How Not To Bungle 2023 Polls



The promise by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it was prepared for electronic transmission of the 2023 election results gave hope that at last, those engaged in gaming the nation’s electoral system, are set to be put out of business. Though there has been apprehension over the unhindered working prospect  of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for transparent electoral process, not a few believe that Nigerians were set to monitor real time the outcome of elections from various polling units.

Preliminary report from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) highlights some of the difficulties encountered by voters in exercising their rights to vote last Saturday. Not only did the ad-hoc staff of INEC arrive at their various polling units late, others strolled in midday with no essential materials to commence accreditation of voters. It was clear that the promise by the Prof Mahmood Yakubu-led electoral body for credible polls turned out to be a mirage as violence and other forms of electoral malpractices held sway.

Without doubt, some ad-hoc staffers of the Commission involved in the conduct of the polls were determined to compromise the process. In some of the polling centres, some of the colluding election workers were caught red handed thumb printing on ballot papers by outraged voters who had waited several hours to cast their votes.

Video clips showing violent scenes in some polling centres unleashed by ballot-snatching gangs made a barbaric display on social media platforms. Threats by some non-state actors on voters to vote a particular candidate or risk being thrown out from particular areas was shocking. Few hours into the commencement of the polls, it became undoubtedly obvious that the transparent elections promised by INEC were turning into a sham.

The inability of INEC to upload results of the presidential election on the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal for real time monitoring gave room for suspicion. Amidst allegations that there were forces determined to compromise the process, the slow-pace upload of results on the INEC increased the level of public distrust of the polls.

Two days after the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly polls, INEC on Monday could not rectify the technical hitches that prevented the portal coming live  with results for real time monitoring outcomes of the poll.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) yesterday staged a walkout over what they described as INEC’s incapacity to fulfill its promise of uploading the presidential poll results. The two parties have called for outright cancellation of the poll, insisting that the 2023 presidential results being announced at the Abuja National Collation Centre is different from results submitted by  their agents who were at the various polling stations.

The piecemeal announcement of the presidential poll result tends to lend credence to an allegation that some governors are engaged in ensuring that the result of the presidential poll is cooked up  to favour a particular candidate. With the refusal by INEC to discontinue announcement of February 25 poll result, the days ahead could turn out heady for INEC and the transparency of the elections that some parties have dismissed as already compromised.

When results of polls are delayed, it gives an opportunity for riggers to compromise the outcome. Do we need the Returning Officers/Collation officers to board planes from various states to Abuja to announce results? What prevents each State Returning officer for the presidential poll to announce results of the poll through Zoom at the State Collation Center in order to speed up the process?

That INEC failed to ensure the electronic transmission of election results clearly shows that the commission was not prepared for the polls. It is unacceptable that poor internet services proved an albatross in the electronic transmission of the result. The act of INEC blaming its inability to upload the presidential polls on technical issues is not a sufficient reason to deny citizens access to the real time monitoring of the IReV.

At this juncture, we must advise politicians to refrain from issuing threats. A sword of Damocles hangs over the nation’s skies due to   INEC’s embarrassing failure to live up to its responsibility of uploading results of the presidential election from various polling centres. If results of the National Assembly poll were uploaded in the IReV portal, there is no justification why results for the presidential poll are still being collated manually, and carried on sheets of papers.

The longer these results are delayed, the more they are deemed compromised. To continue with collation and announcement of the presidential election result without INEC addressing reasons behind delayed upload of presidential poll results in the portal is akin to plotting for chaos that will not blow no one any good. The fire of discontent and growing dissension over Saturday’s polls should be addressed promptly.

The appeal by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday for both President Muhammadu Buhari and INEC boss to act fast should not be ignored.  The inability of the Commission to live up to its promise of availing voters real time monitoring of the IReV portal is an exclusive invitation of public distrust of INEC’s capacity to conduct free and fair polls. For the Commission that was provided with the required resources to conduct free and fair polls, nothing must be left to chance in saving our democracy from the situation it now finds itself in.

This is certainly not the time to fan the embers of negative partisanship in defence of politicians’ desperate quest for power. This is the time for statesmen and patriots across divides to unite against wings of anarchy threatening to sweep across the Nation if nothing is done to put out the little fires over INEC’s poor handling of last week’s elections.

INEC must work fast and avoid any act capable of further undermining the sanctity of the polls. The longer the Commission delays in uploading the result of the presidential poll in its portal, the less the transparency of the polls. If INEC promised it would make available results of the election on its portal, it has no right to renege without carrying stakeholders along.

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