AT the just concluded Presidential election, several painful lessons were evident and emblematic of the insanity of our electoral system. These lessons could have been avoided.
It is said that insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result. Where in the world did we come up with the bifurcated election system of accreditation followed by actual voting that we have been practicing?
If we were willing to introduce the Smart Card Readers (SCR) to authenticate Permanent Voters card (PVC), why could we not just go straight through to electronic voting, especially since the National Assembly intervened? Also, as a compromise, after the SCR accredits a prospective voter, why can’t that person go ahead and manually vote? Why the waste of human capital and productivity by making people wait till the end of accreditation or make them come back later. This procedure is permeated with other problems.
We are a nation that procrastinates and sometimes use a fire brigade approach in things we do. As soon as the 2011 elections were concluded, INEC should have started planning for the 2015 general elections. Of course, they conducted the Ondo, Edo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun elections subsequent to the 2011 elections. These should have given the Commission opportunities to test any “new” technology. We all admit that the issue of the PVC readers (Smart Card Readers) was only introduced within the last few months. Is it that INEC cannot plan ahead of time?
The postponement to April 11 of elections in the Federal Constituencies in Jigawa State and the Ethiope East/West Federal constituencies because of mix up of voters’ registers could have been avoided. All these prove that it would have been a disaster to have conducted the elections on February 14, 2015. INEC was being disingenuous when it claimed it was ready.
As stated, the elections that held on Saturday, is further evidence of the insanity of the system because from the beginning, there were concerns about the SCR. The President deserves accolades and serious commendations. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan went to his Ward 11, Unit 39 in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, with his wife Dame Patience Jonathan for accreditation.
The SCR did not recognize his fingerprint, even after four machines were used. Eventually, he was manually accredited when it was realized that he was not a ghost voter. How can the first citizen and the first lady of Nigeria not be recognized by the card reader. On the other hand, the Presidential candidate of All Progressives Candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) was accredited immediately, after it took the card reader just five minutes to recognize him.
We know for a fact that if the card reader fiasco had happened to the opposition candidate, he would have cried foul and thereby encouraged his supporters to riot and cause mayhem as happened in the aftermath of the 2011 elections. What the President did was to sympathize with INEC even though he was the actual victim. My fellow Nigerians, this is more proof of why we need cerebral and educated leaders, not animalistic illiterates that will foist violence on us.
Concerning the card reader, there should be an investigation into the procurement. It appears to have been manufactured by not well known Chinese companies (I will stand to be corrected), as opposed to reputable and established IT hardware companies that are internationally recognized. We all know the functionality of china phones and other below the standard technological items dumped in the Nigerian market, circumventing Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON).
INEC waited till in the middle of the day, when some voters have gone home, to issue a new communiqué allowing for manual accreditation. The commission had been warned about the failure rate of the card readers, but refused to listen to reason. Instead, it appears as though they were singing to the tune of the opposition, who believes that anything another party suggests must be opposed. I repeat that the card reader should have been tested years earlier.
There were many instances of INEC ad hoc staff not showing up, or coming to the polling units several hours later. We praise the Nigerian voters who exercised patience and waited in the scorching sun for accreditation and then subsequent voting.
Another problem was the ignorance or lack of training of some INEC Staff. In at least two polling units, the staff did not realize that the readers were malfunctioning because there was a protective film covering the devices. It took the intervention of some people to prevent breakdown of law and order, before the “error” was discovered.
The accreditation of under-aged voters in Northern Nigerian, specifically Taraba State, is a shame that we can hopefully wipe out of our face. A Southeastern governor with a foundation tried to use his students as underage voters, but the students were arrested by the security agencies. Why were the ones in the North not arrested as they were in clear view of everyone?
Another desperate act included the possession of arms by some political thugs and snatching of ballot boxes. These acts reconfirm why we needed the military outside the polling stations. Those who were opposed to the use of the military are the ones whose supporters have been arrested for one electoral crime or the other.
We pray that Nigerians will remain calm and accept the results in good faith and let us move forward as a nation. No matter who wins or loses, we are all proud to be resilient Nigerians.
Rev. Alex Atawa, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.