Gozie Irogboli urges the electoral body to organise a fresh presidential election

The result of presidential election filtering out of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is generating ripples and tension because it did not reflect the wish of the electorate and if the right thing is not done, the country may be plunged into worse political crisis. This has confirmed the fears many of us expressed in different fora before the election that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will be going into the 2023 presidential election from a disadvantaged position given its woeful performance and may resort to rigging as the only strategy to hold on to power. Secondly, all the elections conducted under the APC regime were all marred by violence, vote-buying, and other forms of electoral malfeasance and where and when they could not rig, they would declare the election inconclusive.

The report from across the country indicates that the February 25, presidential election was marred by gross irregularities and electoral malfeasance unprecedented in the history of this nation despite the much advertized use of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS). The pictures, video footages and stories from the polling units across the nation are unpalatable and terrifying. In some locations in Lagos, voters were disenfranchised by area boys. And in some places, the INEC’s BVAS refused to work while in some the INEC officials deliberately refused to upload the result from the polling units to INEC server.  There were many cases of ballot box snatching by armed thugs and underage voting. We have seen incidences of harassment and intimidation of voters wherein people were deliberately locked out of the voting centers. Also, there are video footages of party men including security officers locked in a place thumb printing ballot papers. There is the story of an APC agent in INEC’s office frustrating the uploading of results from the polling units. More troubling is the insinuation that INEC is accepting results not uploaded in its server from the polling units as procedurally required, an indication that the system has been compromised. The whole thing was a total farce and unacceptable. It is a joke taken too far and Nigerians are saying no to it.

Early last year when the president signed the electoral law many cheered and when the BVAS was introduced, many said it is bye-bye to ballot box-snatching. Also when the INEC chairman extended the deadline for voters’ registration, we applauded cheerfully. Again, when the president instructed the CBN governor to redesign our currency we believed it was to curtail vote buying and his earnest desire to leave a lasting legacy and we endured the ensuing hardship that came with the policy. Furthermore, when he told the nation to vote their preferred candidate in a nationwide broadcast, many thought he was out for free, fair and credible election. Additionally, when we saw movement of security officers and troops, we thought it was to stamp out thuggery and rigging but now we know better. The information filtering in from the polling centers and INEC collation centers seem to contradict this notion about holding a free, fair and credible election.

But, we saw the telltale signs and ignored it because of the ostensible neutral posturing of the president. INEC did not release the voters’ card to those who registered later at the scheduled time; three weeks to the presidential election, some registered citizens were yet to get their PVCs and many were not able to get theirs. We were shown pictures of peoples PVCs willfully dumped into water drainages and in the forest. And later we were told that some polling units were delisted for some inexplicable reasons. And few days to the election it was observed that there were errors in the INEC printed ballot papers. Today, it seems the critics who had insinuated that, all the government and INEC’s show of neutrality, was a ploy to hoodwink the electorate, were right. And President Buhari must demonstrate to Nigerians and decisively too, that he was firm in his resolve to conduct free and fair election.

Indeed, it is inexplicable that it took INEC four whole years to prepare for this election at a huge cost to the nation and yet the election was nothing to write home about because the system was deliberately compromised. The INEC’s budget for this election is 305 billion Naira, aside from the 50 billion Naira budget for its annual expenditure. So why would INEC spend this humongous sum and give us nonsense? The current INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has clearly written his name in the mud. He has entered the history books as the most corrupt and inept INEC chairman.  He cannot willfully subvert the will of the people and go scot-free. Electoral violence and fraud have continued unabated in this country because nobody seems to be punished for it. Prof. Eme Awa and Prof. Humphrey Nwosu made Nigerians think that intellectuals, especially political scientists could be better electoral umpires but Attahiru Jega and Mahmood Yakubu and their team of crank intellectuals have proved otherwise.

Nigerians trooped out en masse, forgo their businesses and shirk off apathy went to various polling units to exercise their franchise to vote out the obnoxious APC regime. Nigerians have spoken loud and clear: nobody wants APC at the center anymore. If Tinubu could not win in his stronghold how could he have won every other place? He lost in his den in Bourdillon Road Ikoyi. He lost in Lagos State. He lost in Osun, his home state. He lost in Aso Rock. Tinubu’s loss in these locations portends signs of rejection. You will say Obasanjo lost in his state in 1999, but that was under different circumstances. OBJ lost because he was not a politician and because he contested against his tribesman.

How can the nation be moving round in a circle? We have politicians with zero sense of responsibility but with false sense of entitlement. We have politicians who have no respect for the people and for the rule of law. Twenty-three years after our inchoate democratic experiment and we are still making mockery of democracy. Democracy and good governance have not taken any firm roots because the electoral system is in a shambles. The costs—monetary and incidental —of conducting elections are still unbearably high and as result, we have poor democratic participation and unbearably high incidences electoral malfeasance. It is indeed very unfortunate!

We will not allow them to continue to take us for granted. Our politicians have proved to be unrepentant recidivist with acute learning disorder. Nigerians are unanimously saying no imposition, no to vote allocation, no to falsification of result. We will not accept result not uploaded through BVAS as provided by the law. We have been taken for granted for too long. And this time, Nigerians must insist on the right thing. If this is not corrected, there would not be the March 11, state election.

But, before I am accused of inciting violence, let it be known to you that it is the manipulators who want to subvert the will of the people that are inciting violence. You cannot take people for granted all the time. No speech can be more inciting than the act of deliberate and willful denial of peoples’ right to choose. Those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable. INEC has flagrantly compromised the electoral process and prepared the grounds for political upheaval. 

If President Buhari is not part of this plot to subvert the will of the people he MUST act now. He should compel INEC to announce the rightful winner of this election or cancel the election and conduct a fresh presidential election. Nothing short of this will be tolerated. Telling us to go to court is an insult to the electorate and a tactics to buy time by the riggers. They know that the Nigerian courts are as unreliable as weather. Nobody has confidence in a compromised and openly corrupt judicial system like Nigeria’s.

 Irogboli is

an economist, novelist and public policy analyst

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