Posted by TONY MOMOH on
MAURICE Iwu, INEC chairman, must have closed his eyes as his vision to cure our electoral HIV/AIDS floated across the screen of his mind.
MAURICE Iwu, INEC chairman, must have closed his eyes as his vision to cure our electoral HIV/AIDS floated across the screen of his mind. He told The Guardian reporter, "I would like to be remembered as the INEC boss who conducted a free and fair and generally accepted election.." He wants this feat to be achieved through the Electronic Voting System (EVS). This is not just a machine, but a package of which the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can be part, and should be part, if the National Assembly accepts the proposal. Four components make up the EVS - the register, the validation method, the balloting instrument, and the rapid transmission of the result coming out of the election. The INEC boss says they have been working on these areas, perfecting strategies to ensure that all loopholes that had been conduits for robbing the ballot are plugged. The register is electronic and only the names that are right there can register on the voting machine. You cannot have any double or triple outings with the voter’s card. If you push the button when you have done so earlier, the machine will disobey your illegal order!
My first worry about the electronic register is whether its absence can stop elections or make them invalid. We had no register when we conducted the 2003 elections. Or had we? Even if we had, what use did we make of the register when the private homes of party leaders were the venues for thumb-printing ballot papers! Yes, in urban areas, people were right there on queues for election observers and cameramen to behold and record as proof that elections were held and were peaceful. But what happened in rural areas, which form more than 60 percent of the population? How many of them saw INEC officials and how many of them voted? Even those who voted, how many of their votes were counted and how many of the votes constituted part of the results that made some to win and others to lose? I was right there in the field in April, 2003, and when I saw what was happening, I recalled what my then local government area party chairman had told me in November, 2002 -- that elections had been concluded in the South South! He was right, for how would results have emerged from remote corners of the zone, even before those in the cities were declared? How did the results giving Lagos to the ruling party get on the internet? Why was Kano in turmoil when there were instructions that the results be declared for the ruling party? How come that many in the South West continue to claim that they saw more bullets than ballot papers?
I do not want to discourage Maurice Iwu. Dreams can be fulfilled in spite of the machinations of evil men, especially if God has a programme for the people. It is with this mindset that I believe in Iwu’’s dream. The Holy Spirit’’s time is NOW and spiritual warriors are all over the place, striking all heads that refuse to bow to the Will of the Almighty. My analysis is therefore, understandably, focused on this side of the Divide. I am not in doubt about what awaits those who have held this country to ransom. I am not in doubt. But we must descend one or two steps down the ladder of fulfillments and meet the shortsighted on their turf, the very earthly which has a life span! So, they shall know. They shall soon know because the times we are in are not patient with evil men. But dealing with Iwu on his terra firma turf, if we had elections without registers in the past, why can’’t we have elections without registers in the future?
Maurice Iwu’s next vision is the validation method. Validation of what? Let me stop there before I become angry with the past. Did Guobadia not validate elections even before complaints came in? He told everyone that those who were complaining about abuses of the ballot were bad losers! And he had not even heard from his men who were in the field and had to file reports of the abuses that were inexcusable. Or was Guobadia taken into confidence that Nigeria was going to be invaded and conquered for the ruling party by men to whom we handed deadly weapons which could not be recovered and are now being used to terrorize both the guilty and the innocent?
The balloting instrument is the machine that people have been very suspicious of. I have been looking at the different machines in use in different countries and it would seem that the type we are ripe for, and which is less sophisticated, less problematic, less amenable to manipulation through programming, and less expensive is the type designed by and in use in India. An internet piece explains it all as follows: The Indian Electronic Voting Machines were designed and developed by two Government Owned Defense Equipment Manufacturing Units, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL). Both systems are identical, and are developed to the specifications of Election Commission of India. The System is a set of two devices running on 6V batteries. One device, the Voting Unit, is used by the Voter, and another device called the Control Unit is operated by the Electoral Officer. Both units are connected by a 5 meter cable. The Voting unit has a Blue Button for every candidate. The Control Unit has three buttons on the surface, namely, one button to release a single vote, one button to see the total number of votes cast till now, and one button to close the election process. The result button is hidden and sealed…… The System accepts only 5 votes in a minute. The Indian Election process is distributed in such a way that there are never more than 1500 voters for a single polling booth. So, even if armed men capture the polling station, they cannot cast 1500 bogus votes in less than 5 hours!
In spite of the guarantees given on the secure nature of the machines, many are not impressed. They just do not trust INEC. The last component of the Electronic Voting System is the rapid transmission of the results. Nigerians say there cannot be any transmission faster than the one of 2003 when results were right there on the internet before elections were over. Everything boils to the mindset of the Nigerian who knows that elections in his country are the political equivalent of war, and all is fair in battle. If we have made politics more paying than any other business, as proved by the mountains of reports showing how our leaders have been acquiring blood money (how else can you describe the robbery that denies orphans their meager meals?) the challenges posed by Iwu’’s dreams can be stemmed. Professoor Maurice Iwu would have been abandoned on his bed where he had been hallucinating. But I am as optimistic as Iwu, looking at the global picture. If the Police can do what had not been done in 40 years, with their handling of the fuel hike march, then INEC can achieve what has eluded us since Clifford introduced elections into our body-politic in 1922. Let’s pray with Maurice Iwu.
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