A plethora of reactions has greeted yesterday’s volte-face by the senate to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit poll results electronically.
The lawmakers also approved direct primaries as the method to be adopted by all political parties to elect candidates for all elective positions.
Recall that the senate in Clause 52 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill passed some months ago, had approved that “the Commission (INEC) may consider the electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”
Its position was in complete contradiction of the house of representatives which approved electronic transmission of results.
However, the lawmakers, on Tuesday (yesterday) amended the clause when the bill was subjected to re-committal to provide that, “subject to section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission (INEC).”
The senate in approving direct primaries for political parties amended clause 87 which earlier allowed for either direct or indirect primaries.
Clause 87 has to do with nomination of candidates by parties.
It now reads, “Clause 87. (1) “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the commission.”
In indirect primaries, party members elect delegates who in turn elect the party’s candidates on their behalf.
But in direct primaries, registered members of the party vote for who they want to be their candidates; delegates are not involved.
Reacting to the senate’s volte face on electronic transmission of poll results, the former deputy senate president, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, commended his colleagues for reversing itself on electronic transmission of results describing it as “a huge victory for the nation’s democracy.”
Ekweremadu, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Uche Anichukwu said the senate’s action justified his assurances to Nigerians in July that all hope was not lost for electronic transmission of 2023 election results despite the initial setback.
“I want to specially commend the Senate for setting aside narrow partisan interests to correct the mistake of July 15, 2021 by reversing itself on the issue of electronic transmission of election results.
“This clause, though not originally part of the Bill, was introduced by the Joint National Assembly Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, which I am part of, to save the nation the troubles of ballot box snatching, electoral violence, and manipulations that happen between the polling booth and collation centres.
“Although I was representing Nigeria at an international parliamentary session in Montenegro and therefore unavoidably absent during passage of the Bill in July, I had assured Nigerians that we would work with progressives across party lines to dialogue with our colleagues and other critical stakeholders to ensure that electronic transmission of results was restored in the Bill.
“It is, therefore, heart-warming that my confidence in the capacity of my colleagues to dialogue and rise above narrow partisan interest on this matter was not misplaced,” he said.
Similarly, the governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike commended the senators on their decision to allow INEC determine the use of electronic transfer of results.
“Like I have always said, what is important now is what the people want. The moment you do what the people want, you’ll see happiness everywhere.
“I think it is good news to hear that the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed for INEC to transmit results electronically.
“That is good news to hear. Like I have always said, what is important now is what do the people want? The moment you do what the people want you will see happiness everywhere.
“I think it is a good development for Nigeria and democracy. And I will urge them, the two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate to abide by that recommendation by the joint committee of the two chambers because it is for their own interest.
“I commend the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives, all the principal officers and members who felt that they must listen to what is good for Nigeria and what is good for Nigerians,” Wike said in a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Kelvin Ebiri.
In his reaction, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said: “The Senate’s decision to allow the INEC to determine the mode of transmission of election results is a welcome development.
“It would bring about a paradigm shift from where we have been all these years in terms of the conduct and overall management of elections.
“Electronic transmission of results will engender trust in the electoral system, facilitate timely and efficient results management and announcement and reduce negative human interventions in determining the outcome of elections to the barest minimum.
“Besides, it will allow for transparency and accountability more than the tedious manual process.
“Auditing and verification of results will become smoother. It will also make for quicker and more transparent election adjudication.”
On direct primaries, he said: “The subsisting law states that political parties shall nominate candidates either through Direct or Indirect Primaries.
“If the National Assembly decides to change the method to Direct Primaries only, the commission’s duty is to implement what the law says.
“However, let’s not forget that the law stipulating manual collation of results has neither been repealed nor changed at this point.
“The amendments being undertaken at the moment would still have to be transmitted to Mr. President for his assent.”
For his part, Islamic scholar and preacher, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, commended the senate for its decision.
In a statement entitled ‘The revised electoral act on electronic transmission of election results: Congratulations Nigerians’ posted on his facebook page, the controversial Islamic cleric also said electronic transmission of election results will reduce money politics, mediocrity, and political blackmailing to the barest minimum.
“Since 1999 when the khaki returned to the barracks, we’ve not heard the better good news for Nigerians as this singular act of making it legal to transmit elections results electronically. Though, it remains the funding and implementation which are yet to be seen.
“Nonetheless, this will in no way immeasurable reduce the rigging and votes manipulation, the only way bad politicians have been able to hold the nation for a long time at its jugular veins. Money politics, mediocrity, and political blackmailing will all vanish or nearly so by making every vote genuinely counted. This is a big plus for our Senate and the democracy that gives Nigerians free will to choose and repel leaders they so wish.
“INEC has to immediately with the collaboration of NGOs embark on a voter’s awareness campaign, which should include the rural areas. With satellite internet technology perfected and available, no inch of Nigeria soil should be out of reach of the election.
“There are a lot of technical issues, involved, but nothing is insurmountable looking at the experience of countries like India with almost 800 million voters.
“We have been advocating this since early 2015 when we had a conference in Gamji hall Kaduna attended by representatives of INEC, PDP and APC under the auspices of ‘MY CHOICE MY PRIDE FOUNDATION’. Notably, Engr. Buba Galadima made a speech on behalf on the APC. It was memorable and We are glad that some semblance to free and fair elections is on the horizon now as we may say good riddance to bad governance.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lashed out at the legislators for imposing direct primaries for the nomination of party candidates.
Spokesman for the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan who said this in a statement entitled, ‘Direct Primary: APC is rolling back our democracy- PDP’ urged the senate to immediately deploy its appropriate legislative instruments to reverse itself.
“The PDP describes the passage by the APC-led Senate of direct primary for the nomination of candidates for election, in all political parties, as a retrogressive provision that seeks to wipe off all the gains achieved in our electoral practice since 1999.
“The party says the decision by the APC-controlled Senate is a humongous blow to the development of democratic norms and a plot to introduce anarchy during internal party elections as currently obtainable in the APC.
“The PDP holds that the provision is aimed at increasing the costs of nomination procedures thereby surrendering the processes to money bags against the wishes and aspiration of Nigerians.
“Our party makes bold to state that with the exception of the APC, which intends to deploy looted funds in future elections, hardly will there be any political party that will be able to raise the cost of conducting internal elections under a direct primary process.
“This is why the decision of the Senate has elicited widespread rejection from Nigerians across board.
“The PDP therefore urges the Senate to immediately deploy its appropriate legislative instruments to reverse itself on the direct primaries as it is not operable and does not reflect the wishes and aspiration of the majority of Nigerians.”