Stakeholders canvas e-voting as panacea to Nigeria’s electoral woes
As controversy continues to trail the 2019 general election where issues of vote buying and violence came into sharp focus, some stakeholders in the Nigerian project have stressed the need for the country to embrace electronic voting as it remains the only panacea for solving the nation’s electoral woes. This is just as the Human Right Watch (HRW) and European Union (EU) recently released damning reports on the election.
The HRW report claimed the election was marred by widespread violence that resulted in the death of 629 people. The group also alleged that 4, 000 people have been killed since 2015 and 2019 elections. The EU on its own claimed the poll was marred by severe operational and transparency shortcomings. It also indicted incumbents at both federal and states levels for using incumbency advantage to influence outcomes. The report concluded that there is need for serious electoral reforms due to systemic failings and low level of voter participation.
While speaking at the Power of PVC Ride Award ceremony held recently in Lagos, Nollywood actor, Paul Obazele, said e-voting is achievable in the country if the Federal Government drafts the right people to drive it to a logical conclusion.
He said: “If Nigeria is going to be great, if rigging is to stop, if kidnapping, suspension and inconclusive election will die, it is only through electronic voting. It therefore means we would have been able to restore confidence and give power to the people who actually vote in those they want and dictate the pace of what is supposed to happen in the country. Nigerians can actually bring into reckoning what the average politician is doing. And if you do that, looting will stop, corruption will stop.
“Today, politics is not being done for the love of it. The only passion the average politician has is the strong desire to loot the purse of the country. I just pray they empower us with this e-voting and people can even vote from the comfort of their homes and chase the looters out of government.”
Obazele deplored the culture of money politics that has conspired to disenfranchise decent Nigerians from vying for political offices, noting “for example, to run for state governorship, if you don’t have N15 billion you cannot do it. So it means I have been told to go and loot the treasury of my state. If any right thinking government has vision, then they would be able to empower these smaller ones that are there. The mindset of the average Nigerian will change.”
Another veteran actor, Jude Chukwuka, said e-voting will solve a lot of ambiguity in the country. He described the current arrangement as limiting and restricting Nigerians who are outside the country from contributing to the political process.
He said, for instance, e-voting would eliminate fear of intimidation and the possibility of ballot snatching at polling stations.
While speaking on the Electoral Bill presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Assembly that is still awaiting his assent, Chukwuka said he is of the belief the president is taking his time given health challenges and frequent travels.
“Those are the things that are eating into the decision-making process,” he said. “However, if he wants to leave a mark, if he puts the right organ in position, corruption becomes difficult. If we employ e-voting, it will eliminate a lot of bottlenecks that will make people vote. People will now be able to vote even from the comfort of their homes and the police, instead monitoring polling booths, will have ample time to go after criminals and do other things.”
Another actor, Rykardo Agbor, expressed worry over the low turnout during the election, saying voters’ apathy is matter of utmost concern. According to him, the country’s past elections shows that Nigeria is not getting it right and therefore needs to review the whole process.
“With electronic voting, there will be peace and people will want to participate and be assured that their vote is going to count. The innovation will help Nigeria gain ground and clarify her status as the giant of Africa.”
Ace Comedian, Lepacious Bose described e-voting as the next vision the country must embrace, noting “that is where we are going. That is the dream of INEC. Electronic voting is the next step for Nigeria. That is what will help Nigerians all over the world to vote irrespective of where they are located and living. It will also help to have a structural voting system.”
Also, Cultural Ambassador to the Ooni of Ife, Morounranti Ashabi Alebiosu, stated that the six months slated for voter’s education is inadequate. She stressed that the planning for 2023 should start now, saying when voters are sensitised and educated, people will get up and be counted.
According to her, “Whatever needs to be done should begin now. Voter’s education should start now. If people are not to be disenfranchised or need to collect their PVC, the sensitisation should be today,’ she noted.
On electronic voting, she noted that it was the right step for the country but expressed certain reservations, and questioned the capacity of the country’s infrastructure and ability to support such a process. Alebiosu said to erase voters’ apathy, agencies responsible for election matters must restore confidence and redeem their image.
For the convener, Power of PVC Ride, Akorede Balogun, the country needs to get the electoral process right.
According to him, “We can’t continue doing the same things and expect different results. I am not confortable with the six months of INEC’s sensitisation approach. I feel even if we have to, the whole of four years before election, we still have much to do. And we need to do a lot more. That is why I mobilised bikers to ride for the nation and educate the people. Using Lagos as a case study, about 6.5million registered while over five million collected their PVC, yet only a little above one million voted. I want to see Lagos and other states bringing more people into the electoral process.
“It is extremely important for the parties to educate their supporters. They don’t do that. When we talk about violence, they are in the best position to curb their people. The big names in these parties, once they say ‘go out there and be peaceful’, their members will obey. We want parties to be part of the advocacy. E-voting is the best way people can participate more. It will also facilitate the participation of Nigerians in diaspora. It is much more easier and doable. INEC should start early to educate people. We need to live in the country of our dream.
“When I started this advocacy, many people were actually asking, ‘does election really count?’ What I usually says is that election counts. If it doesn’t why would the ruling party find it difficult in Osun State? They were losing with over 500 votes, before it was declared inconclusive. We learned that their supporters had to wear wristbands and denied the other party supporters access to the polling units which, at the end of the day, they emerged winners. If votes don’t count, they won’t get away the way they do, that is the reason why the vote counts.”
Some of the PoPVC Ride Award recipients at the event included Director, Voters’ Education and Planning, Abuja, Mr. Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, INEC Commissioner for Oyo State, Hon. Mutiu O. Agboke, Tuface Idibia, Amb. Alebiosu, Chairman, Task Force, Lagos State, CSP Yinka Egbeyemi, Lepacious Bose, Madam Obukome Elaine Ibru, and Rite Food Limited.
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