By Adekunle Adekoya
One of the front-burner issues agitating the polity, apart from pestilential insecurity and runaway inflation is the electoral act amendment. A few weeks ago, it came to light that a provision for electronic transmission of election results had been expunged from the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act. Naturally, this triggered an uproar.
The conscious public, still savouring the conduct and outcomes of the governorship elections in Ondo and Edo states, clearly desired that whatever made the outcome acceptable should be writ large, and apply to future elections.
One of the enablers was real-time transmission of polls results from the polling booths. This enabled the contestants do their own tally, thereby making it very difficult, if not impossible, to fiddle with outcomes at the collation centres.
Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, submitted its report on proposed amendments at plenary, and in what seemed a capitulation to the strident demands that electronic transmission be retained in the law, adjusted that section to now stipulate that INEC may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable. For me, the operant words are “may”and “practicable”, and is a recipe for chaos and acceptability of polls outcomes.
In the report, Section 52(2) states that voting at an election under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission, which may include electronic voting.
Section 52(3) says: “The commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
A few questions: What is the meaning of “where and when practicable”? Where would electronic transmission be practicable? Jos in Plateau? Igangan in Oyo? Numan in Adamawa? Ikom in Cross River, or Jebba in Kogi? Where would it also not be practicable? My state? Your state? How about when it would be practicable? Morning? Afternoon? Evening? Midnight? When it is raining, during harmattan, or when there is moonlight? The only thing certain about “when” and “practicable”is that the law, when passed and assented to, will take effect from the next round of elections.
By the time Senate concluded plenary yesterday, another amendment surfaced. The original 52(3) as contained in the report under consideration read: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
Section 52(3) was now proposed to read: “The Commission may consider electronic transmission of results provided that the National coverage as adjudged by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and approved by the National Assembly.”
Now, this is really bothersome. Instead of simplifying a knotty situation, the Senate seems to be worsening it. Why bring NCC into this matter? Why must the National Assembly approve it? There is a fixation about how the results of future elections will be delivered by the ruling faction of the power elite. Why this obsession?
There is so much rage and focus on HOW the world will know of elections results than how we can vote peacefully, without ballot boxes being snatched, votes being bought, or voting being disrupted. I guesss we don’t need that, right? I suspect dark motives behind this obsession with not having electronic transmission of results is because the collation centres, whch are actually business centres will go out of business.
Unscrupulous politicians have always used the business, sorry, collation centres, to subvert the will of the people, time and again, and they know that the game may be up if electronic transmission is part of the law. It may explain why the clause is worded with trips and traps that will make INEC and NCC collide, while the National Assembly has already appointed itself the umpire!
Imagine NCC saying there is no coverage; so INEC shouldn’t transmit results! Then INEC resorts to manual tallying, and the collation centres continue business! Have they forgotten that though NCC is the telecoms regulator, it is not a service provider?
I smell desperation by vested interests that do not care for the interests of the suffering majority of Nigerians. But they should be careful, as desperation often breeds negativity.
As Nigerians yearn for the best that a democratic system of government can deliver, is this the best that our Distinguished Senators can come up with? We deserve better. In the 21st century, any idea that has the slightest possibility of keeping us on the ground should not even be thought about at all, not to talk of codifying it into law.
Must we be stuck with politics of thuggery and elections of ballot box snatching? Technology developed from science to make life and living easier. Why don’t we want it in our electoral system? There seems a grand determination by people questing for power to attain it at all costs. A lame electoral law will be a huge enabler.