On three different occasions, I had tried to commence writing this week’s article on my column, but failed because I could not decide on what to write on given the realities that stare us on the face after the conclusion of the 2023 Presidential election and declaration of a winner.
As a Patriot and Political Activist who understands the dynamics of democratic powers and the principles associated to it, I know very well that in every contest there can only be one winner, so I ought to have started this piece by congratulating the President-elect declared by INEC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on his ‘Victory’ as declared by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakub, but I cannot find myself doing that for obvious reasons, not because I lost, after all, I did not contest the Presidential election, but because this same election together with the resultant outcome has been condemned by almost all the leading democracies in the world, the United States President, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the United Nation and the European Union Observation teams, the French President Macron, Russian President Puttin, and indeed all the international communities. It is on this basis that I decided to hold on with the aspect of congratulating the declared winner, but rather do a post-mortem analysis of the election, with particular interest on the role of INEC, the Electoral Umpire saddled with the responsibility of delivering a free, fair and transparent election to Nigerians.
I am one of those who believed that the signing into Law of the Electoral Act 2022 by the President had blocked every perceived loophole for corruption in the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections, but see how wrong I was. Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, including yours sincerely, had hoped for nothing but the best election in the history of Nigeria, not in terms of expected outcome, but in terms of transparency in accordance with the guidelines provided by INEC.
When the INEC Chairman, Prof. MahmoodYakub, in a media briefing sometime in October 2022 continued to insist on the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for accreditation of prospective voters, and also that the result from the polling unit will be transmitted in real time together with the total number of accredited voters to the INEC Server such that the public can view results as displayed on the election result’s portal (IREV) in real time without having to wait for manual collation, I concluded that Nigeria has been permanently delivered from the spirit of election corruption and it was a welcome to the era of transparent elections in the country, but again, see how wrong I was. Prof. Mahmood Yakub’s INEC not only departed from the guidelines made by INEC regarding e-collation, but also descended into the arena by dancing shamelessly naked with some State Governors that had constituted themselves into willing tools in the hands of the devil to continue to hold Nigeria down with election corruption. I dare say that the failure of INEC to abide by her own guidelines and the provisions of the Electoral Law particularly Section 62 which deals with Post-election procedure and collation of election results amounts to substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Law.
Prof. Mahmood Yakub’s INEC, by this failure to conduct e-collation of results and having same posted on the election result portal for the public to view in real time, has just dashed the hopes of millions of Nigerians who trooped out in their numbers to vote for their preferred candidates in the February 25th election. These people came out in their numbers to vote based on the belief, in line with INEC’s guidelines and the electoral law, that their votes will count, but alas, Prof. Mahmood Yakub’s INEC dashed their hopes and threw them back into despair. The provision of Section 62 subsection 2 of the Electoral Law 2022 is clear, and it provided thus;
“The Commission shall compile, maintain and update, on a continuous basis, a register of election results to be known as the National Electronic Register of Election Results which shall be a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling unit results, including collated election results, of each election conducted by the Commission in the Federation, and the Register of Election Results shall be kept in electronic format by the Commission at its national headquarters”.
Further to the above provision of the Electoral Law 2022, the INEC Guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general elections, particularly Section 22 provides for the direct transmission of result from polling unit by the Presiding Officer, after which the Presiding takes the original polling unit result as captured in Form EC 8 to the Ward Collation Officer together with the BVAS. Also, Sections 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32 of the INEC Guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general elections provide for collation of election results. As we know, Collation takes place at the Registration Area (RA)/Ward and at the Local Government Area/Area Council levels for all elections. The Ward Collation Officer will take delivery of the original copies of Forms in EC 8 series and card readers from Presiding Officers of all PUs and compare the votes recorded with the number of voters verified by the card readers, and afterwards gather the votes as contained in the EC 8 series Forms. The Forms are then signed and counter-signed, stamped and dated accurately by all concerned, after which copies are distributed to the polling agents and the Police. The process is detailed and meticulous to ensure efficiency and credibility. This is the only way to ensure a transparent process, which will in turn confer proper legitimacy to elected leaders and government.
I am passionate about the possibilities of having free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria. That was the reason I dedicated a whole chapter to my research on election processes in Nigeria from the post-colonial era to the last general election of 2019 in my book, “The Pains and Gains of the Struggle”. I have not lost hope on this possibility yet, because I am confident that the next Chairman of INEC will not want to tow the direction of Prof. Mahmood Yakub, rather he will strive to restore the hope and aspirations of Nigerians to the election processes by ensuring that INEC sticks to the provisions of the Electoral Law and the Guidelines for the conduct of elections made by the Commission. Prof. mahmood Yakub had every opportunity to redeem his image and that of INEC, but failed to do so when it mattered most. Of course, as INEC Chairman, he was not expected to be everywhere or to perform the duties of collating results from polling units, but it was expected that the moment he realizes that the people he entrusted with such responsibilities have departed from the provisions of the Electoral Law and the INEC Guidelines, it becomes expedient for him to take necessary steps to remedy the situation and save the nation from unnecessary crisis.
Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.