Elections: There’s still hope for Nigeria
By Bunmi Ishola
IN Ukwani Local Government Area of Delta State, it was a period of mourning on February 25 after the presidential and National Assembly elections were held. An INEC official whose name was withheld was shot dead on his way to deliver the election results. In the same vein, the chairman of Ezza North Traditional Rulers’ Council, HRH Eze Igbokwe Ewa, was shot dead right inside his palace on February 27. It was alleged that the action was carried out by political hoodlums who invaded his residence and shot him dead while his children ran for their lives to avoid same fate as they were also threatened. The royal father was said to be supporting a particular party candidate, which did not go well with the other party. A woman, Jennifer Seifegha, was stabbed in the face at the Nuru/Oniwo Ward polling unit 065 in Lagos state on the day of same election just because she refused to vote for a particular candidate. After going home to treat herself, she went back to the same poling unit with her plastered face to cast her vote despite all odds. These are some of the unpalatable and dreadful incidents that happened during the just concluded election in Nigeria. Many states recorded injuries and deaths during and after the elections. Some were abducted, some were maimed. These cases force one to begin to wonder what manner of election we still conduct in this part of the world despite all logistics.
It will be recorded that Professor Mohammad Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), promised Nigerians a violent-free election with the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). The plan was for the election results to be transmitted in real time through the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) to INEC servers which can be viewed by all as election is in progress. This did not happen. Instead, results were read manually by Resident Electoral Officers and the INEC chairman before being uploaded. Many Nigerians asked the INEC boss to explain why he had to do something contrary to the Electoral Act. He was accused of disregarding the Electoral Act. As it is now, many Nigerians are saying the February 25 election was actually marred by violence, vote buying (It was alleged that a lot of political parties still found a way to share money and other goods at polling booths and some party agents were even caught on camera and shown on social media), election manipulation by some INEC officials and even party agents. Many voters were also disenfranchised due to the non-functionality of the BVAS in many polling units all over the country. Results were changed in transit from voting units to collation centres, which could have been avoided if results were transmitted electronically as soon as voting ended at each polling unit.
Many Nigerians are lamenting that this particular election is not better than all the previously conducted elections even though this is 2023 when many other nations have evolved. This election is not different as there was ballot snatching while security agents were accused of conniving with political parties to disrupt peace and disallow people to vote in peace. Many Nigerians are accusing INEC of being an instrument with which some parties compromised the election. It is alleged in many quarters, especially from political party agents like Senator Dino Melaye, that the results announced showed a lot of discrepancies with the actual results attested to by voters at polling units where results were counted in front of party agents. Be that as it may, it is a moment of reflection. With the way and manner by which politicians go about the conduct of elections, it is seen as something that must favour them at all costs, not minding whoever gets hurt or whatever it takes. It is glaring that we still have a long way to go regarding elections in this country. A lot of politicians see it as a ‘do-or-die’ affair and it clearly shows the motive is selfish. If truly it is for the service of humanity and the masses, there is definitely no need for violence or forcing the hands of people against their will. Every Nigerian should have been allowed to vote for their choice without any form of intimidation or any form of prejudice. No one needs to get killed or maimed for life just because of wanting to be a part of history by voting for their choices. No Nigerian life is worth anyone’s political ambition.
As the next elections draw closer, Nigerians want INEC and its chairman to correct the obstacles to a credible election. The BVAS machines should be checked and INEC should stick to what the Electoral Act provides, namely that elections should be transmitted electronically straight to the IReV and be made transparent. INEC officials should be allowed to their jobs without inhibition and anyone of them accused of having compromised during the February 25 election should be replaced with immediately. Political parties should work hand-in-hand and not against the people they claim they want to serve. INEC should stick to the Electoral Act stated and transmit results electronically. Party agents should be screened thoroughly and anyone constituting any form of nuisance should be arrested and bundled out of voting centres. The security agents should not be involved in causing any form of trouble at polling units but should be made to uphold law and order. Nigerians should know that no amount of money is worth their mandate and they should reject anyone who wants to buy their conscience.
All forms of violence should be avoided and everyone should work towards conducting a worthy, verifiable and credible election. Violence and bloodshed need not be features of our election now or in future. Nigeria can still get it right.
- Ishola is on the staff of Nigerian Tribune
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