By Dul Johnson
INEC is the most important agency in the 2023 elections, as they have been in the past, and will be, in future elections. Without INEC, there can be no elections. If INEC does not organize things well, we would have flawed elections. Fortunately, all the signs so far show that INEC is “on top” of the situation in a very real sense, unlike the empty mouthing of other government agencies. Voter registration, card transfers, corrections, creation of new polling units and many other activities preparatory to the 2023 elections have been going on very smoothly. We have been assured, for example, of electronic transmission of results from polling units to the INEC Headquarters, and the fact that the rest of the world will have instant access to these results as they come in. We couldn’t have hoped or wished for anything less. I am so confident about INEC because of what I have experienced personally.
I requested for a Polling Unit to be created in my village because of the huge number of voters there. One has been created. Well done, INEC. As a result, I went to change my polling unit from the Ward Headquarters to the new unit in my village. Within five minutes of sitting before the INEC officer, I was done. Indeed what made me take up to five minutes was my inability to smile the way the gadget capturing my face wanted. I have also heard testimonies from friends, colleagues and neighbors, about the efficiency and politeness of the INEC staff. The wind of a true revolution is blowing in Nigeria. A few people may have encountered difficulties where I had easy success. I urge them to be patient. Not everybody wakes up on the good side of the bed every day. Criticism is useful, but commendation encourages a person to do more. Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his team have been doing a wonderful job and we should all commend and support them. In an exam, they would score seventy-seven per cent!
Nigerians are known to be prayer warriors. So, I urge us all to pray, and not just pray, but actively support INEC to steer this ship to its successful docking. For, they may do all the work, put everything in place for successful elections and still fail because of the actions or inactions of others. For this reason, INEC must bear in mind the need –the continuous need–for voter education, for sensitization of the general public, for caution and monitoring of politicians and their supporters to guard against their unwholesome actions and utterances. There are electoral laws against such actions and INEC must ensure strict application against offenders.
The issue of vote buying is a matter for serious concern now, as has been alleged from the party primaries and the Ekiti Governorship elections. This must be addressed squarely by INEC. The arrangement of the polling booths must be such that voters who want money cannot show evidence of whom they are going to cast their vote for. I understand that this was what happened during the elections mentioned above: the voter comes out from the booth with their ballot paper folded in such a way that their choice can be seen by the vote buyer and then they can collect the money afterwards.
Yakubu must get his staff, both permanent and adhoc, to understand that they are not coaches to any political party, they are umpires or referees officiating a very sensitive game that must start and end without any hitches. Elections are a game that could be a life or death affair for some and we must do everything to prevent any situation that would bring about physical and open conflicts. We must avoid the stories of election materials missing in transit, arriving late, or the delivery of the wrong materials at the wrong place and/or time. With your present level of preparedness, we expect nothing less than a ninety-nine percent performance. For this reason you need to pay serious attention to those you engage as adhoc staff from the forces and civilian work force. Something as little as an atmosphere of tension at a polling unit can mar the exercise. Delay or failure to pay allowances, especially to adhoc staff could be a mortal flaw. The presence of security men and women and their kitting must be such that they do not charge the atmosphere and create unnecessary tension or fear.
I believe that with the direct electronic transmission of results, we would not experience incidents of ballot box snatching. Experts in computer/cyber hacking should be employed to ensure that the systems for transmitting online results are not hacked or hijacked and that no fake results are transmitted. But even if it happens, it should be of no effect since the details of voting activities come to you in real time. There is the need to drum this fact on radio, television and other media outlets so that those planning to do anything of the sort would be discouraged. Nigerians are relying totally on you to deliver the country from total collapse by delivering largely free, fair and credible elections and the election results.
I am delighted by the new development witnessed during the Governorship election in Ekiti State, where YIAGA AFRICA teamed up with Channels Television to give real time results as they came in. Such collaboration will not only enhance the transparency of elections in Osun State in July but also the 2023 general elections. It is a welcome development and a commendable one at that. INEC should seek partnership of such organs to improve or even perfect their performance. Nigerians have so much confidence in the INEC team and are therefore relying completely on you to midwife the inevitable revolution in our democracy. Please, do not let us down as you also count on our support all the way, from now until February 2023..
*Prof Johnson is of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State.