Buhari: Era of Electoral Manipulation with Impunity Gone Forever

  • INEC forecloses electronic voting in 2019
  • Contends extant law will ensure credibility of process

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Abuja said the era in which democratic norms were brazenly subverted and votes awarded to some politicians while those shortchanged were told to go to court was gone for good.

Buhari spoke while receiving members of the Joint United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS Good Offices Mission on Elections at the State House.

A statement by the president’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari argued that he was in a better position to make such a submission having gone to court thrice.

He was quoted as saying, “I am highly qualified to talk on this, having ended in Supreme Court three times, after participating in elections with disputed results.

“Where will a man looking for where his next meal would come from, have money to hire lawyers, particularly senior advocates?”

Adesina said Buhari reassured his guests that the 2019 polls would be free and fair, quoting him further as saying, “The President has only one vote, governors have a vote each, just like anybody else. Let the people vote for whoever they choose, without their will being tampered with.”

The statement added that Buhari thanked the joint team for its interest in Nigeria’s institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It also said the president noted that multi-party democracy gave the people a lot of choices, adding that Nigeria had a vibrant young population, “who trust us to handle their affairs and resources well. A lot depends on leadership.”

The statement also said the president restated how the 2015 elections were run with three campaign objectives.

According to Adesina, Buhari listed such objectives as securing the country, reviving the economy, fighting corruption, “and the opposition has not succeeded in faulting us. We are doing our best with the resources available to us.”

He added that the President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, in his remarks, said the team came on a solidarity visit to Nigeria before the forthcoming elections, as it had done with other countries such as Senegal, Mali, Gambia, among others, which recently held elections.

The statement added that Chambas appreciated the strong role Nigeria has played in the sub-region, while also thanking Buhari for his efforts in the fight against corruption and terrorism.

It also said Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas while speaking on behalf of the UN, appreciated what he called ‘the strong leadership of President Buhari in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa.

It quoted him as saying, “You’ve always played politics according to the rules. We will do all that we can to strengthen the institutions. We’re convinced that INEC is ready to provide free and fair elections.”

INEC Forecloses Electronic Voting in 2019

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it would be difficult to implement the section of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that recommended electronic voting if the president signs it into law, citing the process involved in its implementation, and delay in the enactment of the alteration law.

Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this in an interview on This Morning, an Arise News programme hosted by former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati.

Oyekanmi said, “It (electronic voting) cannot be implemented because of the process involved. It is just too late to implement the aspect of electronic voting. It is less than 120 days to the general election. It is too late to embark on electronic voting. This is a large country.

“We cannot deploy our technology throughout the country before the general election. That will be considered for the subsequent general election. Even the process that we have now is strong enough to deliver free, fair and credible elections. I can assure Nigerians of that.”

Oyekanmi also pointed out that delay in the enactment of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was another challenge for introducing electronic voting in 2019, pointing out that the president had not assented to the bill.

The INEC spokesman, however, said, “There is no vacuum. We have in existence the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. If the bill is not signed by the president, we will make use of what we have. We are good to go.

“Just as the INEC Chairman said, if the president eventually signs Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law, we have started preparing for the implementation of those aspects of the bill that we can implement immediately.”

Oyekanmi declined to make categorical statement on the INEC chairman’s visit to Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari, saying he did not know the crux of the matter discussed at the meeting.

According to him, I do not know what they discussed at that meeting. I need to consult him to know the subject of discussion. So, I cannot comment on it

On Zamfara issue, he said, “The matter is before the court. But I just want to say this. We are the regulator. If the regulator is saying one thing and the regulated is saying another thing, which one are you going to take? I will leave that for public judgment.”

He, therefore, assured Nigerians that the 2019 general election would not be truncated, saying, “Just last week, the National Assembly passed the budget for the election. The figure passed was the exact figure that the INEC presented to the Executive. And that was the exact figure that the Executive presented to the National Assembly.

“The figure is N189.2 billion. We do not envisage any problem. We have been doing the process we need to do. The general election has three components. We have pre-election, election-day and post-election activities.

“As far as our preparation and timetable are concerned, we are on course to the 2019 general election. With the approval of the Senate and our understanding with the federal government, we should not have any problem. I think the issue of the budget will be resolved in a short while.”