Former President Goodluck Jonathan has thrown his weight behind those pushing for electronic voting, saying it would not only ensure the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but also make elections in the country credible.
Jonathan who spoke yesterday during inauguration ceremony/lecture of the National Defence College (NDC), Course 30, in Abuja stressed that he finds it difficult to believe the opposition that has trailed the use of the electronic voting and transmission despite the advancement technology has brought.
Delivering a lecture at the event, the former Nigerian leader said, “There is no doubt that the independence of the electoral management body, is the key plank upon which a thriving democracy rests. In Nigeria, the agency with the constitutional responsibility for this role is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“There is the need for those involved in the ongoing electoral reforms to review their efforts and ask themselves some tough questions. That way, they will be able to determine whether they are advancing the course of democracy by working to enhance and protect the constitutionally guaranteed duties of INEC or seeking to encumber the body with unnecessary posturing, capable of negatively affecting the exercise of its independence, in the conduct of elections.
“I have always made the case that electronic voting is the way to go, if we truly desire to secure the credibility and integrity of our elections. It is difficult, therefore, to understand why the argument against the possibility of electronic transmission of election results continues to persist, despite all the advancement made in information and communication technology, over the years.”
Jonathan warned that if it is the true desire of those in authority to deepen the roots of democracy in the country, they should not seek to reverse the progress already recorded by INEC in the application of modern tools in the conduct of elections but aim to improve the processes in the light of new technology.
Speaking on the theme titled, ‘Human security and national development: The whole society approach’, the former president said emphasis should be placed on human security.
He stated: “The LGAs form the states (regions or provinces) and which in turn make up the nation. Human security is therefore the security of the nation.
“Many countries recognise this fact. That is why the Canadian option of human security which emphasises freedom from threats to people’s rights, safety of lives is anchored on the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). This precept as well as the Japanese notion of human security amplifies the idea of driving human security using freedom from fear as the focus.
“To attain what could be called national security, the security of the citizens, which include their environment, food, education as well as other political, social and economic needs must first be guaranteed. Human security therefore is securing individuals from threats that impede the freedom and dignity of citizens.
“Any country that wants to truly secure its borders and people should prioritise investment in citizens and their welfare, as a means of eliminating the threats to peace and sustainable development. Insecurity on the other hand, is anchored on concerns arising from inequality, poverty, wants, hunger, and other needs, especially as captured in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
He, however, cautioned some religious and community leaders against teachings that do not only threaten the nation’s unity and peace but also become subject of interest to human and national security.
Meanwhile, president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said yesterday that it had been the wish of the National Assembly that Nigerians in diaspora are able to exercise voting right during elections in Nigeria.
Lawan made this known when the chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, led a delegation on a courtesy visit to his.
“I believe that at one point I don’t know when and how far it will take us before we could start diaspora voting. But one thing I can assure you is that National Assembly is doing everything, particularly this 9th National Assembly is doing everything possible to ensure that our electoral processes and procedures are fully supported to make them have more transparency and integrity, and that is what we want to achieve at home,” a statement by his special assistant on media, Mohammed Isa, quoted the Senate president as saying.
Lawan noted that the legislature is simultaneously working to ensure that Nigerians outside of Nigerians are able to vote and have their votes count.
He continued: “It is very important we get the electoral process right. We have passed the electoral Act (Amendment) bill; we are now at the verge of having a harmonisation of the two versions of what passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“I believed that at the end of the day the National Assembly will send to the Mr. President a very good electoral Act amendment that will change for the better the electoral environment in this country.
“And of course, Diaspora voting is a wish for all of us, and when we reach there, we must ensure that every part of our diaspora community in every part of the world is given the opportunity to participate.
“And we have to make sure it is foolproof so as not to create another avenue for merchants of rigging to go and perfect their acts of rigging.
“We have to provide the opportunity but it has to be foolproof and all encompassing, giving everyone outside of Nigeria who wishes to be part of election process to participate”.
Lawan urged the Commission to work in synergy with the ministry of Foreign Affairs in the implementation of the National Diaspora Policy recently ratified by the Federal Executive Council.
“So you need to put the two institutions together in order to see how you can work in such a manner that what you do and what the foreign affairs ministry does are always in tandem and collaboration to bring the best we expect from the two agencies,” the Senate president said, adding that Nigeria has a duty to protect its citizens wherever they are in the world.
Also speaking in similar vein, the deputy president of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, who is the chairman of the Senate ad hoc committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, said his committee was not opposed to diaspora voting.
He said, “At some point, we will have all Nigerians cast their votes irrespective of where they are domiciled. But the position that we have taken for now, while we support that, a proper modality needs to be put in place.
“We thought the best way around it at this time is to liaise with INEC to come up with a proper framework for us to include in the exercise and I have the privilege to share that with the Chairman of NIDCOM”.
Earlier, Dabiri-Erewa said the visit was mainly to present to the Senate president a publication titled “+600 Diaspora Icons,” a compendium of stories on more than 600 Nigerians in diaspora who have glass shattering records.