As the year 2023 approaches, observers are beginning to express concerns about the country’s next general election’s credibility. Emameh Gabriel examines President Buhari’s legacy in terms of electoral reforms and innovation.
Many Nigerians believe that the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) should compensate for its failing policies, particularly in the anti-corruption war, by speeding up electoral reforms before 2023, owing to a steady decline in citizen trust and mounting criticism for what has been widely described as poor performance by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Given the foundation laid by the PDP in electoral reforms and political development during its 16 years in power, Nigerians continue to wonder what the APC will be remembered for.
Some of democracy’s lofty promises include the guarantee of freedom of expression, prosperity, and other democratic dividends that allow the majority to feel included and included. This is the foundation for political and democratic growth.
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Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case in Nigeria, where the National Assembly was recently chastised for only passing a portion of the long-awaited Electoral Amendment Law, a new Act that was supposed to give legal backing to electronic voting and the transmission of election results for the 2023 general election.
The bill, which seeks to repeal and re-enact the 2010 Electoral Act, was finally passed by the Senate after six years of APC rule, despite opposition from several lawmakers from various political parties.
The final amendment required the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to seek National Assembly and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) approval before deploying the e-voting system and, of course, electronic transmission of results via the internet.
Twenty-eight lawmakers voted in favor of electronic results transmission, while 52 lawmakers voted against it.
Eighty lawmakers voted, with 28 lawmakers absent, according to the results announced by the Clerk of the Senate and confirmed by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
“The commission may consider electronic transmission provided the Nigerian Communications Commission adjudges the national network coverage to be adequate and secure and the National Assembly approves it,” the amendment reads.
During the debate, lawmakers from the opposition political party pushed for a more vigorous debate on Section 52(3) of the electoral bill on a clause-by-clause basis.
The section discusses the electronic transmission of election results. “Where and when practicable,” it says, “the Commission may transmit election results by electronic means.”
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, provided justifications for the Senate’s position on electronic election results transmission.
Following the unpopular decision, Lawan explained that the Senate voted the way it did to protect the interests of Nigerian voters, whose votes, he claimed, might not be counted if electronic election results were deployed or applied immediately. During a constituency visit to his Yobe North Senatorial District, he was answering questions from journalists about the passage of the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill.
“Why we voted for e-transmission of results with conditions – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President – Senate President
According to him, not only the APC but also some PDP senators voted for it. Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser (Media) to the President of the Senate, signed the document.
“I am pleased that we were able to pass the amendment, even though some people are unhappy with what we passed in the Senate and, most likely, the House of Representatives as well,” he said.
“When the majority of Senators voted against the immediate application or deployment of electronic transmission of results from polling units to wards, local governments, states, and the federal government, they didn’t say they didn’t believe in it (of election results)
The opposition party and a number of interest groups have slammed the move, claiming it is an attempt by the ruling party to deceive the public and stay in power beyond 2023.
The current squabble follows a series of failed attempts to pass an electoral amendment bill. President Muhammadu Buhari has vetoed the bill three times.
It was first rejected in March 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari, who claimed that the proposed law would usurp INEC’s constitutional powers to decide on election matters, such as election dates and order.
In 2018, he rejected it once more, citing “some drafting issues” that had not been addressed since the Bill’s previous revisions. When the bill was rejected in December 2018, Mr Buhari said that passing a new bill with elections approaching could “create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.”
However, the bill was reintroduced in the Ninth Assembly. The lawmakers included an electronic transmission of results provision in the new bill, which was a major recommendation from Nigerians.
The ruling party’s excuses appear to have failed to appease the Nigerian public, who are quick to point out that the ruling party rose to power on the back of electoral reforms spearheaded by President Goodluck Jonathan and former INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, which saw the electronic capture of data and the introduction of the card reader, both of which significantly reduced electoral fraud by discouraging vote buying.
They claimed that since the APC came to power, Nigeria’s electoral process has deteriorated. Many even mentioned the humiliating last-minute postponement of the 2019 presidential election, as well as the numerous inconclusive elections and numerous court cases. Analysts have predicted that, with the President’s term ending in 2023 and the ruling party’s obvious desire to retain power, Nigerians should not expect much from the President in terms of an electoral legacy that can compete with that of his successor.
Despite the odds, INEC continues to make progress.
Even before the controversial recent electoral amendment act, which subjected its authority to the National Assembly and the NCC, INEC has expressed its willingness to conduct future elections using electronic voting machines. It was said to have examined several electronic voting machines displayed by more than 50 companies and was hoping for a change to the existing legal framework that would allow it to conduct electronic voting.
INEC stated that it was committed to introducing electronic voting machines into the electoral process to replace the manual system that had put the commission under a lot of logistical stress, such as printing ballot papers and hiring thousands of ad hoc staff, among other things.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission would deploy electronic voting machines very soon, possibly starting with the Anambra governorship election scheduled for November this year, during his 2021 budget defense before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters on November 4, 2020.
Mahmoud claimed that the country’s elections were too manual, expensive, time-consuming, and archaic. “The impediment of full technology deployment in elections should be removed,” he added.
“It’s difficult to say how much it will cost or when the process will be completed, but we are determined to use electronic voting machines and electronic balloting machines in our elections as soon as possible, possibly starting with the governorship election in Anambra in 2021.
However, the electoral body is hampered by the lack of statutory support for electronic voting: “The current law is the 1999 Constitution, from which the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) derives its legitimacy.” Voting in an election by electronic means is still illegal under the current set of laws. It will stay that way until a new law is enacted.
“An amendment to the Electoral Act is currently being considered. The final product’s appearance is unknown at this time. We all want change, and the Commission has been working with two National Assembly committees to bring about the change we all want. But we won’t know for sure whether electronic voting will be used in the 2023 general election until the amendment process is completed and the president has given his approval.”
However, even in the absence of such legislation, INEC has used the e-voting system in the past to demonstrate its readiness to address the majority of the obstacles to credible elections in Nigeria. The governorship election in Edo State last year and the recent local government elections in Kaduna State are both good examples.
While the National Assembly has yet to pass a law specifically requiring the electoral body to use electronic transmission of results for the 2023 election, the passage of the amendment has included it subject to certain conditions, it is clear that the e-voting debate is far from over.
What Will People Remember About the APC?
President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office is coming to an end in less than two years, and there is no better time than now to write his name in the annals of Nigerian history as a statesman and democrat.
The ball is now in APC’s court. The President is expected to do everything possible to keep the country in the good graces of the international community, as there appears to be a steady decline in trust in the country’s democratic development.
This is possible if President Muhammadu Buhari, who has reached the pinnacle of his political career and has nothing more to give Nigerians than a legacy that will last a lifetime, decides to do so.