Dr. Elias Lamle is a lecturer with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Management Studies, University of Jos. He actively participated in the recently held 2019 general elections as a returning officer. In this interview, he narrated his experiences and chided the role played by the academia in the exercise.
By Marie-Therese Nanlong
On why he took part in conducting polls
I am a lecturer with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Management Studies, University of Jos. I am also interested in activism; the reason is because when I was in Europe I passed through a lot of discrimination because I schooled under racists. I was in Brussels, Belgium and got so discriminated against that the person who was my supervisor at some point wanted me to be deported while I was about to do my defence. That made me to begin to feel and think: why should I have to stay in Europe? Why can’t I come back home and repair my own home so that my people will not have to pass through what I went through? I came home full of enthusiasm but along the line so many things happened that placed me on a very great disadvantage.
On his experience at the polls
What happened were no elections, I call it selections because there is a group of people that sit together and they feel it is fair to put this person here and that person there. So what the people have to say do not matter again. In America, for example, the Democrats and the Republicans decide who should be chosen by the people then they allow the people to make their choice. But in our own case, it is the question of who wants to put who or who your godfather in our political circle here in Nigeria is. My experience in the just concluded elections is that I went to a place, I won’t mention the name, and I was the returning officer of that place for the Presidential elections. And we saw glaringly that one of the returning officers for the House of Representatives erred and we said we are not going to announce the election result because it is going to be a problem, the electoral officers there even saw it and confirmed that it was wrong and we declared the election inconclusive and came back to Jos only to hear that the returning officer of where I left was told to go back and announce the election result. Why won’t issues like that rise up at tribunals? I was a returning officer in one of the areas for the presidential election and I cancelled some votes because if people vote without being accredited through the smart card reader machine then that vote should not be counted. Why are we making laws and going ahead in subverting same laws?
There is this argument about Nigeria adopting electronic voting, do you think we can have a trial starting from the 2023 elections?
I have done electronic voting while in Belgium because I have my green card so I was allowed to vote. Electronic voting is very simple, all they need to do is to put all the various Wards on the net and at the time of voting the State declares free air (data) so you can go on the net. You go to the local government and click, go to the Ward and click, then polling unit and then you vote. For example, in Belgium we started voting from 8 am and by 12 noon results were already announced; very simple. The server is controlled by organizations outside our parameters and those in control have certain degree of integrity which they don’t dare tamper with because citizens will not leave them.
Here in Nigeria, electronic voting could save us a lot. It is possible for Nigeria to go for electronic voting; it is very much easier for us and hard to rig.
”I am in for electronic voting even if this one (2019 elections) can be cancelled and we re-do the elections through electronic voting I will be glad. Because one day you will wake up and discover that there are two states (governments) and whenever you have two governments of course you know that anarchy has walked its way into the society.
In the process, I cried for the academia because we are supposed to be the people that should lead others but what we have become sycophants. We dropped ourselves and became just paid and sold out people! I asked them in my department what right we have to judge our students when they fail. When we ourselves have failed, the exam was very clear, the society has tested us by trusting us with the elections but what have we done with it? So what should the society do with us?
Are you indicting the academia?
I am even indicting myself because you can’t take me out of the academia. We did badly! Let’s accept that. The whole thing is very surprising.