By Michael Oche
Because it is Easter season, I will begin with the analogy of Jesus Christ as recorded in Luke 23:23.
In that Bible scripture, we saw how the mob demanded that a well-known thief and murderer, Barnabas be released and a good man, Jesus Christ who had been going about doing good, be hanged.
I consider this analogy very important as it relates to the conduct of the 2023 General elections and the consistent attacks on Prof Yakubu Mahmoud, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
We have heard a lot of people, especially supporters of the Labour Party call for Mahmoud to be hanged because according to them, this the worst election in the history of Nigeria. And I actually have been reflecting in my head; what could be the basis of that?
The allegations against the INEC chairman Mr Mahmoud really hinge on 2 things:
1. He didn’t upload election results in real time.
2. He should have cancelled the whole election
Let me begin by saying it appears that in the post 2023 general election discuss, truth is a casualty, knowledge is a crime, and any attempt at reasonable dialogue is shutdown. This is unfortunate.
I will also admit that I do not know the INEC chairman personally. The only time I have seen him is on national television. However, my concern is the need to protect our public institutions and encourage public servants who demonstrate courage and have shown commitment to nation building.
If we all go “mad”, Nigeria stands the risk of discouraging good men from occupying public office for fear of the mob. This is my interest in this matter.
I may not have the biggest following on social media like Falz or Mr Macaroni, nor do I have a global audience and good command of English Language like Chimamanda, but many of us have allowed politicians and their supporters who lost the last election to express themselves and pour out their emotions. However, propaganda has its limits. At the end, truth cannot be silenced.
It will be unfair and posterity will hold us responsible people with knowledge of election processes, allow politicians to hijack the conversation with misinformation. The media trial of Mahmoud is enough.
It is time to separate emotions from reality. My idea of this article is to bring out some salient facts, devoid of emotions and hope that we can take a critical look at the issues as it concerns the conduct of the elections.
It is important to establish that no politician goes into an election contest with the hope of losing. It is for this same reason that Kwankwaso refused to step down for Peter Obi. And Peter Obi also moved from the PDP to the LP. Politicians are known to be unrepentant optimists.
It is also important to establish that politicians usually hire PR specialists who are efficient in propaganda to lauder their image and tarnish opponents during elections. Every serious politician does this.
Unfortunately, as part of that propaganda, gullible citizens are fed with misinformation. The saddest part is politicians taking advantage of the ignorance of citizens in order to destroy the institutions. Personally, I do not consider this as smartness, it is just sheer wickedness.
The question to ask yourself is; are you being used by politicians to drive an agenda? Do you have all the facts of the matter being discussed? Are you willing to listen to alternative opinions?
These are salient questions to ask. I do not seek to question your patriotic zeal towards a better Nigeria. But you must ask yourself, if that patriotic zeal is being taken advantage of by politicians.
This kind of scenario is not synonymous to Nigeria and Nigerians alone.
Millions of supporters of Donald Trump still believe he won the 2020 election. And they will bring lots of “evidence” to back that up.They also believe they’re the true patriots, true lovers of America. The love was so strong they invaded the US Congress to stop a Biden Presidency.
They wanted to “take back their country” from evil liberals and their corrupt backers aka the establishment aka the swamp aka corrupt media.
While it is true that many supporters of a political party are patriotic citizens who genuinely wish to see change, it is also true that many Nigerian politicians had no clear cut path to victory and have rely solely on the old method of attributing their failures on their perceived enemies, which is often the Electoral umpire. This is very pathetic.
This kind of wholesale condemnation of the election is founded on ignorance, ignorance of history, ignorance of election processes.
And most importantly, the data disagrees with such assertion. Where are we coming from?
As a country, we have made tremendous progress in our elections. I’m not to young not to remember that there was a time when election results were written in hotel rooms or where you could be voting and results of the same election were being announced in Abuja.
We are coming from a place where incumbents don’t lose elections and governors who have done 8 years retire to the Senate.
But it was in this 2023 election that the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr Donatus Mathew, an okada rider, was declared winner of the Kaura federal constituency of Kaduna State. It was in Abuja that the election of Alex Otti was reviewed before he was declared winner. How do you convince these two that their victory was a sham.
It was in this election that the National Chairman of the ruling lost his election, serving governors lost senatorial bids and President Muhammadu Buhari lost his state during the presidential election to the opposition PDP.
For those who want Mahmoud hanged because INEC didn’t upload election results in real time, curiously, this writer would like to know if any of the presidential results later uploaded on the iReV differs from what was recorded at various polling unit also if the figures collated differs from the wards, LGAs & States collation centers.
There is also a reason why the PDP and LP are actually not contesting the declared results. But instead fuelling social media propaganda and claims of rigging.
In Peter Obi’s own word, he admitted that “we are not contesting the outcome, we are contesting the process”
Is this not curious?
Unfortunately, many of the comments that have followed the announcements of the election are borne out of propaganda from political exposed persons or ignorance from many followers who do not really know much about election processes.
So, what is the truth?
Result transmission process in Nigeria is manual. It is not electronic as being misunderstood by many. It is Manual in the sense that once the results are collated and announced, it is entered manually into a form EC8a, and handed over to party agents and security. And if the media is interested, they can also get a copy before it is captured and uploaded into IReV.
So this IReV is just an auditor. If the result that has been produced from the polling unit and taken to the collation centre is not matching with what was brought, the returning officer can refer to IReV; if there’s a dispute. If there is no dispute, then it is not important to go to the IReV.
This is why every serious political party is expected to have a situation room where results of all its party agents are collated.
Few days to the Presidential election, National Chairman of LP, Julius Abure said the party has accredited agents in all polling units for the 2023 general elections.
He told a news conference in Abuja that contrary to social media reports that Labour Party has only 40,000 poling agents, the party actually has more than 134, 874.
Recall also that the African Democratic Congress (ADC) collapsed its structure to support the presidential ambition of Peter Obi, the LP presidential candidate. In the process, it increased the polling unit agents by another 96,043. As a result, the Obi-Datti campaign movement had 230,917 agents to monitor activities at polling stations across the country on election days.
This number there implies that the Labour Party has polling agents in all or at least nearly all the 176,000 polling units across the country.
The second allegation is why did INEC fail to upload results in real-time.
Truth is there was a glitch on election day as results were being transmitted in real time. There were fears that the iRev portal may have been hacked which forced the ICT unit of the commission to pull the plug on the IReV portal.
Days later, the results were uploaded. While it could genuinely be argued that INEC failed to keep its promise of real time transmission, is it not curious that the parties have not clearly come to present the computation of results from their situation room?
The truth that the political parties are not telling their supporters is that INEC results substantially tallied with the figures arrived at by some international non-governmental organisations.
Indeed, the transparency in the electoral process introduction by Mahmoud has allowed many Nigerians to become stakeholders in the process.
It is under this INEC that for the first time, against the wishes of politicians, Nigerians were able to access the voter Register online, which helped the commission to rid child voters and double registration
It is still under this INEC with the introduction of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 election for the first time ever indeed helped to ensure that only duly accredited voters could vote.
It was now no longer possible for party agents in collusion with unscrupulous electoral officials and security agents to simply thumbprint ballot papers and stuff ballot boxes in favour of certain parties and candidates. This is one of the reasons for the significantly lower vote count in this election relative to previous elections where millions of votes, substantially imaginary, were allotted to parties in various state constituencies.
One of the saddest part of the post election commentaries is seeing people who were very far in the thick of action or who have little knowledge of the election process relying on social media propaganda to reach conclusions.
The second offence of Mahmoud is why did the INEC chairman not cancel the whole election.
In truth, INEC collation of results was not suspended because the glitches experienced did not affect all the results already transmitted through the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
Despite all the talk about massive rigging, the Labour part is only contesting the results in Rivers and Benue state. Which means in the other states they admitted that the declared results were correct.
Many also talked about violence, suppression of votes. Yes, all of those things happened. But INEC does not control the police and security agents.
It is also important to remember that we have 176,000 polling units. So in talking about violence, it is important to say that in 176,000 polling units across the country, how many polling units were affected by the violence, and the voter suppression.
I will end by quoting what Jesus Christ said in Versus 28 of the same Luke 23. He said; “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
While it appears that INEC seems the easy target to lay the blame of failure on its doorstep, it is instructive that Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso broke away from the PDP to contest the election on the platforms of the LP and NNPP respectively. Had the PDP contested the election as one with Obi and Kwankwaso in its fold, winning the election would have been an uphill, almost impossible, task for the APC. But contesting on three separate platforms against the ruling party as they did, the victory of the APC was logically and empirically inevitable.
Versus 47 of the same Luke 23, states; When an army officer saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly, this man was innocent!”
Oche is a journalist based in Abuja