For acting in wanton disregard of and with total contempt for Nigeria’s citizens, a red card has been issued to the ruling elite by the people proving that “The Power of the People is Greater than the People in Power – (Author Unknown)”. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday announced the results of votes cast on March 28, 2015 by Nigerians to elect a new President. For the first time since 1999 when the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria (PDP) came to power boasting they would hold on to power for 150 unbroken years, they have not only been challenged for such hubris, but they have actually been beaten. They were completely overrun, not by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), but by their real nemesis, the people.
Some have argued that the results, as astounding as they may be, still fall short of expressing the total and complete will of the people. There are suggestions that results announced for Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Plateau, and Nassarawa States, for instance, have severely understated the true will of the people. Indeed there are allegations that through electoral corruption, the ruling class has tried to counteract what should otherwise have been a landslide victory for the people. Indeed the UK and US Governments in the course of watching the historic event put out a brief but worrying statement which included the following: “…So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process. But there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference.” What then will it take for Nigerians to express their collective will and have that faithfully translated into their chosen course for the country?
In 1993, for the first time since 1960, there was a general feeling that across the entire nation, by Christians, Muslims, Northerners, and Southerners alike, Chief Moshood Abiola had been elected President of Nigeria, only for that election to be annulled by the ruling elite through the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. In January 2012, another massive expression of the will of the people was witnessed when millions of Nigerians took to the streets in what was reminiscent of the early stages of the Arab Spring to protest the massive corruption being perpetrated by the ruling elite in the name of fuel subsidy payments. This won negotiations between the ruling elite and so-called representatives of the people: Hocus, Pocus and Hey Presto the process was subverted and the opportunity to change course slipped away from the people once again. Now in 2015, it appears the people decided Enough was Enough and the sick, able-bodied, elderly, young and so on turned out en-masse again and watched carefully but patiently over a process that could so easily have eluded them.
The Chairman of INEC insisted, to the chagrin of the ruling elite, that card readers should be used in order to ensure that biometric confirmation would be used to weed out irregularities at the polling unit. However, with results collated at ward level, and then across 774 Local Government Areas, there were at least 774 chances an Electoral Officer could go rogue and permit political interference at a collation centre. INEC must never be seen as a monolith that can speak and act with one mind. This is too great a risk for the people and so rather than join forces with the ruling elite who were screaming and kicking for the elimination of technology, the answer seems to lie in ensuring INEC employs even more technology: throughout the entire electoral process and not just for voter administration and accreditation on the day ballots are to be cast.
The former minister, Godswill Orubebe engaged in a very disgraceful tirade against the INEC Chairman, seeking to cast aspersion on the integrity of the entire process. One of the issues he raised was the fact that the opposition APC seemed to be displaying results that were too close to the official version being declared which erroneously led him to conclude that INEC was partial towards the opposition. What the unfortunate spokesman for the PDP seemed not to have realised is that the APC had a proper situation room set up and their returning officers were transmitting actual results from the field live as it happened, giving them the capability, with basic modern technology, to have a fairly accurate overview of what the results looked like as soon as the final vote was counted. What he may also not have realised is that this attention to detail on the part of the APC is what has assisted them in the past to tender admissible evidence in the election petitions where they believed the polls had been manipulated. By the way, the APC running mate is a Professor of Evidence and was central to the successful strategies implemented by the APC in past election petitions.
What will it take for Nigerians to express their collective will and have that faithfully translated into their chosen course for the country? Employment of card readers in all elections, transmission of results directly from polling units to a central database updated live and fully transparent to the people as results are transmitted, with drill down capabilities allowing results to be viewed on the fly at collation levels: state, senatorial district, LGA, ward and polling unit. This is the recipe for repeating this historic victory by the people when April 11, 2015 comes. In the meantime, election petitions should be entered into by all aggrieved parties as there is more than enough evidence out there and on social media capturing actual results.