By Nnanke Harry Willie
The 2023 general election promises to be the litmus test for Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as Nigerians, especially its teeming youth look up to it to sustain the momentum of delivering credible elections as it did recently in Ekiti, Anambra and Osun states in the off-season gubernatorial elections.
In the aftermath of the Osun election, the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu had enthused: “We promised that Osun was going to be better, Osun was a better election. We are promising that the 2023 general elections will be our best election ever and we are committed to delivering the best election ever.” Nigerians are sure counting on that commitment.
In every election cycle in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is usually on ‘trial’. Sitting in judgement are the various political parties as well as their candidates and supporters on the one hand, while the voters, the general public and the civil society groups sit at the other end of the spectrum.
For every winner during the election, INEC is adjudged excellent and praised to high heavens but not so for some of the losers who on many occasions have reservations about the conduct of the elections and seek ways to discredit the process whether real or imaginary in order to upturn the results. Voters and members of the public however react differently based on the outcome of the elections and their personal experiences.
Thankfully, there is good news!
Well ahead of many other government agencies, INEC has in recent years tried to modernize and automate its operations through technology adoption and home-grown tech solutions to reflect its will and determination to deliver its mandate of free, fair and transparent elections.
Aside from the new electoral law which has provided INEC with the much-needed latitude to take decisions and steps without undue interference from politicians, INEC’s introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) the electronic transmission of votes as well as the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) are the ultimate game-changers.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, has repeatedly assured us that INEC has an inventory of 200,000 of the BVAS devices and they would be deployed in the 176,000 polling units across the country while the surplus will be kept handy as reserve.
He said there will be one BVAS device reserved in every Registration Area Centre (RAC) to ensure immediate intervention in the event of any failure adding that INEC has the capacity to conduct credible general elections in 2023 while assuring that the commission is poised to replicate the achievements and successes recorded in the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun governorship polls.
However, it is clear that INEC’s will and determination alone will not guarantee free and credible elections. Only recently the former Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, for Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini confirmed our worst fears that the bad guys are not letting up as he revealed that some powerful politicians are working hard to sabotage the implementation of the 2022 Electoral Act and thus rigging the 2023 elections.
This is coming after the INEC long-time ICT Director, Mr. Chidi Nwafor was controversially redeployed from his position only a few weeks after contributing to the flawless Kenyan general elections.
While we need to watch out for desperate politicians, unfortunately, some officials of INEC have in the past conducted themselves in suspicious manners to suggest that they were either partisan or complicit in efforts to rig the elections in favour of the highest bidder or the government in power at either the federal or state levels. INEC is a massive organization and despite the best intentions of its management, one cannot rule out the possibility of fifth-columnists who would desperately want to subvert the people’s will.
The allegations of the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, that there was a secret court action to stop the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 general elections and alleged uploading of fake voters in Imo State is one example of what the desperadoes can do. For now, we cannot tell what else is being planned to rig the elections. We cannot afford to ‘siddon look’.
Old habits die hard, the powerful election riggers know of no other way to ‘win’ elections. So the good guys need to be vigilant and mobilise their time and resources to rev up support for INEC’s good cause of delivering free, fair and credible elections. We must stand firm with INEC and ensure that the old order is defeated and permanently destroyed.
Nothing good comes easy. We have to ‘shine our eyes’, raise the alarm and defeat the rigging machinations of career election riggers. It is because a good number of politicians often rigged their way into office, that is why they believe that they are not accountable to their constituents and deliver precious little while in office. INEC is ready to change the order and make our votes count so that we can hold elected officials accountable.
Do not sit idly by. Let’s join hands and support INEC to make our votes count. This is what is best for you, for the people…and for Nigeria!
Nnanke Harry Willie is the Audacious Brand Champion