By Adekunle Adekoya
I WAS part of the multitude of Nigerians, at home and in the diaspora, who strongly registered their disapproval of amendments initially made by the Senate to the Electoral Act.
The week ending July 16 was actually a very active one for many of our politicians, elected, in office, or out of office. At plenary earlier on Tuesday 13 July, the Senate proposed amendment to Section 52(3) of the Electoral Act thus: “The commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
The polity responded with an uproarious condemnation of this proposed amendment. By Thursday 15 July, another amendment surfaced, which subjected electronic transmission of results to confirmation by telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC. It was at this point that I also formally registered my disapproval in this column.
However, it is gratifying to note that earlier this week, three months after, the Senate reversed itself and re-worked the controversial clause 52(3) of the 2021 Electoral Bill that subjected transmission of election results by INEC to confirmation that there is adequate network and security of national network coverage by NCC.
The Senate jettisoned Clause 52(3) it passed in July, and replaced it thus: “Subject to Section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by INEC.”
I also join other Nigerians who disapproved of the Senate’s amendments in July to applaud the amendments of October.
But knowing the right thing and doing the right thing seems to be two different constructs in our clime. Why did the Distinguished Senators take us through that 90-day rigmarole? Many of the senators are successful businessmen and women in their right. I kept wondering why people who routinely move humongous amounts of money across jurisdictions will not want electronic transmission of results.
Mind you, we are not even talking of electronic voting, a feat that has been pioneered by Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna State. What would our law-makers do if the clamour has been outrightly for electronic balloting? The world is on the move, and we must move with it.
With the coming of GSM 20 years ago, a lot has happened to make life and living easier such that we now wonder how we did some things before 2001. In fact, we should be doing electronic voting, irrespective of the problems we are battling with. I know the usual objections; some people will talk of lack of electricity the way they talked of inadequate coverage and attempted to bring the telecoms regulator into the electoral orbit.
In this case, they would then bring in Ikeja DISCO, Yola DISCO, and the other electricity distributors, the Transmission Company of Nigeria, meter manufacturers and the electricity regulator into the Electoral Act. The objective would be the creation of a labyrinth of interests that would obfuscate the actual objective of equitable change of power.
Bunkum. If the telecommunications sector could take off, survive, thrive and soar to the level it is now, powered mainly by generators, we can do electronic voting, whether there is electricity or not. Afterall, most of the base stations that deliver our calls are powered by generators.
While people were still lauding the senators for positively back-pedalling on the issue of electronic transmission of polls results, it also came to light that the Red Chamber effected another amendment to Section 87 of the Electoral Act.
The amendment effected on Section 87 of the bill reads: “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the commission.”
The new position was against the earlier one taken in July as contained in Section 87(1) which reads: “A Political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold direct or Indirect primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which may be monitored by the Commission.”
It occurred to me that the Senate is in a “BOGOF” — Buy One, Get One Free mood. Conceding electronic transmission of polls results in deference to public yearning and taking away the rights of individual political parties to choose their candidates by means suitable to their desires and circumstances is to to say the least, anti-democratic.
Expectedly, another round of uproar greeted this, though not as loud as the earlier one, perhaps because not many people retain faith in the ability of political parties to deliver a turnaround in their fortunes.
Right or not, it is a violation of the constitution of the parties and an invasion of their privacy. There is still one bus-stop: presidential assent. The President should not assent to the bill with this provision.
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