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Electronic transmission of election results

By Editorial Board
27 October 2021   |   3:52 am
The decision of the Senate to redeem itself by reversing its earlier stance on the controversial clause 53 (3) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which had sought to subject the electronic transmission of electoral results to the approval...

(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The decision of the Senate to redeem itself by reversing its earlier stance on the controversial clause 53 (3) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which had sought to subject the electronic transmission of electoral results to the approval of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and ultimately the National Assembly, is timely, and a demonstration of how an ideal democratic system of government should work. It should be a system that thrives on the will of the people. Nigerians individually and collectively represented by Civil Society Organisations have spoken on their preference for results of elections in the country to be electronically disseminated; it is only right that the Upper Chambers of the National Assembly listened, and acted in accordance with that preference.

The National Assembly must constantly bear in mind that it is but an instrument for the amplification of the voice of the people; members are elected to serve the will of the majority of their constituents and not to embark on a frolic of their own. Electronic transmission of results may not solve all the maladies afflicting conduct of elections in the country, but it is a veritable way to kick-start some transparency of the process, and to bring decorum into the much maligned system of the country’s democracy.

Nigerians expect President Muhammadu Buhari to promptly give assent to the now harmonised bill, not just to deepen the country’s democracy but also debunk reservations about government’s hidden motive, if any, on forthcoming elections, including the 2023 general election. Nigerians are not misconceived in believing that these amendments will go a long way in facilitating free and fair elections in the country. The president should be enthusiastic to assure the electorate and the international community that his administration is sincere about the desire to achieve credible elections in the country. The improvements brought about by the adoption of technology in various aspects of Nigerians’ lives cannot be over emphasised; government should seek to improve the process rather than jettisoning same which will only worsen electoral malpractices that characterise the country’s electoral process.

The leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deserves support for its efforts and the courage displayed in ensuring the preservation of the commission’s independence, which is the bedrock for credible elections in any society. Now that its desired framework has scaled another hurdle, and as the Commission has assured of its readiness for the forth coming elections, it is expected that when the bill becomes law, future electoral exercise will be devoid of the pitfalls, bottlenecks and lapses experienced in the past.

Apart from seeking confidence from the proposed law, Nigerians must also realise that ensuring the credibility of any electoral process is the duty of all stakeholders, which duty is not discharged until election malpractice culprits and their sponsors are arrested, prosecuted and convicted. Members of the public should put security agencies on their toes to perform their duties of bringing offenders to answer for their misdeeds.

Electoral crimes are grievous offences and they should be treated as such. Those responsible seek to subvert the will of the people and put the lives of citizens and national security of the nation in jeopardy. The security agencies should as a matter of priority ensure that such persons are prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others, assure eligible voters of the transparency of electoral process and ensure the peace and stability of the nation.

Beyond legislations to provide framework for the establishment of credible practices, commitment to the processes by all stakeholders is equally fundamental for Nigerians to reap the gains expected from these legislations. In spite of persistent complaints of the poor performance of electoral officers, elections are still characterised by voter’s apathy as less than 40 per cent of registered voters turn up to cast their votes. This is because majority of the populace are non-committal when it comes to the general elections or the day-to-day affairs of the government by officers they presumably elected into office. If left unchecked, men of questionable characters will compromise the best of legislation. Every citizen and Civil Society Organisations should undertake the burden of public sensitisations on voters’ education, to keep vigilant and report all cases of electoral malpractices before, during and after the elections to ensure that the vote of every eligible voter counts. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to staunchly entrench the values and principles of democracy in the nation by registering to vote or stand to be voted for.

With Nigeria’s party system, the transparency of an electoral process begins at the political party levels, as only the candidates presented by the respective registered political parties can stand to contest the elections. Well-meaning Nigerians must own the political party structures and not allow same to remain in the hands of “career politicians” who only seek to further their selfish ambitions with public funds and at the expense of public interest.

The role of public office holders is about service to the people and not an avenue for self aggrandisement. Political offices are held in trust for the generality of the people and if for any reason this trust reposed in any individual is breached, Nigerians have a right to ensure his/her removal from office through an appropriate constitutional forum without the need of waiting until the next rounds of elections, by which time more harm may have already been done.