The needless controversy over the smuggling of new clauses in the proposed amendment to the nation’s Electoral Act is a big stain and ridicule on our political development and democratic growth. It is a big shame that many years after independence we are still struggling as adults to do the right thing and build our society. It is an indication of backwardness and unwillingness to grow. Even with our giant physical and geographical size, we are still crawling and sucking. To even see our members of parliament trading blames on the issue is demeaning and tainting. But not all members of the legislature are involved in this. It is those who don’t and cannot win through free and fair elections; those who rely on INEC and the governors to impose them on the people.
The issue of electronic transmission of results after elections should not be an issue for national discourse at all if not for the deep level of political rot, corruption and dishonesty of a nation. It should be a natural flow in the circle of electoral activities for transparency, equity, free and fair process. The fact that it has become a matter of argument and debate means that some people are not ready for change and transformation of the nation’s electoral process obviously because it affects their interest. It is natural that electronic results from electronic voting should be transmitted electronically. Why would an election conducted electronically via an electronic accreditation through the use of the card reader be collected manually? Why then the use of electronic facilities?
The level of moral shamelessness associated with the issue speaks volume of how insensitive and reckless the thoughts of many politicians towards the philosophy of democracy itself. The truth remains that with transparent and free polls some people can never win certain elections in this country, and therefore would always seek to go through fraudulent electoral channels to score cheap goals. It is this satanic category of persons that are working tirelessly to frustrate the amendment of the electoral Act which seeks to give way to a clean process. Such persons have no respect for democracy and whatever it takes to get into public office they can do to appease their instincts.
In essence, this has been the root cause of the problem of leadership in Nigeria and the developing world, which invariably affects every aspect of the society. It is the bedrock of corruption which has polluted and infiltrated the core values of honesty and sincerity and even the spiritual wellbeing of the people.
How can the country work well when the process of enthroning leadership is faulty? How can a leader who came through the faulty process respect due process and the rule of law to promote good governance? And how can the people be comfortable when the leaders are susceptible to manipulation like the process that brought them? Nigeria can only work where there is credible electoral process that produces credible leaders and leadership with the requisite legitimacy for legitimate authority and action. Leadership is key because it brings to fore the direction of the society and the way the people will follow.
The general improvement in the nation’s electoral process occasioned by advancement in technology has closed many gaps and reduced a lot of inconveniences. For example, the improvement from the manual registration, accreditation to voting with the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, through the card readers has done a lot of good and given a better image to our electoral system. It has reduced to a certain level the usual manipulations that take place during collation of results. Bulk of electoral offences takes place after the casting of votes and mainly outside the polling units. Results are usually announced at the polling units from where they are collated at the ward levels, being the first level of collation, from where they are moved to the LGA collation center and then to the last collation point depending on whether it is the state assembly, House of Representatives, senatorial, governorship or the Presidential collation destination.
The country has been using the manual collation methods which include the handwritten results from the units upwards. This process has caused massive electoral frauds because results are easily changed in between the various collation stages. A winner who has his unit’s result ends up getting a different result at the final collation center as a result of manual changes being introduced or different result sheets being used to reenter the results. It used to be a collaboration between the returning agents and the INEC officials who facilitated and controlled the manual movement of these results.
On the other hand, the use of technology to transmit results from the voting centers will ensure that no INEC staff or returning agent have access to the same result because it has been transferred to a central server monitored centrally. Even though a hard copy of the electronic result will be given to agents of political parties, the security agencies and INEC, the same result will be domiciled at the central server immediately it is announced.
The same result is transmitted at each collation center until it gets to its final destination where it is announced with confirmation from each agent holding the same hard copy. In this way, it is difficult to change any result between the voting point and the final collation center. It also eliminates the reckless cancellation of results by INEC staff in favor of whoever they chose to favor.
It is on record that INEC is fond of cancelling results when they see that their preferred candidate is lagging behind. But once the results are transmitted electronically, there cannot be any cancellation because results have already been downloaded. This is the main way by which INEC manipulates elections in our country today. In fact, some of their staff will openly tell you of how they can deal with whoever does not cooperate with them or settle them. In the last general elections of 2019, INEC cancelled results of peaceful polls in many areas across the nation just to give undeserved victory to those who did not merit it. This has caused a lot of antagonisms and conflicts and created serious insecurity in many other areas. It has always been the major cause of political tension and crisis in the country.
For our democracy to consolidate and be counted, we must behave like other civilized democratic nations. We must use technology which is most fashionable. Those against electronic transmission of results are our enemies and the political criminals and terrorists of our time that must be conquered. Thanks to the media, the civil society groups and well-meaning Nigerians who quickly rose to the occasion to stop some democratic bandits from killing our democracy.