The Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association, Ilesa branch, Mr Olayinka Sokoya, speaks on the implications of manual transmission of election results.
The President has promised that he will ensure that the elections are credible. Do you believe that he will deliver on his promise?
It is good that President Muhammadu Buhari has promised us that the elections will be free, fair and credible and we are taking him for his word. He should remember that if his predecessor did not create the opportunity for a credible poll, he (Buhari) might not have become the President. He owes Nigerians the duty of conducting credible elections. We pray and hope that President Buhari will keep his word and will not allow selfish persons to pressure him to do anything to the contrary.
Will the rejection of the election guidelines by the opposition parties not affect the credibility of the polls?
Opposition parties have rejected the guidelines because of some clauses they think would give room for manipulation. I think the Independent National Electoral Commission should be bold enough to do what is proper and that will be acceptable to all the stakeholders. It is good for the commission to ensure that all stakeholders see it as being fair and not taking directives from the ruling party. Insisting on the guidelines rejected by the opposition parties is laying the foundation for petitions at the election petitions tribunals. We should be thinking of having elections that will be free of issues after the exercise and that is when Nigerians and people outside the country will have confidence in our electoral system.
There has been outcry against the INEC’s plan to manually transmit election results. What is wrong with this method?
We have had many cases of manipulation of election results at various tribunals based on the allegations that the figures on Form EC8A (for election result at polling unit) changed while collating results at the ward or local government collation centre. This is so because the results were transmitted manually. If they had been transmitted electronically, the alleged manipulation would have been prevented.
To prevent this type of allegation, I think electronic transmission will be okay. The results will not be prone to manipulation if they are forwarded electronically. The allegation of manipulation was raised in the governorship elections of Ekiti and Osun states. Although the Ekiti poll has been decided at the tribunal, the Osun tribunal is still ongoing. You will recall that in the Osun State governorship election, election results were pasted on the INEC notice board and somebody went there to remove the document and tore it. The person was caught. But if the results had been forwarded electronically, that would not have arisen.
I think it will be a move in the right direction to have the election results transmitted electronically. We should learn from our mistakes and be ready to make necessary changes.
Will you say INEC has done the right thing with the adoption of simultaneous accreditation and voting?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that arrangement; I think it is okay. You can vote the moment you are accredited instead of coming back to vote after some hours. In the previous elections, where voting was delayed until all interested registered voters had been accredited, the number of accredited voters was usually higher than the number of people who actually voted. This was because some of the eligible voters would not come back to vote after they had been accredited. This new method will stop this practice. It will reduce the time wasted in the voting process as well as the stress on the part of voters. I also think it will encourage more people to come out to vote.
What is your view on the use of incident form for the elections?
That incident form, to me, will encourage electoral fraud. It should be expunged from the guidelines because it gives some people the opportunity to bring unregistered persons to vote. If you look at what happened in the past elections, you will discover that this was the opportunity used by some politicians to rig. Why should we continue to keep it? With the incident form now, some person will just bring a PVC to the polling unit and they will claim that the card reader is not working. And once there is such loophole to explore, you can trust Nigerians that they would explore it to the fullest and that will affect the credibility of the elections. To me, allowing the use of incident form is like rigging the election even before the Election Day. It should be expunged from the election guidelines because it will aid electoral fraud.
Some are claiming that the ruling party is behind the incident form. Will you blame INEC for the use of the form now or the ruling party?
It is true that some people are of the opinion that INEC is being teleguided on this by the ruling party; and it appears that INEC is being controlled with the way they are doing things. They are dancing to the tune of the ruling party instead of being independent. INEC should be truly independent without dancing to the tune of any political party or individual. That is what will make Nigerians and those outside the country to know that it is an independent body as its name suggests. – Culled from Punch.