Strong winds are raging against the credibility of the coming general elections, following reports of moves by some unscrupulous politicians to stop the plan by INEC to use Smart Card Readers to determine the genuineness, or otherwise, of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) to be used by intending voters during the exercise.
The smart card technology is the principal instrument that the Independent National Electoral Commission has procured at a huge cost to the nation to ensure that dishonest politicians do not flood the nation’s 119, 973 polling centres with fake PVCs to rig the elections. Yet, some political actors, for certain questionable reasons that cannot be in the best interest of our electoral process, are strongly determined to ensure that PVCs presented by intending voters at the polling stations are not checked to ensure that they are genuine. To further undermine the importance of the PVCs, the same political interests are insisting that PVCs should be jettisoned while Temporary Voters’ Cards (TVCs) are used for the polls.
We are appalled at this grand design to fight INEC’s plan to ensure that fake cards are not used to rig the 2015 polls. Is Nigeria to be perpetually cursed with manipulated elections? As far as we are concerned, it is only dishonest politicians, who intend to rig the elections with the use of fake PVCs that should be afraid of the card readers. The machines, which will make it impossible to vote with forged cards, will give Nigeria the opportunity to exit the cycle of rigged elections and should be welcomed by all well-meaning citizens. The INEC should, therefore, be resolute and resist the pressure not to use them.
Stopping the use of card readers to determine the genuineness of PVCs will lay the elections open to manipulation by power-hungry politicians and Nigerians can no longer brook such wanton tampering with the electoral process. We have had enough abridgement of the rights of the people to choose their leaders. Only those who have genuine PVCs should be allowed to vote. The use of forged PVCs for the elections will be criminal and the best way to prevent this is to ensure that all PVCs are checked using the card readers.
The plan to stop the use of card readers is yet another indication of the growing desperation of some politicians to win the impending elections at all costs and by all means, fair or foul. This scheme, that has apparently been on the drawing board for some time but is now expected to gain momentum following the postponement of the elections, is nothing but an ambush of the plan to clean up our elections.
We find it extremely difficult to understand what any honest politician or political party could lose if people whose cards are found to be fakes by the card readers are barred from voting. Nigerians, ordinarily, should be interested in instituting the necessary processes and systems to increase the credibility of our elections. We ought to design a comprehensive plan to help put the days of election rigging behind us. The use of technology is one of the ways by which this is done in most serious democracies where allegations of vote rigging have become rare, and Nigeria should not be an exception.
We, therefore, unequivocally support the use of the card readers for this election, and enjoin those politicians who are opposed to it to give the technology a chance. It is the best decision that Nigerians can make at this time to end the sad story of flagrant manipulation of elections in the country and INEC deserves commendation for the initiative. We also commend President Goodluck Jonathan for releasing the funds for the equipment. His approval of funds for the machines is an indication of his commitment to free elections in the country.
For us, there is really nothing for those who have genuine PVCs to fear about the card readers. It is a simple instrument that will help ensure that no strange cards are used to vote to compromise the integrity of the elections.
Luckily, INEC has started the public education of Nigerians on the use of the card readers. A senior official of the electoral agency was on national television yesterday, explaining the use of the technology and how it will help to improve the transparency of our elections.
Considering the many allegations of rigging that have always marred our elections, and the fact that this technology is expected to help bring a new day to our electoral process, we advise that it should be embraced. We should not only embrace it, Nigerians should commit themselves to cooperating with INEC officials and others involved in the electoral process to ensure that we get the best out of the machines. This, certainly, will be in the nation’s best interest, because we have already committed huge sums to their procurement and we need the service for which they were bought.
The onus, however, now rests on INEC to make sure that the machines are available and operational all over the country. The agency must fine-tune all the plans for their use and ensure proper training of the personnel that will handle them. The equipment must be test-run and certified okay before the election days. Let there be demonstrations of the use of the card readers via all media of communication in the country to assure the electorate and the honest politicians that they have nothing to fear.
Let there be a fresh resolve to ensure credible elections on the part of all stakeholders in the best interest of the country. Certainly, we have to move forward in the quest to clean up our electoral process. We cannot forever say no to the use of the necessary technology for our polls. Only dubious politicians who cannot muster the requisite electoral value need fear the card readers.