At last, all the tension, intrigues, controversies, etc surrounding the inclusion or not of electronic transmission of electoral results has come and gone. Majority of Nigerians, including yours sincerely, appreciates the national assembly’s sensitivity to the yearnings of majority of Nigerians concerning the fundamental provisions in the nation’s electoral Act. The issue of electronic transmission of results became a serious national issue of recent, in which the Apc controlled national assembly had earlier rejected. The whole nation took up the matter with strong and sleepless vigour and accusations against the federal executive and legislature. It was surprising that the national assembly would talk about reforming the electoral process but rejected the transmission of the results of an electronic election electronically. That meant they were not genuinely serious about the reforms. But following ceaseless and sustained public pressure by the media, civil society groups, faith base organizations, individual political actors, and the political opposition ,especially the Peoples Democratic Party ,PDP, the parliament had no choice but to bow. While I thank those who mounted the pressure, I equally appreciate the national assembly for being sensitive in adjusting to accommodate the basic democratic needs of those who voted them into office.
I believed that it was upon moral and prayerful reflections, that the national assembly came me to terms with the reality and the perceived severe consequences of doing otherwise. How on earth could they have explained the fact that an election done electronically should be transmitted manually. It is akin to saying that you can enter a house through the door, but must come out through the window. Anyway, we have passed that stage now waiting for Mr President to sign the document into law.
One other issue many Nigerians did not anticipate legislative attention this time around was the issue of the mode of primary election to produce candidates of registered political parties who will fly their party’s tickets in secondary or general elections. In the process of the exercise also, the national assembly passed the provision for direct mode of primary elections, which means that all political parties will no longer elect their candidates through delegates or the indirect system but every registered member of a political party will participate in the election of candidates.
For many years now, some specially chosen members of the party called delegates, in controlled number, were the only persons selected or nominated or allowed to vote and elect candidates. Its most times less than 1 % of the total membership of the parties.
The practice is always heavily monetized and always a disadvantage to those who have no money. Its normally by God’s grace for those without money to scale through. It gave advantage to money bags who sometimes use money to successfully influence the delegates, thereby producing unwanted candidates or candidates that may later be rejected at the secondary polls.
Under the proposed direct system, all registered party members are equal in electoral status and can freely queue behind the candidate of their choice. Here, not much money may be used by an aspirant and is less frictional because no party man or woman is disallowed from participation. This system also lays less emphasis on the use of exco members thereby reducing or eliminating the desperate competition for the ownership of exco. It creates a level playing field for everyone; exco, stakeholder, masses alike. In this system, the people themselves control the process through collective implementation of party policies and decisions.
For the transmission of election results, the matter has been joyfully rested and there is nothing much to be done in terms of any additional innovation except perhaps to guard all cyber highways within the ICT space to ensure that no electronic manipulation or hacking takes place.
The direct system of primary elections is a welcome development, long overdue. Some measures needs to be put in place to solidify and make it work well. It was called the option A4 during the late Moshood Abiola era where people queue behind their candidates at the ward levels and results were collated and announced at different stages.
For people to enjoy this system, many things need to be put on ground by both government via INEC and the parties .
To make the direct primaries workable with good end results, similar ICT and other physical infrastructures used by INEC for general elections must be provided and installed for all parties during their primary elections too. Both electronic and manual membership registers of all political parties be submitted to INEC and security agencies. Government must provide INEC with enough budgetary allocations for proper and adequate oversight on the political parties. These funds will enable INEC to sponsor or print electronic membership cards of party members. Card readers be similarly provided for the parties for primary elections and results transmitted electronically also. Direct primary election is not different from general election. In fact its a mini general election with same features and therefore to make them very credible is to make the general elections credible. The federal government should provide these infrastructure through INEC to all parties to keep them at same level playing ground. Doing this will encourage same quality of elective congresses across the parties and the deepening of democracy in the country.
Same procedure and quality of accreditation must be put in place for both primary and secondary elections( electronic and manual side by side). INEC’S ROLE MUST GO BEYOND THE USUAL OBSERVATION AND MONITORING. The electoral body must deploy its independent ICT capacity to help all parties during primary polls. Of what use will it be if INEC’s concern is the secondary elections while chaos takes over the primary polls? The INEC must reorganize its guidelines to capture all these and other vital details that are necessary for both primary and general elections.