Rigging 2023 in 2021
When President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to 2018 Electoral amendment draft, his excuse was that the document was a right thing arriving on his table at a wrong time and that if signed into law it could jeopardise 2019 general elections that were around the corner. He also adduced that the clause of scheduling election time table by the legislature was clipping the discretional wings of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to independently, as its name implies, run electoral exercises in Nigeria.
Though the president had its way in accordance with the power of veto vested in his office by the Constitution, the cynical public had their say within the space of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. The rationale offered by the president was seen as a pleasant presidential objection to a draft that could drive credible elections if turned to an Act. There is a saying in our place that “no one is big or old enough to overcome fear”. The fear of losing fraud-free elections feverishly frightens almost all Nigerian politicians.
The provision of electronic transmission of election results from polling units to collation centres was Bukola Saraki-led Senate’s improved seedlings with resistant varieties to withstand pestilence often unleashed by Nigerian politicians on electoral processes. Though electronic transmission of result is not enough to check all that plague popular wishes of the people, it is capable to a large extent of putting off the ever-present devil’s hands that magically add, subtract and multiply figures, especially during transit of ballot papers from polling booths to collation centres.
Fortunately, the seed earlier killed by the president has sprouted in the 9th National Assembly. But unfortunately, the legislature dominated by the All Progressive Congress, APC, has mutilated it on its nursery bed. That mutilation is what generates the hue and cry from Nigerians to forestall the disfigured seed in the legislature being transplanted to its permanent site through the office of president.
The caveat of “where and when are practicable” inserted in the amended draft, which says that electronic transmission of election results from polling booths to collation centre should be determined by the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, subject to ratification by the National Assembly is glaringly eroding the independence of the elections management body. The amended draft also tie the hands of INEC when its officials are asked under duress to announce election result as dictated by a person or few persons and not as voted by the people.
With NCC being a wing of the executive, it means the electoral body would be on the apron string of the two arms of government. The subjugation of INEC’s power to the legislature and the executives is signposting that Nigerians would still have to wait for the judiciary to pronounce winners and losers after about a year of casting their votes. This is because the draft is designed to allow wuru-wuru and mago-mago, which have been the common features in our elections, to continue to have their way so that heaps of election petitions in courts would keep heightening to ceiling level.
By 2023, when the amended bill is mostly targeted at having its full fledge, the celebrated June 12, which is now Democracy Day on account of 1993 presidential election adjudged as the most credible in Nigeria’s history, will clock 30 years while this democracy would be 24, yet the country would be progressively retrogressing to dictatorship. Flag of dictatorship is flying fantastically whenever and wherever fraudulent elections fly because it suppresses the popular wishes of the people.
Why is Nigeria’s democracy retrogressing in the hands of a party which middle name is Progressive? Are all those congregating in the congress becoming retrogressive after progressing to Abuja, where the drivers of progression or retrogression of Nigeria reside? Where are those flaunting puritanical credentials of being progressives and pro-democracy activists?
Why is the APC-dominated National Assembly afraid of credible elections, whereas they claim to have got to power through mass action? May be, the surest way of identifying hypocrites in the Nigerian population is to give political power to those reveling with appellation of being progressives and pro-democracy activists.
The excuse that all polling units in the country are not covered by telecommunication facilities is flimsy and so feeble to fly in a fecundating political firmament like Nigeria. Gratifyingly, INEC keep saying that it has capacity to transmit election results from every polling unit to central collation.
It is an act of effrontery, as it is embarrassing to “the giant of Africa” with vast potentials in human and material resources, to advance excuse of non-nationwide internet facilities. It smacks of reversing to Stone Age at a time information is received anywhere in the world within a second after a click of a finger on a button by a sender. It is fallacious, as it falls flat on the face of current realities that do not require institutional or organizational statistics for verifications before knowing that Information and Communication Technology, ICT, is everywhere in the world today.
Let us take a cursory look at ATM (automated teller machines), which dispenses cash to customers in banks and some other strategic public places. POS (point of sale) abounds in every corner from rural to urban areas and they are not only used for purchasing alone, vendors also use it pay to bank depositors, both lettered and unlettered.
Also, passengers using BRT in Lagos pay fares with electronic cards. At Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta in Lagos, all information about patients, including paying bills, are computerized and are assessed through electronic compliance number on cards. Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, are now on CBT (Computer Based Test). There are many other electronic mode of living in Nigeria today that would not be contained on this space.
We should not cite examples of some developed nations that do not use electronic means in voting. Because of crooked practices that abound in Africa, the need for devising untainted means of conducting our affairs can only be emphasised to non-human creatures. When I started secondary school many years ago at Holy Family College Abak, our terminal examination results were sent straight to our parents/guardians through post offices. That measure helped a great deal in checking results from missing or marks inflated and coloured with blue pen in the hands of some unscrupulous students.
It is extremely difficult for anyone desirous of trustworthy elections in Nigeria to condemn those labeling the action of the APC-led national legislature as “show of shame”. They can only be accused of being poor in vocabulary, hence their use of a mild phrase.
If the Buhari administration fails by any means to allow INEC to conduct credible elections in 2023 it would be vindicating and disappointing. Vindication of many Nigerians from all parts of the country who hold the view that the retired Major General has not turned away from sins of dictatorship, which formed the groundswell of discontent among Nigerians throughout his 20 months reign, and for which Ibrahim Babangida offered as reasons for dethroning him on August 27, 1985.
It would be a mother of all disappointments to a number of persons tenaciously clinging to a position that Buhari has the will and wherewithal of character to righting of wrongs in Nigeria. After losing three successive presidential elections, which he keeps alleging rigging, before winning his fourth contest in 2015, Buhari ordinarily should be imbued with strong motivations more than other Nigerians at the moment to append his signature on marble for free and fair elections.
In event that the National Assembly fails to hearken to hues and cries from Nigerians to expunge fraud-compliance provisions in the amended electoral draft and the president thereafter assents to it, Nigerians from all stations of life everywhere should brace up for the urgency and imperativeness of using every legitimate means in stopping the National Assembly and the presidency from facilitating the rigging of 2023 elections in 2021.
Ekanem wrote from Lagos.
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