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Towards free and fair election in Osun

THE Osun election is about to commence in the next few days. The preparation has long been undertaken by various political parties  and various interest groups.  Attention is now shifted to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, a body assigned to conduct elections in the country.

But the disturbing news coming out of the last month gubernatorial election in Ekiti State about the alleged electronic rigging of the said election make for proper investigation by independent bodies and media men in order to avoid future occurrence if the allegation is true. Rigging of election in Nigeria has been a recurrent decimal, but the scientific aspect is new to some of us.

However, there was this study titled “System Integrity Problem” where allegations by Bev Harris alleged that Debold Software was designed to facilitate fraud. The software is said to keep two Microsoft Access data tables of voting results.

The two tables are identical copies of votes collated from all polling stations and one could be hacked and altered to produce fake election result without affecting spot check reports derived from the first result. This malpractice haS raised its ugly head in some states in the United State of America.

Other reports have it that with new technology ballot papers can be sexed in a way that the result, regardless of actual voting, can be predetermined. It is further revealed that “through a combination of invisible and disappearing inks” such fraud is feasible.

The new Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun in a radio interview by Unique Radio  dismissed such scientific rigging by saying that all old ink in their stores have been thrown away. Nevertheless,  one can recall a Zimbabwe newspaper story which quoted Nasini CEO, Lucia Mordi thus: “From our findings so far , we are 99.9 percent convinced the election was rigged via ballot paper.

A special watermarked ballot paper was used to give President President Mugabe a resounding victory. The ballot paper had a water X against Mugabe’s name such that if ink is placed on the paper, the substance on the paper will react and remove the ink and activate the watermarked X into print”. We must therefore not dismiss the allegation that there is a scientific rigging device in existence in Nigeria.

Our business as the conscience of the nation is to ask the question: Is this true? And if it is true, we must also find out the company or country that produces such ballot papers. There is also the need to raise the question on the culpability of INEC in the allegation.

The battle against scientific election rigging must be fought with totality, for if we neglect to fight we are simply sitting on the keg of gunpowder which poses grave implication for Nigeria’s future, as we shall not be able to change our leaders through constitutional means- that is through the ballot boxes. The danger is that while other African countries are making progress in democratic process, we are likely to be descending into  the state of anarchy and consequent upon this is political instability and the effect on the economy that may make life worse for the citizens to live normal lives.

It is the responsibility of everyone of us to seek the means by which we can ensure that the people’s vote count and we can only succeed if we express our opinion now that the election is about to come. Section 120 of the Electoral Act 2010 enunciated that it is an offence for anybody to sell, buy or have more than one Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC. The provision of this Electoral Act can only be meaningful if everyone of us maintain vigilance and report culprits to law enforcement agents and see to it that the law takes its effect on the violators. The opposition party in the state is so desperate that some of them have been arrested for buying voters cards;  not only that, a form was designed and given out to would- be beneficiaries of financial assistance for members who must give their  voter’s card, pin number and swear on oath to keep mute over the arrangement. Thus far, the case has become an open secret in the state but the law enforcement agents are yet to apprehend those behind the pin number collectors even though the Electoral Act section 120 sub-section c and d makes it an offence. It is hoped that INEC must ensure that those who are caught with PVC must be prosecuted so as to serve as deterence to others.

However, where the umpire is seen to be compromising its position we must not keep quiet but raise our voice over such occurrence.

The state of Osun is ready for the coming gubernatorial election but we need to ask if the INEC is fully prepared for the election. INEC’s readiness in term of voters card distribution in recent time has led to brick back between the body and the political party in power in the state. The good news is that the umpire has come out denying the allegation of discriminative distribution of PVC in the state. It is important to serve a warning to INEC on the Osun election.

The people know who they want in power; if by omission or commission the election is manipulated to favoure the wrong candidate, the people will react no matter the numbers of soldiers and policemen that May be brought for the election. We must remember that President Goodluck Jonathan has declared that no one’s blood is worth his political ambition.

We must not just take the statement literally but take the words into our hearts, bearing in mind that posterity will not forgive those who shed the blood of the innocent in order to prosper in this life.

On using of soldiers for election monitoring, only those that are benefitting from the usage are praising INEC and the President over it.

However, we must not tolerate illegality for the sake of political exploitation. It is the police that are constitutionally assigned to be involved in election process as they are the body that are to see to the security of lives and properties in the country.

The militay can only be involved when there is an internal crisis that is beyond the control of the police or where there is external attack. But a situation where the Presidency laid a siege over a state such as it was in Ekiti during the 21st June election is highly condemnable. What I saw in Ekiti before and during the election where nearly forty thousand military men were deployed to monitor election is dangerous for the survival of our democracy. We must get it right by now so that we would not continue to use the soldiers for elections in the foreseeable future. To do otherwise would amounts to riding on the tiger’s tail and will certainly end up in its stomach.

The second Republic was truncated by the foolishness of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) under Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari’s administration that muscled the oppositions to the extent that both the police and the soldiers were freely used to rigged then1983 general election at the end of the day they claimed that their popularity and accetability had earned them “landslide victory”.

But the puerile victory was shortlived. Within three months after the so called landslide victory the very soldiers they used chased them out of office and for the next 16 years, the military didn’t only send the politicians to jail, some of them ran to exile others died in the prison and some became bankrupt till date. Now, our politicians are yet to learn from history and from the look of things it appears that history may repeat itself if care is not taken.

Stomach infrastructure has become a new political terminology in Nigeria. It used to be called egunje before but everyday we as a people decend in value and we redicule our ourselves before the comity of nations. In our 1999 constitution,  bribery and corruption is an offence .

The Electoral Act section 130 states as follows; (a) A person who corrupt by himself or by any other person at any time after the dates of an election has been announced,  directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election, or (b) being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period stated in paragraph (a) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of #100, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. Laudable as the law provides but the impunity at which politicians go about inluencing voters as if there is no law that frown at such practices it leaves much to be desired.

Just few days ago the newspapers reported that the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu said that as they gave the Ekiti electorate rice and #10, 000 to secure their votes the same practice will be repeated at Osun to secure their party or candidate’s victory come 9th of August.

We ought to be thoughtful about the desecration of our value system, as we threw caution to the wind each time we are aspiring for political office, the tendency will be there that we may eventually be robbing the people to build self empire. Nigeria is rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and yet our leaders never give a thought to the future implication and we are today worse for it.

Perhaps,  that explains why we live by the river Niger and yet we are washing our hands with spittle, but it cannot continue like this. It is either we change through persuasion or we snowballs into revolution. We must let our vote count and stop unnecessary “stomach infrastructure syndromes”. Let’s build a future where our children will be proud of through honest and fair engagement in the course our nation building.

Mr. Yomi Obaditan, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Osogbo, Osun State.




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