BY VICTOR IZEKOR
Margaret Peil in her book titled “Nigerian Politics: The People’s View”, described Nigeria as a country where the best never occur and the worst never happens. In short, Nigeria is an enigma! A nation, predictable and unpredictable. A colorful nation, yet colourless. A nation of hope, but hopelessness. An Eldorado, but poverty-stricken.
She moves near collapse, but wouldn’t. Molten in shape and unstable in character. A wobbling hope of the Black race, and unstable anchor of the continental Africa.
Nothing can be more apt in the description of Nigeria by Margaret Peil as the latest 2023 presidential elections where the Promised Land and hope for Nigerians were dashed and the nation stood in wonderment.
February 25, 2023, was the day. Nigerians were told by the Independent National Electoral Commission under Professor Mahmood Yakubu to troop out in thousands and millions to vote for the president of their choice with a pledge that this time they would not only get it right but right there. Unfortunately, Nigerians both at home and abroad came out in millions but got what they never bargained for.
Before now, Nigerians have developed apathy towards elections be it local, state and federal on the ground that their votes never count due to the allegation of manipulation of results. They rightly or wrongly chose the option of “Siddon look” and watch events for good or bad.
However, with the coming of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, INEC, and the introduction of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System Machine popularly known as BVAS, the nation was assured that the dark days of election manipulation and rigging are gone and the people should come out this time and make their choice of leaders as their votes would count.
With the Federal Government investing over N400 billion on the BVAS and the insistence of Professor Mahmood and his boys that all is now well that will end well, Nigerians heeded the clarion call to come out in large numbers and vote.
To convince Nigerians that it was up to the task and would leave no stone unturned for the success of the BVAS, INEC in spite of pessimism from some quarters that the BVAS might be hacked or run into network problems, the electoral body assured the nation, that it has put in a place a near zero error-proof system.
As a matter of fact, he came out to reveal that INEC has discovered a plot or plan by some politicians who made frantic efforts to manufacture the BVAS machine and hack into the commission’s server but nip such efforts in the bud.
According to the Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity of INEC, Achumic Rex in a two-day workshop in Abuja with the theme “Technology and 2023 election, “There is no room to hack into INEC servers.
“Politicians are doing everything possible to get into the INEC server or even to manufacture BVAS, but unfortunately for them, INEC is three steps ahead of their plots,” he said.
He allayed fears of network problems that would make BVAS work effectively at rural areas.
“To convince Nigerians that it was up to the task and would leave no stone unturned for the success of the BVAS, INEC in spite of pessimism from some quarters that the BVAS might be hacked or run into network problems, the electoral body assured the nation, that it has put in a place a near zero error-proof system”
He stated further: “At the moment, Nigerians are gradually bidding farewell to the dark days when the voter register was infested with foreign names and those days when election results were announced while voting was still ongoing.
“Recent revelation by Professor Mahmood Yakubu show that the commission has conducted 105 elections using IReV, while it has uploaded 32,985 (99.13%) out of a possible 33,275 results, having recorded 100% upload rate in the just concluded Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.
“Apart from voting, results management is easily the most critical aspect of election administration. While voting is an open and public activity, results management is usually run by a few election officials, mostly outside the glare of the public. Thus, there is a need to promote transparency in this in the best possible way.
“Other innovations that seem to have enhanced the system include biometric voter registration, computer-based registration of voters, online pre-registration, the Permanent Voter Cards with chips, creating online portals for candidates, observers and political party agents, amongst others, which have all gone a long way in standardising Nigeria’s election management system,” he added
Thus with all assurances from Professor Yakubu’s INEC, Nigerians home and abroad who before now were gradually losing hope in the electoral system became reinforced and came out massively to elect the president and members of the National Assembly, but unfortunately got what they were running away from. They discovered themselves in a circumstance they could not understand.
Neither could the earlier vocal INEC but suddenly mute electoral body on the allegation that the almighty BVAS is not responding as it has failed.
There were in addition allegations of violence, snatching of ballot boxes, vote buying, intimidation at the polling centres, late arrival of materials, lack of result sheets and a host of other mal-practices.
Even at the INEC centre in Abuja where results were announced, Professor Yakubu and his men were inundated with allegations ranging from failure of the BVAS, over voting, compromise of some of the INEC staff and others. As a matter of fact, some of the parties’ agents walked out before the INEC chairman in protest.
Neither did INEC get a plus from most of the international and local observers who condemned the exercise among others on the grounds of violence, vote buying, failure of the BVAS, intimidation, snatching of ballot boxes, late arrival of materials and the rest.
At the end of it all, INEC announced the outcome of the February 25, 2023 presidential elections with the declaration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President-elect, but leaving so many unanswered questions. Certainly, some of the aggrieved contestants to the presidential seat are free to challenge the result in a court of law, but INEC owed the nation a lot of explanation, especially in the alleged failure of the BVAS, it assured the nation would not fail.
Except proved to the contrary, the evidence on the ground so far with regard to the conduct of the presidential elections of February 25, by Professor Yakubu negates the pledge his commission made to Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora that in 2023 elections the BVAS will not fail and their votes will count.
Without prejudice to whatever might be the outcome of the governorship and state assembly elections which took place on March 11, 2023, the fact remains that the conduct of the presidential elections under Professor Yakubu is a hope that failed.
Victor Izekor, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes at email@example.com