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Nigeria’s Presidential Election: Matters Arising

AFTER a fierce  electoral contest, President Muhammadu Buhari has secured a second  four-year term mandate. He defeated his arch rival, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP with a vote of 15.191,847 to 11.262,978.

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on Wednesday presented him and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, certificates of return. Reports showed that Atiku may likely approach the election tribunal to contest the results of the election.

THIS process made it the sixth time that such election is held during the nation’s two decades of democratic experience. We thus commend Nigerians for their resilience and determination to allow democratic advancements, considering many challenges being faced by the people.

THE elections were earlier slated for Saturday,  February 16, 2019, but postponed for a week, over what INEC termed to be “logistical challenges”.

WE however note that despite the postponement, the elections recorded some noticeable but avoidable lapses. For example, polls did not commence at the scheduled time of 8am in some polling units nationwide. It manifested in states of the south-south, south-east, south- west and north central regions of the country.

REPORTS also indicated that in isolated cases, in Owerri, Imo State, INEC officials conducted the election using photocopies of approved ballot papers.

IN areas like Dutse Alhaji, Abuja FCT, polling officers who could not locate their polling units  conducted the election in wrong units. Many voters also had difficulty locating their polling units as there were insufficient details on the PVCs on INEC website as well as how to locate polling units.

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THE performance of the card readers provided sufficient basis for anxiety.

SOME of the complaints concerning the card readers device include: inability to authenticate fingerprints, inaccurate or false output for identified card holders, non-recognition of certain alphabets associated with some surnames or forenames.

IT was also gathered that in most units where the card readers malfunctioned, presiding officers resorted to manual accreditation allowing voters to cast their votes. This was not devoid of the associated issue of suspicion by the voters of possible abuse of such discretion by the polling officials.

THERE were several reported cases of electoral violence from all over the country. Party thugs and hoodlums had a field day invading voting centres to harass, molest and intimidate voters and, in some instances, INEC officials.

STRANGELY, in places where these acts were recorded, security agents were either complacent or complicit. Rivers, Lagos and Kogi States were notorious in this regard.

THERE were also confirmed reports from different parts of the country where voters were prevented, hindered or inhibited from performing their civic responsibilities on the suspicion that their votes had the potential to produce outcomes that were undesirable or unintended by the illegal “enforcers” and “gatekeepers.”

THUS, voters were chased away and forced to return to their homes. Akwa Ibom, Niger, Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos, Imo, Kogi and Benue States ranked high as examples of places where these unconscionable and loathsome acts of voters intimidation and suppression took place.

WE observed that the INEC polling booths did not offer sufficient privacy to voters. Party agents and some other persons had easy and unrestrained access to voters or to pry into how they  voted.

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LAGOS, Kano, Edo, Imo and parts of Rivers States illustratively recorded these incidents of gross breach of voters’ privacy.

WE therefore canvass for a thorough electoral reform to solve some of the teething challenges in our elections.

OUR position is that we should embrace the use of technology. The use of electronic voting would reduce, if not eradicate, thuggery, bloodletting and under- age voting.

ANOTHER advantage of e-voting is that it makes compilation of vote cast easy faster and transparent, thereby making the process acceptable to Nigerians and international community.

WE recommend that President Buhari should convoke meeting of all political parties with a view to finding solutions to our election problems. We recall that late President Yar’ Adua organized such meeting but could not implement decisions taken due to his ill health.

ALSO, there should be aggressive political campaigns and enlightenment. Our position is that the electorates were not adequately educated as regards their rights.

ELECTORAL offenders must be made to face the music. This would serve as a deterrent to others that the era of political impunity is gone. Doing otherwise may embolden them to be more daring  in future.

WE also enjoin INEC to start preparing for 2023 election now. Nigeria cannot afford to experience what transpired in this election in 2023.

WE also appeal to all politicians not to see election as a do- or- die issue but a call to serve. We canvas a drastic reduction of the use of money in our elections.

WE wish Mr. President and his entire crew happy reign of office.

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