By Ussju Medaner
The February 25th elections have already taken place nationwide and Nigerians have trooped out to vote for their choice candidates.
But as it is, following the casting of ballot papers, reality is already facing everyone and every party in the face.
Relatively, and largely, it was a peaceful Saturday 25th February, 2023; a free, fair and keenly contested elections across the board.
So far, kudos to Nigerians, the electoral umpire and the security operatives despite a few reported cases of disturbances which were largely and promptly put under control.
It is up to all of us, however, as individuals and political parties alike, to conduct ourselves as compatriots and believers in legitimate processes, and as democrats as we have always presented ourselves. Election is a process and it behooves us all to allow the process to play itself out till it culminates into a nationally expected outcome, that is, the emergence of winners across contests and the continuation of our national lives.
It is wrong and unexpected of any individual who is ignorant of the electoral process and system, specifically, a political party that has governed the country for as much as sixteen years, to suddenly constitute itself as a disturbance and nuisance to the system. Apparently the Labour Party whose presidential candidate is a chip of the main political opposition is also towing the same nuisance behaviour which is uncalled for at this point in time.
This will not be accepted by Nigerians, and APC as a party frowns at it and would demand that we all desist from acts and pronouncements that could be inimical to the success of the 2023 elections and thereby lay waste the peaceful atmosphere we are already testifying of as a people.
When I said election is a process, I expect political organisations like PDP and Labour Party to agree with me and to know what the process constitutes and what rights and privileges they are entitled to as an organisation of the form they are. It is absolutely wrong and a manifestation of insensitivity to the nation for PDP to approve of its spokesman to utter instigating statements that are capable of causing unrest among the populace on the back of filtering results online that are unfavourable to it.
The Labour Party spokesman also has reportedly issued threats to INEC over what it considers delay of results and other sundry complaints that have clear resolution through the legally established processes without heating the system – except, if that is their aim.
The election process allows every party to present its party agents at each of the about 176,000 polling units across the country, which some organised parties like APC were able to supply(and believe PDP did too). The role of these party agents is backed up by the Electoral Act in Section 43. The party agents representing the interests of their principals and political parties are given the right to access confirmed election results of election at their respective polling units where they all operate on Election Day.
While on the part of INEC, the results from the polling units move ahead to the wards, local government collation point, the state collation center – that is, a four-part process or level – and ultimately to the National Collation Center in Abuja before formal results announcement are made, an organised, or if you permit me, a responsible political party would host and run a Situation Room where it connects with all its agents on the field and access all results as soon as collation and announcements are made at the polling units.
This will enable it to have a reasonable estimate and projection of the awaiting results and to determine the margin of errors as well. These results constitute an exit poll and the standard for a party to accept the finally announced results by the umpire.
Being in possession of your performance scorecard, political parties, including PDP have always flaunt their performances; we have seen PDP projecting areas where they have won and where they are doing very well, just like in Adamawa in this presidential election; we have seen everywhere on social media the results that are in favour of the Labour Party across Lagos State, the South-east, South-south and a part of the North Central including Southern Kaduna.
Why does it suddenly become wrong for elements in APC who are also enjoying the euphoria of the good jobs they have collectively done to brandish favourable results collated from polling units? Is it because the reality of the election results are unfavourable to your party? Or how can you joyously put the results from Adamawa and a couple of places where you are winning online and frown at another party supporters doing the same? Have you lost trust in the capacity of the same INEC you have been praising to high heavens before now to do its work?
I assume you should have access to all results from polling units across the country, as a responsible political party; and rather than preparing ground to instigate violence, wouldn’t you wait to see if the final results run afoul of the results from the polling units in your possession and take the legitimate legal route to address all discrepancies, if anyPDP must know that victory is sweet and no party can restrain voters from enjoying it to the fullest; they worked for it. They earned it.
Then, the Labour party did the most unexpected; calling for the cancellation of the presidential election. Why? The same election you claim you are winning just yesterday, and yet, to be canceled because results are not yet uploaded on INEC servers. It is appropriate that we have full understanding and interpretation of the Electoral law as applicable.
Section 62 of the Electoral Act 2022 says *
“(1) After the recording and announcement of the result, the presiding officer shall deliver same along with election materials under security and accompanied by the candidates or their polling agents, where available, to such person as may be prescribed by the Commission.
(2) The Commission shall compile, maintain and update, on a continuous basis, a register of election results to be known as the National Electronic Register of Election Results which shall be a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling unit results, including collated election results, of each election conducted by the Commission in the Federation, and the Register of Election Results shall be kept in electronic format by the Commission at its national headquarters.”
The Act did not talk of uploading from the polling units at any time; secondly, section 68 of the Act submits that “The Commission shall cause to be posted on its notice board and website, a notice showing the candidates at the election and their scores, and the person declared as elected or returned at the election.”
The implication of these is that INEC is not time bound as to when to upload election results. INEC would decide the appropriate time for it to do that and being conscious of antecedents of politicians who did in 2019 illegally access the INEC server and even swear to an affidavit to have illegally accessed the server to retrieve results they claimed to be authentic results of the election; and the fact that INEC is already dealing with continuous infringement on the same server in the last months( as reported in the media), it is understandable to all reasonable citizens as to why INEC would depart slightly from its practices in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun State in the current election.
It has been proactive and protecting the sensitive infrastructure from attack, and we are absolutely in support of INEC’s decision. Moreover, INEC Chairman has assuaged the public that results cannot be uploaded directly from the polling units because they must follow the four-part process mentioned earlier to strengthen the integrity of the results and the collation process. An organised political party and its handlers ought to know.
Perhaps, the organisation, Diaspora for Good Governance (DGG) is also ignorant of this healthy housekeeping by INEC when it hurriedly wrote to the US Secretary of State Blinke to compel INEC to immediately upload the results. In the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians, we must all as much as possible desist from rhetoric capable of instigating violence after such a relatively peaceful election as we had on Saturday 25th.
PDP and Labour Party and other unguided civil elements must be called to order; Nigerians would hold you accountable if your unguarded utterances degenerate into any form of post-election crisis. For the APC family, let’s hold on, wait a little bit more for INEC to complete its assignment. This victory is deservedly ours and we will have it to the fullest; but the time now is not the time to relax, it is the most critical time for us to be on the watch.
All assigned collation agents on assignment must become more sensitive to events around them. This is the time to give the election documents, the election officers and the opposition close marking to stop any attempted or further malpractice. We can’t allow inducement of INEC collation officers that could tamper with original results.
Let’s all complete the good works we have started.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!