By Temitope Ajayi
A lot have been said and written about the conduct of the 2023 Presidential Election and the March 1 final declaration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President-elect by Professor Mahmud Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Rather sadly, some of the arguments against the conduct of the election have been outrightly ridiculous, while others tilt heavily on pure treason and felony.
A dissection of these jaundiced arguments would suffice. First, the points advanced by the antagonists of the election over the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and non-transmission of the results from polling units immediately after the close of the poll on INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) as promised by the electoral umpire border mostly on wilful ignorance.
While it can be argued that INEC, in its desire to improve on the transparency of the elections promised real-time uploading of results of results from the over 176,000 polling units in the country, it must also be stated clearly that the provisions of the new Electoral Act and the Constitution, the governing laws under which the elections were conducted did not impose on INEC the burden of real-time electronic upload of election results.
For a fact, the electoral law and the Constitution both stipulate that INEC can make its own rules as it deems fit in the conduct, processes and organisation of elections in Nigeria.
Those pseudo analysts, who have taken up permanent residence inside the studios of radio and television stations to spew uninformed narratives with the sole intent to pollute the political landscape on the role of IReV in the election, must now put a halt to their demagoguery and allow the country to heal after a long and bruising electioneering campaign that stretched the connecting threads of our social fabric to the limit. This is not too much to ask.
To continue to manipulate the emotions and play poker with the minds of supporters of the candidates that lost the election with falsehoods and twisted interpretation of the laws in a desperate bid to sustain their political support base, amounts to a huge disservice to the country. No politician should be allowed to put, in jeopardy, the peace and stability of Nigeria to achieve any political end.
On point of law, a Federal High Court in Abuja on March 10, 2023 in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022, brought before it by the Labour Party (LP) where INEC was a sole defendant, ruled that only the electoral body is empowered by law to determine the mode of collating and transmitting election results.
The LP, whose presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, has been making a hue and cry over the non-transmission of results real-time on IReV, had prayed the court to declare that INEC has no power to opt for a manual method of counting and collating results of the election other than the electronic method as provided for by the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
In a well reasoned and profound ruling, Justice Emeka Nwite held that only the INEC has the prerogative to direct how a polling unit presiding officer can transfer election results, including the total number of accredited voters and results.
Justice Nwite further held that collating and transmitting election results, manually, in the 2023 general elections could not be said to be contrary to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Furthermore, the judge averred that the Plaintiff misconstrued the provisions of the law and proceeded to dismiss the suit. As at today, that is what the law says and in simple terms, absolves INEC of any wrongdoing by its mode of transmission of election results. This is contrary to the campaign of calumny by opposition elements and their paid agents against the Commission.
It is important to state that uploading of results on IReV was only an add-on feature designed by INEC to further enhance openness and give the general public the opportunity to view the results real-time. IReV was not designed to validate the authenticity of results. The real and authentic election results are the ones from polling units that were signed by INEC officials, party agents and security operatives.
By the close of election on Saturday, February 25, 2023, all the political parties that participated in the election, especially the major frontrunners, knew where they stood from the results sent to their Situation Rooms by field agents.
Without any shred of doubt, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), won a pan-Nigeria mandate to be the next President of Nigeria. Of all the major candidates, Asiwaju Tinubu worked the most, planned the most and campaigned the most to, deservedly, earn the victory as declared by INEC.
For emphasis, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its acolyte, LP, had no path to victory in the presidential election. The PDP went into the election terribly fractured with fratricidal war, while the LP only relied on ethnic and religious sentiments to win a national election. They failed woefully!
The opposition parties did not lose the election as a result of the technical glitch on IReV portal that made immediate uploading of results impossible. The claim by the opposition that BVAS didn’t work well is a complete baloney. BVAS operation was smooth and this explains why the results from the election were very competitive across the six geo-political zones except in the South-East where the LP had an unexplainable 90 percent of total votes cast.
Field reports from accredited local and international observers attest to BVAS’ efficiency in voter accreditation in over 95 percent of polling units nationwide. In the few places where the machines malfunctioned, there was immediate remediation. If anything, BVAS ensured that the recurring experiences of ghost voter was eliminated. This is unprecedented in the history of election in Nigeria.
Lest we forget, it’s been days, if not weeks, that INEC uploaded all the presidential election results from the entire 176,974 polling units across the country. While it can be argued that INEC promised instantaneous uploading of results on IReV, that is not entirely cast in stone, as the law allows the Commission to upload results on the viewing portal seven days after the poll. Question is: how many of those casting aspersions at the electoral body have come out to tell Nigerians that the results, as declared at the polling units, are different from the ones uploaded on the result viewing portal?
On points of law and judicial pronouncement, INEC didn’t breach its own rule. The lousy impression created by the PDP, LP and their hordes of supporters remain what it is: baseless.
The conduct of the 2023 election is a watershed with many takeaways, the most profound being the game-changing BVAS, which ensured credibility and transparency of the entire process.
That Asiwaju Bola Tinubu won the election clearly and unambiguously is indisputable, regardless of the huge upsets recorded, which will be a subject of research and inquisition by political scientists and public intellectuals for a long time to come.