Lessons from the 2019 Presidential Poll

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Nigeria’s presidential election has come and gone. Expectedly, a winner and losers emerged. However, the ultimate winners are all Nigerians and the nation’s democracy notwithstanding the political party that won. Political parties will someday pass away but Nigeria’s flag remains flying. In fact, everyone that participated in the exercise deserves encomium irrespective of outcomes. Hence, unsuccessful participators should sheathe their swords, cheer their successful contenders and look forward to the future while winners show magnanimity in their victory. Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari enjoined his supporters not to mock the losers, along with assurances that the new administration will strive to strengthen unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel isolated.

As the stage is set for Buhari’s ‘Next level’ packages having been reelected at the poll, let hostilities that largely manifested in the first term be eschewed. Numerous innocent lives were lost over unrestrained behaviours and rabble-rousing. Political killing in whatever guises which culminated to sending countless people to early graves is condemnable. Thus, politicians should opt for decorum in the interest of the nation. Let the political party that received the people’s mandate be allowed to run its government for the betterment of the citizenry. In any democracy, the majority will always have the way while the minority; their say.

Essentially, let oppositions, this time be characterized by maturity instead of pull-down syndrome. The Democrats and Republicans in the United States are good examples. Remarkably, Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump amidst alleged irregularities, yet faces her private life; allowing Americans to freely and fairly assess the Republican’s administration. That’s patriotism personified.

Furthermore, by the numerous challenges that confronted INEC particularly logistic problems that led to the postponement of the poll alongside infernos at some of its offices and other administrative issues, it is pertinent that the commission should prudently ponder on the advanced technology like other countries towards getting rid of such issues permanently.

Amazingly, in the recent presidential election in Senegal, a country with just 6.6 million registered voters, Senegalese citizens including those in Diaspora voted from 49 countries by digital system. Meanwhile, Nigeria with over 84 million registered voters operates manual voting system. Obviously, migrating to full digital electoral system will defeat logistic and security issues alongside high financial burdens. INEC should work towards moving away from paper-and-ink elections to electronic system. For instance, banking industry has credibly set the pace that a customer in one branch enabled with Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards can successfully do transactions in any other states and beyond without hitches, even via mobile devices.

In similar vein, Card-readers and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) could be upgraded, configured to work akin to ATM cards which will enable registered voters to simply go to any polling units with digitalized PVC; slot in, scroll the political parties and exercise the franchise. With such mechanism, the issue of exclusions or conceiving that a particular group may vote in a certain direction will be overtaken by technology as the electorate can use any preferred polling unit. It simply implies that one can search for his state, LGA and ward from any provided electronic device irrespective of locations and vote freely since the system can locate the voters’ details from any point. Besides, the system will automatically transmit accreditation and voting records to the umpire’s central database against manipulations. However, such devices must be coded to operate quadrennially; ensuring that any office is voted only once in four years to circumvent ‘smart’ politicians participating in various states due to present distinct calendars resulting from judicial interventions in some states like Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo.

Rationally, the budget on printing materials that always end up as wastes after election dates is excruciatingly painful when digital equipment can be permanently acquired to efficiently handle the task with a little budget and above all, eradicate abnormalities, violence and casualties. The bitter truth is; ballot box snatching may never cease especially for presidential election that holds concurrently in 119,973 polling units spread across 36 states of the federation alongside federal capital territory. For those governorship elections that hold separately, adequate policing may be realistic. Essentially, migrating to digital system will help in protecting the umpire’s workforces and ad-hoc staff that always fall prey at all hoodlums’ ambushes. Ditto on security personnel.

Furthermore, the alarming number of mushroom political parties for presidential election that usually withdraw after wasting tax-payers money in printing lengthy ballot papers demands the umpire to necessarily review the requirements. Possibly, a precondition of political parties having at least a seat in the National Assembly or a state government may suffice for presidency whilst governorship; a LGA or a seat in the House of Assembly. Such review will bring decency against the ridiculous gimmicks of presenting candidate for a high position without capability to even win councillorship position in the ward.

Carl Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators