The above question is fundamental and very imperative. Its very timely and important in view of conflicting understanding and permutations centering on the use of the new technology in our electoral system. Constant issues being raised and allegations of attempts to manipulate the two basic tools in the coming general elections: the BVAS and the PVCs suffice.
Many people are confused when they hear or see others acting strange on these issues and therefore the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to quickly douse the tension. The confusion is coming on the heels of boastful utterances of some desperate candidates who said they will manipulate the two items to their advantage. The urgent need to speak out is to allay the fears of the people and ensure a psychologically stable electoral ground for smooth and trouble free polls. The 2023 general elections are too important to allow them go the way of the 2019 elections.
The loopholes of the 2019 polls must be blocked at all cost and by all means. Even though there are improvements in the electoral processes over the years, there are equally more frauds in other unsuspecting arears often perpetrated in collaboration with some INEC staff. INEC is capable of giving us an appreciable election conduct if it wants and is equally capable of abusing its discretion at the same time. There was hardly any electoral fraud that has taken place successfully without the coverage of INEC. By this I am referring to some and NOT all of its staff who are just out to make money and compromise the elections. There are many INEC staff who are always on the right path insisting that the right things be done and yet there are some who are always out to collaborate with whoever can give them cash to distort results not minding the negative implications of flawed elections.
Most of these class of INEC staff don’t understand their roles in a democracy. They can shamelessly tell you that if you don’t bring money, there is nothing I can do. There are many instances to cite where some INEC officials mischievously cancel elections at units where they had been successfully conducted, or announce inconclusive polls and never come back to repeat them. There are equally instances where ballots were snatched by some miscreants or security agencies themselves all in attempts to protect a candidate who will not win a free and fair elections.
The electoral body was always involved in one form of manipulation or the other. Candidates who plan to rig hardly succeed without the involvement of the security and some INEC officials. But with the recent upgrade in the electoral process, a lot of the previous ways of electoral fraud and manipulation are being curtailed especially with the introduction of the Bimordal Identification Verification System, BVAS. This has given serious hopes to those who want credible elections and has created panic in those who cannot win clean and fair elections,those who collaborate with security agents and some disgruntled INEC staff to manipulate themselves to victory.
In spite of its introduction there are still fears that the process can be manipulated by other means. Of recent, some political parties in some states have commissioned some agents to move round and collect the Permanent Voters Cards,PVCs of innocent voters with the aim of picking some digit numbers at the back and snapping them for onward delivery to only God knows where and that during elections, they cannot work because they would have been deactivated. Some of the speculations are outrightly funny and ridiculous while some could be true. But whatever they are, it remains the absolute responsibility of INEC to verify and come out to clarify issues surrounding these speculations. The typical Nigerian voter is tired of such manipulations and would want to do anything legal to protect his or her votes. Of course there are office holders who never won their elections because they came through such fraudulent processes and are still bragging that they can use cash to manipulate themselves to office again.
INEC must therefore save an imminent situation by telling the people what to do otherwise the people will fashion what to do during the elections and that may be more disastrous. With the BVAS, a lot of training and retraining is required in understanding the process. Political parties must not wait for INEC to train its personnel. Good INEC and security agents may be less concern with any irregular behaviors in the election because their hands may be full. Therefore political parties must train their personnel to be able to understand flaws and withstand attempts to commit them . We must guard this elections jealously and more than ever before to ensure only those elected gets to the office. There are people who were not elected but are in office today courtesy of flawed processes. We must compliment the good INEC and security staff by being conscious of the legitimate process. The coming elections are not about politics but good governance. The country has seriously gone down in the hands of some people and therefore things must change for good.
There must be increasing sensitization and enlightenment of voters by INEC on the public insinuations regarding the BVAS and PVCs. Keeping quite over such contentious issues is creating unnecessary tension, anxiety and apprehension. Civil society organisations must also add their voices to the clarification. Electoral criminals who cannot win elections through clean processes but rely on the old system to rig, can no longer be comfortable with the new system. The new tide is definitely against them. The electoral commission must therefore move to protect its beautiful innovations and ensure that there is strict adherence to regulations and provisions of the new electoral act.
Even the new cashless policy embarked upon by the Central Bank to reduce money in circulation is a good development that has left money bag candidates in their own pool of folly. Now its difficult to withdraw or move money round to buy votes. Each candidate must work hard on his or her own merit to make a mark.