The success or otherwise of the off-season gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun would go a long way to determining how the general election in 2023 would go.
The deployment of technology as now being approved by the Senate is expected to positively impact the conduct and outcome of the 2023 polls.
Manipulations have been the hallmark of elections in the country. It dates back to the First Republic, when elections were allegedly rigged in favour of some candidates.
The perennial electoral fraud has engendered voter apathy in the polity. Depending on how the aforementioned elections go, the negative attitude of citizens may persist or even worsen, thus, encouraging many more people to give cold shoulders to the 2023 polls.
Achieving credible elections in Nigeria has been a heart-felt expectation of many concerned citizens.
Nigeria operates a multi-party electoral system. Currently; two major political parties- People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) are dominating the political landscape in the country; with Anambra as the exception where All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) dominates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), apart from the Anambra election, has also on its website dates for Osun and Ekiti off-season gubernatorial elections for 18th June 2022 and 16th July 2022, respectively.
Anambra has experienced a lot of political dramas ahead of the November 6 election. They range from lawsuits against some candidates and state party chairmen. Other issues are the recent defection of the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke to the ruling APC; poaching of influential politicians, some APGA members decamping to PDP, inter-party crises, among many others.
To ensure a peaceful election and forestall any pandemonium during the election, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba said recently that 34,587 security operatives would be deployed to the state.
In Ekiti, internal crisis is rocking both the ruling party – APC, and the main opposition, PDP. Both are now battling with factions; a result of clash of interest.
In Osun State, APC supporters are split along different interests. While some groups are loyal to the incumbent Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who is yet to announce his re-election bid, some others are in the camp of his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, in the same party. On the other hand, the opposition PDP’s Ademola Adeleke and his supporters are pushing fiercely.
The gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun are believed to be a pace-setter for the general elections coming up in 2023.
As these elections are in the offing, Nigerians expect transparency in the conduct and transmission of the results.
It is believed that if the INEC could get its acts together in these elections, particularly now that the Senate has given its nod for the electronic transmission of results, 2023 would be much more successful and credible.
Experts say that the deployment of the technology would make manipulation difficult.
Attahiru Jega, a professor and former INEC chairman, shared this sentiment when he recently said: “From my personal experience in INEC, one of the major ways in which the integrity of electoral processes is undermined is in the manual transmission of results from the polling unit to the ward level to the local government level to the constituency collation centres.”
Although INEC has the capacity to electronically transmit results of the Anambra gubernatorial election, the Commission has to wait till President Muhammadu Buhari gives his assent to the Electoral Act amended by the National Assembly.
Apart from e-transmission of results, the INEC has also introduced other forms of technology that could enhance the credibility of elections going forward.
Recently, the Commission announced the introduction of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
The other day, INEC urged the female voters in Anambra to avoid facial make-ups. It explained that it was to enable unhindered use of the Bimodal Voter that would be deployed to capture voters’ faces during the election.
Chika Osuji, INEC’s State deputy director, Gender Desk, who was speaking at a voter education and sensitisation forum in Awka organised for Persons With Disabilities (PWD) and women’s group, said the BVAS would be used during the election to enable voters use their fingerprints during accreditation at the polling unit.
“I know many women may not be able to engage make-up artists due to restriction of movements; but for those who can’t do without make-ups, we appeal to you to minimise the level of painting.
“If we can’t read your fingerprints, we can read your face, and if we cannot read your face, you are not a registered voter, and we will not allow you to participate,” Osuji said.
Since 2015, Nigerians have continued to witness fraudulent elections, perpetrated by politicians in connivance with some corrupt INEC personnel, and in cahoots with security agents.
It was against this backdrop and in an effort to reduce fraud occurrences in elections that Nigerians prevailed on the National Assembly to grant the INEC permission to deploy e-transmission of results and other relevant technology in the conduct of future elections.
It is strongly believed that if properly deployed in the forthcoming elections, it would boost voter appetite and drastically check the voter apathy that has become widespread in Nigeria.
Some analysts, who pointed to other democracies where the e-transmission of election is being used, said that it has saved them a lot of trouble.
A readily example was the last presidential election in the United States. It is believed that without that process, America would have had a serious political crisis.
Allegations were rife that some Nigerian politicians who had benefitted from the corrupt electoral process, who also hoped to continue to leverage the loopholes in result transmission and other provisions that aimed to check malfeasance, were doing everything possible to resist reform.
“The increasing level of apathy being exhibited by voters shows that things are only getting worse. Over the years, elections have been flagrantly rigged and wrong people, who do not have anything to offer to Nigerians, are put in government. It is garbage in; garbage out; that has been our leadership story,” a political commentator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“Nigerians believe it is sheer waste of time to go vote when their votes will not count. This is not about the All Progressives Congress (APC); it was the same story during the dispensation of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It would still be the same if any other party is in power today. The problem is systemic,” the source further said.
Martins Onovo, a former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), said the rule of law had long been corrupted, and that the integrity of the ballot had also been corrupted because “votes have never counted in Nigeria since independence.”
Martins further said: “Nigeria was founded on election rigging. We have the confession of our colonial officer, Harold Smith, who said the colonial authorities rigged the first election. So, Nigeria was founded on rigging.”
Since the Fourth Republic, electoral fraud has continued, putting a huge question mark on the credibility of the exercises.
It was so bad that the 2007 election that brought into office the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was admitted to have “had shortcomings” by the president himself.
Alarmed at the level of fraud that attended the 2007 presidential election, the head of the EU’s observer mission, Max van den Berg, said in a statement that he could not endorse the vote as legitimate.
“These elections have not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be considered to have been credible,” he said.
The US state department said the elections were flawed, “and in some cases deeply flawed.”
Obasanjo Obasanjo reportedly acknowledged the shortcomings, saying: “Our elections could not have been said to have been perfect. Cases of electoral fraud reported from parts of the country.”
Also, on the same election, a former President Goodluck Jonathan said the results of the 2007 presidential election that produced the late Umaru Yar’Adua as president and himself as Vice President has caused him a lot of embarrassment.
He said notwithstanding the Supreme Court judgment that upheld the results of the elections, he was confronted with “embarrassing questions” over the elections whenever he travelled abroad.
“Although we took oath of office and the Supreme Court declared us winners, but each time one travelled abroad, people asked all kinds of questions that even got one angry. That was when I promised myself that if I have an opportunity to oversee elections in Nigeria, no other President or Vice President should suffer that can kind of harassment and embarrassment by the international community,” Jonathan said.
It is hoped that the narrative would positively change after the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun elections, and indeed, the general election in 2023.
A lot is being expected from the INEC now that it would appear that a major impediment is being taken away.