The much talked about 2023 general elections in Nigeria have come and gone, leaving in its trail a myriad of unresolved issues, most of which would have been averted had the electoral process itself been foolproof and as efficient as was promised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The theatre of action is now at election tribunals where aggrieved parties have started filing petitions to seek redress. It is hoped that the judiciary would do justice to the petitions.
Nigerians believed INEC when it promised that innovations introduced into the electoral process would check over-voting, manipulation of results, vote buying and voter intimidation.
So they responded in their numbers when the presidential and national assembly elections held on February 25, 2023 to vote. They braved the elements and intimidation to cast their votes. There was the case of Mrs. Jennifer Efidi in Lagos, who was injured by hoodlums. She went home and returned in bandages and voted.
But by the time voting was being rounded off across the country, the sad reports of violence, killings, ballot snatching and vote buying started pouring in. The worst of it were reports that the magic device, the B-VAS could not be used to upload results from the polling units. It was indeed a case of dashed hopes.
At collation centres, politicians dictated figures to collation officers. Days and even weeks after the elections, results from most of the polling units could not be uploaded to the INEC portal as promised before the elections.
Some electoral and collation officers were able to resist pressure to compromise. One of them, Prof. Omieye Briggs who was the collation officer for Port Harcourt Local Government Area, said she turned down a N30 million bribe to declare falsely collated figures.
If the situation in the February 25 elections was bad enough, that of the March 18 elections was worse. In many places, especially in Lagos, voters were threatened and intimidated out of voting. In Abia State, the collation officer, Prof. Nnenna Oti, had to speak out about a plot to manipulate figures.
Now that the elections are over, it is imperative that the inadequacies noted in the elections be reviewed and corrected. The B-VAS machines should be fine-tuned; security at polling units has to improve; prosecution of electoral offenders should be activated; a second look should be taken at the Electoral Act to give premium to digital transmission of election results.
A free, fair and credible election is the best way to enthrone good governance, responsible leadership and economic development. Everything should be done to make our elections work.
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