IN clear unanimity, stakeholders across all divides, yesterday, hailed the National Assembly on inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and urged President Muhammadu to immediately sign the bill into law as soon as he gets it.
However, the stakeholders were split on imposition of direct primaries on political parties as the mode of choosing candidates for elections.
The Senate on Tuesday, made a u-turn on its earlier position that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, could only transmit election results electronically with the approval of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
Now, if the new Electoral Bill is transmitted to President Buhari and is assented into law, INEC is empowered to transmit election results electronically as it pleases without recourse to the NCC.
The move drew cheers in the polity, yesterday, with Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, saying without electronic transmission of results, his re-election in September 2020 would have been aborted.
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, commended the Senate for the move and flayed the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for accusing it of using the National Assembly to plot rigging of elections.
The APC reaffirmed its “commitment and support for constitutionally-permitted innovations that will improve the transparency and credibility of Nigeria’s electioneering processes and internal democracy, specifically the nomination of political party candidates.”
National Secretary of its Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, yesterday.
The party’s position is against the backdrop of Tuesday’s Senate amendments to the Electoral Act which will ultimately be forwarded to the President for assent.
A top party official had on Tuesday told Vanguard that the party was not keen on reacting to the development until the president takes a decision on it.
However, after the opposition PDP accused it of planning to rig elections through the imposition of direct primaries on parties by the APC-led Senate, the ruling party said “the soundbites from the PDP should be ignored in its entirety because PDP is only pretending to be an opposition political party.”
However, APC said the patriotic disposition of the multi-partisan 9th National Assembly should be commended.
“It is the right thing for the National Assembly to aggregate and consider the clamour by civil societies, interested stakeholders and indeed all Nigerians on all matters requiring legislation,” APC stated.
The ruling party said in line with its progressive mantra, the credibility of elections has continued to improve under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government.
“Valid votes now count and past practices of electoral fraud inflicted on Nigerians by past PDP administrations are fast becoming a thing of the past.
“At party level, the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) under the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni has entrenched internal democracy in nomination processes as recorded in recent and successful nationwide congresses conducted by the party.”
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, while hailing the Senate for amending the Electoral Act, urged the president to sign the bill to enable INEC conduct credible elections.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Jare Ajayi, said: “It is quite commendable on the part of the Senate to reverse its decision on the electronic transmission of results. It is commendable because this position is in line with the expectation of Nigerians.
“For that reason, the onus is now on President Muhammadu Buhari to, as urgently as possible, sign the amended electoral bill into law so that there will be no encumbrance of any sort for INEC to go ahead and conduct transparent, credible and fair elections across the country. “So, we use this opportunity to urge president Buhari to quickly assent to the bill.
“The recommendations by the Senate that all political parties select their candidates through direct primaries; this is surprising because it negates the true essence of democracy in the sense that political parties have the right to decide whichever method they want to use.”
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State said passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 by the National Assembly which empowered the INEC to transmit election results electronically will greatly eliminate electoral fraud.
Okowa, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, described the Senate’s decision to hearken to the wish of Nigerians by reversing itself and voting to include electronic transmission of results in the amendment of the electoral law as a victory for democracy.
The Governor said: “Laws are made for the people, not for personal interests and as such, we must always act in the interest of the public.
“Part of the challenges we are facing today as a nation stems from lack of faith in the electoral process which has huge implications for socio-economic activities in the country, including foreign direct investments. Once we are able to get the people to have faith in our electoral process where the people can truly decide who leads them, part of our problems would have been solved.”
The Middle Belt Forum, MBF, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the new Electoral Act Amendment Bill because it will be one of the things that would be recorded for him as an achievement.
National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, who gave the advice, yesterday, in Makurdi, commended the Senate for recanting its earlier position on the bill after listening to the views and wishes of Nigerians on the matter.
Dr. Pogu said: “Mr. The President should summarily sign the bill because that is the view and the will of the people. The Senate has after an initial mistake listened to the people, they heard the views of Nigerians and they have acted accordingly by approving and passing a bill which contains electronic transfer of election results from the polling stations.
“Not only that, they have also gone ahead to say that we should adopt direct primaries which is the right way to go so that the people’s voice and choice will always be there. It will not be what the money bags will just buy.
“So these are very good developments that are going to advance our democracy and the view of the people. Mr. President should act likewise and quickly sign the bill into law so that we can start moving ahead and move our democracy forward; and Nigerians will hail him for that.”
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State backed the Senate’s decision to reverse its earlier resolution on electronic transmission of election results, affirming that he would probably not have returned as governor but for use of the technology by the INEC.
He also, for the umpteenth time, vowed not to go back to the APC. The governor stated this while fielding questions from State House correspondents after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “If not for God, and the technology utilised by INEC, I may not be governor today. So, I am one of those who believe that we cannot and should not have elections in this country, going into the future, without transmitting results electronically from the polling units, because for elections to be credible, they have to be seen as transparent and once you have voted, you should be assured that your vote will count.
“With technology today, it is possible and INEC has shown it from my election, that as soon as you voted, and the results have been counted in the polling units, then that result should be made available, such that you already know what you expect to be collated at the ward collation points.
“What has happened in many cases in the past is that people go and vote, the votes are counted in the polling units, they know, but by the time it gets to the collation point, it changes. But this time around, because of the transparency, everybody will see and know what they are expecting to be collated from the polling units. That is what happened in my election.
“So, I am a very strong advocate for electronic transmission of results from elections and I want to also note that from my personal experience, INEC has the capacity, INEC has the technology, and also the understanding of how these things should work. So, they should be encouraged. I hope and pray that the President will assent to that bill.”
The governor was however not categorical in his assessment of the direct primaries also adopted by the Senate, saying that while political parties should be allowed to determine their own procedure, if properly supervised, direct primaries would help the nation’s democratic development.
He explained: “My party is currently undertaking electronic registration of our members across the country. Because we anticipated that one day, you will be required to show your own register, because if we as political parties vote on the basis of an election register, then the parties must also have their registers because democracy has to begin with the parties and it’s only when you have very clear, open registers, that you can now have whatever form of elections from within the party.
“I would have thought that parties should have options; if a party wants to reduce the cost of their own internal primaries, by having a delegate system, having an electoral college and a delegate system, they should have the option to do so. But to just lump everybody together and say look, it’s the only way to go, I would have suggested that you should have options.
“However, the direct primaries process, properly supervised, is a very fundamental step in the evolution of our democratic system.”
The governor also spoke on the lingering internal crisis in the Edo state chapter of the PDP.
He stated: “You have to understand that this is politics. My current party was in opposition for 12 years and this is the first time the party has been in government.
“So, it will take a while for everybody to come together to have an understanding of the new role and the new position we occupy.
“It’s a natural and normal process in party politics. But I can assure you it’s being sorted. Yes, we had a peculiar situation. So, it’s not just about me coming to join your party.
“There were some internal crises, even in the old party, which we’re trying to heal. We’ve made some significant progress and I believe that it will be sorted out before our convention.”
Asked whether he had any plan to return to the APC, he said: “Well, I think I have shown that I’m a politician with integrity and I have made it very clear that I didn’t leave the other party on my own.
“I was pushed out of the party, and someone else gave me cover, gave me an opportunity, it will not be the right thing to now leave who helped you, who gave you the umbrella in your storm, and then go back to the person who pushed you out.”
Also, Ohanaeze Ndigbo urged President Buhari to assent without delay the amended electoral bill once it is transmitted to him.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo said: “First, Ohanaeze Ndigbo congratulates the Senate for that bold decision taken. We pray they continue like this. This is very courageous. By doing so, they have promoted democracy not only in Nigeria but also Africa.
“President Buhari should use the remaining period of his tenure to leave a legacy by signing the new electoral bill. If results are transmitted electronically, there will be no more loss of lives, there will be no room for hooliganism, there will be sanity in Nigeria’s elections”, Ohanaeze said through its spokesman, Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia.
In like manner, Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, urged the President to sign the bill.
“President Buhari should sign the amendments to the Electoral Act into law. It will be of great impetus to the growth of democracy experience in Nigeria.
“The Senate has removed the encumbrances against free and fair elections in the country. We equally welcome the adoption of direct primaries. It makes the choice of candidates for elections very mass-oriented and therefore democratic,” Abia Onyike, ADF spokesman, said.
On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said the Senate’s reversal of its decision on the electronic transmission of election results was a welcome development.
PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, stated that it was apt that the NASS realized and corrected its decision, but stated that they should ensure that they treat all the regions fairly.
Robinson said: “PANDEF appreciates the fact that the NASS has decided to toe a path the citizens have been clamouring for. The earlier conclusion that some parts of the country were not connected, there were network issues based on the advice of NCC, was faulty.
“Nigeria is part of the global community, the world is advancing. To say we cannot transmit election results electronically is absurd. It is nice that the Senate has corrected and reversed itself. It’s a good development and we hope that INEC will be firm to ensure that this responsibility is carried out strictly according to what the Electoral Act says.
“We do not want to see a situation where some parts of the country will do whatever they want and compute results manually and release all manner of figures and then in other parts of the country the INEC will strictly adhere to electronic transmission.
“We would want to see results from Zamfara, Borno, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Taraba. Every result should be transmitted electronically. We have reached a stage where technology can help us. As people are voting the results are reflected at the central server and everybody can see it. We can do that. The world is advancing.”
Also speaking, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said that President Buhari has no reason to withhold assent to the amendments made by the National Assembly to the Electoral Act.
The forum also hailed the Senate for yielding to the demands of Nigerians over the hitherto contentious electronic transmission of election results, saying it represents a major improvement to the electoral process.
NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said this in a telephone interview with Vanguard, in Abuja.
He said: “These amendments represent major improvements in the quality of the electoral law. They are also evidence that legislators have yielded to popular demands that we should not go to the 2023 polls without these and other improvements.
“The President should equally show respect for the democratic process, as well as his recurring comments that he intends to leave behind a better electoral process in 2023. There is no reason President Buhari should not assent to these amendments.”
Controversial Islamic scholar and preacher, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, hailed the decision by the Senate which allows the INECto transmit election results electronically.
In a post on Facebook, the cleric said the development will reduce rigging and vote manipulation which bad politicians have been using to hold the country at its jugular.
Gumi also said the E-transmission of election results will reduce money politics, mediocrity, and political blackmailing to the barest minimum.
In a statement titled: ‘The Revised Electoral Act On Electronic Transmission Of Election Results: Congratulations Nigerians,’ Gumi said “Since 1999 when the khaki returned to the barracks, we have not heard a better good news for Nigerians as this singular act of making it legal to transmit elections results electronically.
“Though, it remains the funding and implementation which are yet to be seen, nonetheless, this will in no way immeasurable reduce the rigging and vote manipulation, the only way bad politicians have been able to hold the nation for a long time at its jugular veins. Money politics, mediocrity, and political blackmailing will all vanish or nearly so by making every vote genuinely counted. This is a big plus for our Senate and the democracy that gives Nigerians free will to choose and repel leaders they so wish.
“INEC has to immediately, with the collaboration of NGOs, embark on a voter’s awareness campaign, which should include the rural areas. With satellite internet technology perfected and available, no inch of Nigeria soil should be out of reach of the election.
“There are a lot of technical issues involved, but nothing is insurmountable looking at the experience of countries like India with almost 800 million voters.”