The expectation by Nigerians of a free, fair, transparent and credible presidential election, hope that results from the polling units would be transmitted directly to the Independent National Electoral Commission Result Viewing portal, enthusiasm kindled in Nigerians and many first-time voters to perform a civic duty of voting were eroded by processes characterised by multiple irregularities.
The Election Act of 2022’s requirements and the widely publicized INEC election procedures were not followed, chief among them being the failure of INEC personnel to send presidential election results straight from the voting places. INEC attributed the inability to do so to errors in the electronic systems. Yet, the same technique was used to communicate the results of the National Assembly elections. This paradox is perplexing, and it undermines the commission’s credibility.
The Election Act’s pertinent provisions in this regard are explicit and clear. “To vote, the presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the commission, for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm, or authenticate the details of the intending voter in the manner prescribed by the commission,” states Section 47(2).
“The presiding officer shall count the votes and declare the result at the polling unit,” states Section 60(4). According to Section 64(4), “A collation officer or returning officer shall collate and announce the result of an election, subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the number of accredited voters stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units under Section 47(2) of this Act; and the votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters stated on the collated result.”
The eagerness of Nigerians at home and abroad to participate in the election is highlighted by these clauses of the electoral Laws, among others, and the guarantees of INEC that they will be upheld. The integrity of the process and public faith in it have suffered as a result of INEC employees’ failure to submit the results of the presidential election straight from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System. The media, social media, and international observers all highlighted various electoral irregularities in this regard.
The pressing issue at hand is when Nigeria will mature and move past its simplistic and immature politics of the ends justifying the means. Every competition must have both a winner and a loser. Yet the procedure and the ground rules must be clear. The result won’t be God’s will when procedures are compromised; it will be man’s will. Hence, the results of the presidential election cannot be regarded as God’s will given the extensive number of documented manipulations.
This election for president has highlighted the shortcomings of poorly managed diversity, ethnic and religious divisions, and unresolved centrifugal factors that obstruct nation-building. It is axiomatic that Nigerians do not share any values that may serve as the foundation for a strong national consensus. Some Nigerians are happy with the results of a presidential election that had serious flaws and are quick to disregard the manipulation of the procedures as unimportant. They only value the result through the lenses of their ethnic and religious convictions and rational self-interest. Knowing full well how slowly our justice system operates, they are eager to urge judicial intervention on behalf of those who have been wronged. Hence, use any and all methods necessary to win the election and allow the resentful to file a lawsuit. In light of the seeming fait accompli in verdicts, this is a sad statement on the integrity of the judicial system.
A presidential election challenge has been filed in court by candidates for the Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party, which is understandable. For the legal proceedings, the BVAS record is essential. Affirming the integrity of the record, INEC did so on oath. No matter whose ox is gored, it is now expected that the judiciary will uphold justice in the case of litigation.
The outcome of the National Assembly election, for which there was a semblance of electoral compliance, is a sign of the shift in voters’ determination to seek meaningful representation. That several governors lost their races for Senate seats to regular people is a startling fact. It’s good to see this change.
It is undeniably all motion and no movement in every aspect of our national life. In the Nigerian state, prebendalism has always been the driving force behind the struggle for political power, to the detriment of the Nigerians. How long will Nigeria maintain its current course toward inefficiency? The constitution of Nigeria must be altered.