The November 11, 2023 Off-Cycle elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo States provided an opportunity for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to correct its failures in the February/March 2023 general elections
The commission had introduced the novel Bi-Modal Voters Accreditation System (BI-VAS) to transmit election results in real-time and to upload elections results as recorded in the polling units to the iREV, the commission’s server, which would have made election results accessible by anyone anywhere in the world.
The promise of the use of the transmission and uploading systems won so much trust for INEC so much so that many people, especially young persons, turned out in their millions to vote in the February/March general elections in the hope that their votes would count. But alas, INEC failed to utilise the BI-VAS and iREV technologies in the Presidential Election and allowed for gross manipulation of the results.
This failure deflated the morale of voters and destroyed the trust they had in INEC to conduct free and credible elections in the future. Eight months between the general elections and the Off-Cycle elections was enough time for INEC to correct the mistakes of the general election and clean up its house of the glitches and errors. Alas, INEC failed again. Much of the results were manually transferred and people had to wait for final collation of the results to know the results.
But more worrisome about the November 11 Off-Cycle elections, was the heightened incidence of violence and vote buying by politicians and political parties to intimidate and influence voters. In Bayelsa, a senior presiding officer was kidnapped on the eve of the election and subsequently released. Sadly, a polling agent was killed at Twon-Brass, while gunmen ran rings in Yenagoa and a few other places. It was a similar story in Imo, where the use of violence had heightened before the election. On Election Day, gunmen and even some security agents ran riots leading to several fatalities.
In Kogi, it was a war zone as gun battles were recorded in Kogi East and Kogi West senatorial zones.
Vote buying was so pervasive that voters openly asked to be paid. And politicians parading cash were not in short supply. It was really a travesty of democracy. Some observers of the election in Bayelsa State had to draw the conclusion that people did not vote their conscience from what transpired.
This damping practice of vote selling and buying need to be stopped for the Nigeria democracy to take firm root. If the people continue to sell their votes, they will soon have no reason to ask governments to account for their stewardship. They would have given those who run government a free hand to loot and account to only themselves. The entire reason for having democratic government would have been defeated and tyranny and impunity by people in government will become the order of the day.
This is why the people must refrain from selling their votes and reject candidates and political parties that monetise elections. Government should enforce the laws against vote buying and should deepen efforts to empower the people and educate them on the power of voting their conscience in elections. That way, power would remain with the people, who would be the determiners of who gets to be elected and entrusted with political power in the states and country.
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