• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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2023 fractured elections: Where INEC got it wrong

Let’s not focus on what didn’t happen in Adamawa

Details of what went wrong in the badly fractured 2023 elections have started rolling out. Some election monitors (local and international), electoral officers, and some close participants have started revealing some of the dirtiest incidents that marked out the elections as the worst in recent history.

As observers and analysts compare notes, many things that went wrong have come to the fore. Many are lamenting over the frittering away of N305bn quoted for the election especially with the hype of technology to wipe away years of fraud in elections. Many say this amount may have gone down the drain because the results of winners seemed to have been by allocation and or nomination.

An Abuja-based communications expert who participated in the elections in one of the states, Oby Ndukwe, said: “INEC has taken Nigeria 50 years back. If we ever had any gains, it is lost. We are to start again.”

She said when INEC became threatened by opposition parties demanding to inspect the BVAS, INEC suddenly went to court to get an order to ‘reconfigure’ the machines. “INEC quickly reconfigured the BVAS. The machine would have been useful to both the complaining candidates and the INEC in their cases. Why not allow those going to court to tender it?

“The BVSA is able to do 50 elections without reconfiguring. This is supposed to be an improvement on what we had. The risk factors led to what we have seen.”

The chairman of Rivers State Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Georgewill Enefaa, said: “For us in the civil society space and INEC accredited observers, it is our position that INEC failed in the area of late arrival of materials, inability to upload result on record time on their IREV portal, announcing result of units not captured by their BVAS machine or result clearly mutilated, improper coordination of security for ad-hoc staff and lack of logistics like vehicles, food, water, etc, for staff.”

He admitted that whilst the BVAS and IREV were able to reduce the outrageous figures associated with our elections, the human factor shows for us to get it right in our elections in Nigeria, we have to go full electronic.

Both the Labour Party and PDP listed what went wrong with the elections. In Rivers State, the APC was a whipping boy. The former transportation minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, dropped what sounded like a bombshell, saying after voting that the INEC chairman was re-nominated into the job by the Bola Ahmed Tinubu camp.

He also said Mahmood was close to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, having worked under the former education minister (Wike) as executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).

When asked to advise the FG on elections, he said he was not the president to make comments on INEC and elections, saying he had made all his opinions known to the appropriate quarters before the elections.

He asked the journalists what they expected when the INEC chairman was a nominee of the Tinubu camp.

He also said by the relationship he thinks exists between Wike and Mahmood right from the days of Wike as education minister an Mahmood as executive secretary of TETFund under Wike, that the APC, SDP, Labour and other parties in Rivers State were not contesting against the ruling PDP.

Many international observers submitted scathing reports that indicted both the INEC and the police.

Yiaga Africa, a civil society organisation, seemed to submit the biggest indictment. Yiaga faulted the presidential election results in Rivers and Imo States declared by the INEC, saying the results were inconsistent with its observations.

This is contained in a post-election statement of the group released in Abuja on Wednesday and signed by Aisha Abdullahi, the board chair and Samson Itodo, the executive director, Yiaga Africa.

“The state-level presidential results for Imo and Rivers are inconsistent with the Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote (WTV) projections for both states.

“For Rivers, INEC announced 231,591 votes for APC or 44.2%; 175,071 for LP or 33.4%; and 88,468 for PDP or 16.9%. This is in sharp contrast to the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Rivers which are: APC 21.7% ±5.0%; for LP 50.8% ± 10.6%; and for PDP 22.2% ±6.5%.

“For Imo, INEC announced 66,406 for APC or 14.2%; 360,495 for LP or 77.1%; and 30,234 for PDP or 6.5%. Again, this is at variance with the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Imo which are: APC 5.1 ±2.3%; LP 88.1% ±3.8%; and PDP 5.7% ±2.3%,” it said.

Yiaga Africa had deployed 3, 014 observers to a random sample of 1, 507 polling units and 822 mobile observers in all the 774 local government areas in the country, including Abuja.

This review of INEC performance indicated that the BVAS worked only where the INEC wanted it work. Inside sources said INEC is an institution operated by law but individuals operating the laws at different levels decided what to do. So politicians brought demands with a fee each. It was up to an INEC officer to reject or agree.

What was lacking, according to insiders, was an external authority such as the presidency to call them to order, and this did not happen. Thus, pressure came on INEC from outside in some states especially Rivers, Abia, and Enugu.

As a result, the Commission performed abysmally poor. Depending on the check level of a candidate, INEC swindled a candidate and gave it to the other.

A source said: “If you are not strong and can shout or if people did not threaten fire and brimstone, INEC steals the mandate and gives to the highest bidder.”

The bitterest part was that this happened when Nigerians were expecting freest and fairest election, but INEC delivered what could pass off as the worst in the history of the country.

How the rigging happened

Sure that mass voting and thumb-printing would not work, politicians devised another method. They allowed peaceful voting in most places but when it is time for sorting, counting or entering into Form EC8A (result sheet) at the polling units, they sent thugs and compromised police squads to go hijack the ballot boxes. The two policemen usually posted to a unit would look on while this happened.

The youths against this would try to protect their votes but armed thugs were prepared for this.

The hijackers would take the boxes to an agreed place and they would write their own results and upload in the BVAS. In the presidential election, they were believed to have had issues and so arranged for network not to be or for it not to allow presidential entries while others were going in.

International observers have held onto the fact that National Assembly results were going but presidential was not going to prove that it was human manipulation.

So, it was INEC and Nigeria that failed the BVAS, the BVAS did not fail Nigeria, the experts said.

So, the riggers targeted from the polling units after voting to the collation centres. INEC officials and security agents at these levels either helped to hijack or looked on while evil took place.

Is the INEC chairman naïve, innocent or part of the rot? Testimony from the professor and vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Nnenna Oti, that Mahmood Yakubu called her to announce the Obingwa result and let them go to court has shocked the nation.

By this, it appeared clear that every level in the commission was involved. INEC simply looked on and announced results clearly fractured and let angry persons go to court. For this, the ward, local government and state collation officers thus had a field day. Some have confessed they were offered $40,000 to change the results while news of mere N20,000 at polling unit level has been heard. Some State Collation Officers have alleged that they were under pressure from the INEC to rig the election. The Abia State case is thus trending.

Read also: Experts predict end to election rigging in Nigeria

Way forward

Citizens seem to have idea on what should be done. Ibim Semenitari, former commissioner for information in Rivers State said: “INEC got it right with BVAS. It would be nice to progress to voting using an electronic system.

“Perfecting the IREV would help bridge some gaps until we get there. Notice that with BVAS the usual over voting was curbed.”

Enefaa said INEC should equally build sets of database that can allow Nigerians vote with any means of national identification not just Voters card. “This will, to a great extent, reduce voter apathy and the number of persons disenfranchised from voting.

“As part of solutions, INEC should arraign citizens, security agents, and it’s staff that engaged in electoral malpractice. Punishment of offenders will serve as deterrence to others. The reason why malpractice continues is because previous offenders are left the hook without prosecution.”

He also suggested that INEC should equally not announce result that is not captured by BVAS or where there is obvious mutilation. “Before any general election, INEC should have concrete plan with all the security agents to provide security for it’s staff and citizens. As much as possible, INEC should reduce manual voting and get experts to set a process for 80 per cent electronic voting process.”

To Ndukwe, Nigeria should look to other countries that have done good elections to emulate. Her worry however is stranger elements from outside Nigeria that vote in Nigeria. “How do you know those that can vote because there are too many strangers in Nigeria with votes. Good census is needed.

“But where do you get those to train before you talk about technology.”

To her, INEC killed youth voting appetite. “How would they be brought back. Security is needed. Imagine where RO was held hostage for 10 hours in the LGA where the Governor comes from, and the army and police could do nothing.

“The way forward can only be by synergy between the citizens, INEC ad security. For governors to do what they like and get away with it is dangerous. It’s not yet uhuru. If there is justice, LP will recover many states.”

Others have suggested setting up what they call Election Crimes Tribunal in each state to try all reported cases of violence and fraud, apart from civil cases at tribunals. The criminal trials should run fast and swiftly.

They have also suggested full electronic voting to eliminate human decisions since Nigerians have proved they cannot be trusted with anything.

Others have suggested that essential workers that must be busy with elections such as security agencies, press and others should be allowed to vote two days to election day (with NIN and PVC numbers but on voluntary basis). The results are locked electronically until 3pm on election day.

Conclusion:

Nigerians have long thinking to do to find a way of selecting the next leaders without fraud. Only INEC knows where its going to get back any credibility from.