peaceful and calm dear Nigerians! Maturity and total restraint from crime should guide the actions and behaviours of Nigerians and the Obi-dient Movement. The nation is ours and ours it has to be. Nigerians/the Obi-dients should not play into the hands of those who had branded them bullies by resorting to violence in their quest to reclaim the stolen mandate. The electoral process has provided redress mechanisms and legal routes to remedy the ugly situation. It is therefore, very important that these legal means be so explored.
It is sincerely advised that peace should be maintained at all cost. Peter Obi is a man of peace and resorting to violence will cast dark shadow on his principles and the entire effort put in this elections. The movement and Nigerians should be glad and proud of their achievements within this short period Peter Obi left the Peoples’ Democratic Party for Labour Party. Many can attest to the fact that the once neglected party has become a threat, bride and a political party to beat. There is a political reawakening all over Nigeria like never before. The eyes of everyone including that of the women in rural communities are open to the stark reality in Nigeria.
The party won seventeen states out of thirty-six including Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Without structure as some said, the party still routed many incumbent governors, senators and House of Representative members. The upsets in Enugu and Kaduna states where a bus driver and an Okada rider respectively roundly defeated incumbent House of Representative members was a sign of good things to come. If not now definitely later. As it is, major political parties like the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) which had summarily written Labour Party and its Obi-dient Movement off do so at their peril.
The victory of this election goes to Nigerian people. Within a short planning period of nine months, Labour Party made a remarkable difference. Obi’s great idea of moving Nigeria from consumption to a productive economy resonated in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. His messages were quite different from the old deceptive rhetorics of PDP and APC. Come March 11, when the gubernatorial and state assembly elections take place, Labour Party will spring surprises too. It is therefore imperative to put more time and energy in planning how best to execute and win the coming election than dwelling in the past. The legal process of reclaiming the stolen mandate shall be activated accordingly. Finally, election cycle is only for four years and it is right there at the corner. If the jury fails to be incorruptible, there is hope for another day. Nigerians shall definitely take back their country from political vultures!
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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