Ahead of the gubernatorial polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states, some stakeholders have reiterated the need for the introduction of electronic voting system in Nigeria’s electoral process for credibility writes DOZIE EMMANUEL
The new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and five other national commissioners were on Monday sworn-in by President Muhammadu Buhari following their recent confirmation by the Senate.
Buhari had on October 21, 2015 unveiled the new INEC team to the National Council of States, NCS and subsequently sent their names to the Senate for confirmation. The Senate had on October 29, 2015 confirmed the nomination of Yakubu, a Professor of Political History and International Relations and immediate past Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund as the INEC boss.
Five of the national commissioners approved by the National Council of States, along with the new INEC Chairman, are : Mrs Amina Bala Zakari (North-West); Dr Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbile (North-Central); Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo (North-East); Dr Muhammed Mustapha Lekki (South-South) and Prince Soyebi Adedeji Solomon (South-West).
The nomination, screening and confirmation of the new Electoral Management Team, EMT has been described as quite timely. After they have been officially sworn-in by the President, it is expected that they hit the ground running.
The first litmus test for Prof. Yakubu will be the November 21, 2015 gubernatorial poll in Kogi state eagerly being awaited for. It will be closely followed by that of Bayelsa on December 5, 2015.
Aware of the enormous responsibility ahead of him, the INEC boss has set the ball rolling shortly after he took over from the acting INEC Chairman, Amina Zakari. He has assured Nigerians that he would be courageous in the discharge of his duties and ensure that his actions are always in line with the Electoral Act and the constitution. He has also pledged to build on the successes recorded by previous administrations, especially in the conduct of the 2015 general election.
According to him, “I am not sure that conducting election in Nigeria is really difficult simply because the constitution is very clear. The roles and responsibilities of INEC are very clearly spelt out and the provisions of the Electoral Act are also very clear. Our responsibility is to ensure that in whatever we do, we are guided by the letter and spirit of the constitution. And these we are going to do with courage.
“One of my bosses used to say that the public office has tenure, a minimum of one day and a maximum of the full tenure. In the case of the INEC, it is a minimum of a one day and a maximum of five years. In between is the privilege to serve. We will never ever fail this nation. We will be courageous in what we do and we will be courageous and just to all that we are supposed to serve.
”We have come a long way. We have had commendations both locally and internationally in the conduct of the 2015 general elections. As I said at the Senate screening, our responsibility as a new Commission is actually to consolidate and add value. Nations don’t make progress by always starting afresh; nations make progress because there is a building block on which we now build more,” he said.
Even before he was sworn-in, stakeholders in the electoral process have expressed confidence in the new INEC boss to deliver on his mandate.
The Democratic People’s Congress, DPC said INEC remains a critical institution in Nigeria’s political process, thus should be headed by a patriotic Nigerian with exceptional integrity, credibility, nobility, accountability and transparency.
In a press statement, the National Chairman of DPC, Rev. Olusegun Peters, argued that it was imperative for a person with impeccable character devoid of controversy and partisanship to lead the electoral umpire.
Peters, however, charged Yakubu to ensure that outstanding permanent voters card are produced and distributed to registered voters. He called on the new INEC boss to ensure the supply of adequate quality card readers for future elections, particularly in the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa state gubernatorial elections.
While congratulating Professor Yakubu, he urged him to build on the foundation laid by Professor Attahiru Jega in the run-off to the 2015 general elections adjudged to be free, fair and acceptable.
There is no doubt that in the days and weeks to come, all eyes will be on the electoral umpire to see how the commission pilots its affairs in Kogi and Bayelsa.
Already, some stakeholders have advocated for electronic voting system in the forthcoming gubernatorial polls in the states of Kogi and Bayelsa. They argue that the manual system of voting encouraged corruption and other forms of electoral malpractices. They also pointed out that the country should take a cue from other democratic nations around the world where the use of electronic voting system has added credibility to their democracy.
One of the advocates of electronic voting and National Chairman of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, Mr. Peter Ameh, said there was need to use the electronic voting in the forthcoming Kogi gubernatorial poll slated for November 21, 2015. Ameh, therefore, called on federal legislators to amend the Electoral Act so as to pave way for electronic voting not only for the gubernatorial election in Kogi state, but also in subsequent polls.
The PPA national chairman said that most countries of the world had moved on in their bid to enhance their electoral fortunes and wondered why Nigeria should not follow suit.
He argued that if the Commission had the guts to use card readers in the last general elections, it should as well summon the courage to ask the lawmakers to amend its Electoral Act to pave way for electronic voting, adding that the process is less stressful and cumbersome.
“If we have had the guts to try the card reader in a general election, we should also have the mind to move forward by asking the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act that will encourage electronic voting. The machines must be well structured so as to monitor the voting process in each polling unit.
“In electronic voting, both the accreditation and voting are done together, thus saving people the time and stress of coming back for the actual voting. Even counting and vote collation is easier in electronic voting.
“There is still a problem in each election in Nigeria. There is problem in bringing out candidate to participate in election because there must be a balance of force. For you to say you must fight a man, you must be in the same category with your opponent financially and otherwise,” Ameh stated.
Similarly, former governor of Abia state, Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, is of the view that electronic voting will eliminate unnecessary and avoidable human errors and reduces disagreements when results are announced.
It is unfortunate that the immediate past INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega was unable to introduce the electronic voting system notwithstanding that many stakeholders have, in many fora, advocated for its introduction in the country’s electoral process.
Now is the ideal time for the new INEC leadership to take up the responsibility of spearheading the amendment of the Electoral Act so as to reduce the encumbrances being witnessed with manual voting.
Therefore, as Prof. Yakubu mounts the saddle of leadership, he should strive to ensure that he is guided by the constitution and the Electoral Act in steering the affairs of the commission and the sure way he can achieve such landmark is to bring credibility into the electoral process.
“It is unfortunate that the immediate past INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega was unable to introduce the electronic voting system notwithstanding that many stakeholders have, in many fora, advocated for its introduction in the country’s electoral process.”