2023 Presidential Election, Opposition Sour Grapes And A Section Of The International Media.
By Prof. Ojo Emmanuel Ademola
On Saturday, February 25, 2023, Nigerians trooped out en mass to exercise their democratic rights to elect a new President to replace incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. The election took place in over 170,000 polling units all over Nigeria and retched up a lot of emotions; partisan, religious and tribal which revealed the deep apertures existing in our multi-ethnic country.
The election proceeded smoothly and with minimal hitches at the various polling units. At this level, there was almost a unanimous agreement that the process was free and fair save for some noticeable observations of malfunction of BVAS machines, which were rectified and delayed the commencement of elections in some polling units until they were equally rectified. Sure, there were few reported incidences of skirmishes and minimal roughness, here and there but they were comparably few and insignificant as to affect the credibility of the election or mar its outcome. At this stage, almost all the contesting parties and observer groups, both local and international, agreed to this, and indeed confirm that Nigerians must be proud of both the process and the outcome of the election.
Polling ended peacefully nationwide. Collation commenced at the various polling units and results were tallied, declared at each polling unit and subsequently sent to the ward collation centres. Note that at these polling unit collation centres, all the various party agents handled a truly certified and fully endorsed copy of the result sheets, signed by all verified party agents. Essentially, this process provides huge evidence of the exemplary nature of the election as it all ended peacefully as all the party agents signed copies of the verifiable outcomes.
At the ward collation centres, results from all polling units that make up the ward were tallied and the result entered into the ward result sheet signed by the party agents and handed to all the agents present at this stage. At the local government collation centres, the results from all the wards were tallied and entered into the local government result sheets, signed by all party agents and given to all participating agents of the various parties.
The state collation centres tallied all the results from the various local governments to arrive at the election results of the various states. Here, the results are equally entered into the state result sheets and signed by all the party agents who were given the result sheets. Evidentially, it remains an exemplary process where everything moved toward the epitome.
The National Collation Center in Abuja then calls on the various states’ Resident Electoral Commissioners and the State Collation Officers to present the results from their various states. At the national collation centre, the National Returning Officer who is usually the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) presides and his job is chiefly to call the State RECs and the State Returning Officers, who are usually Vice Chancellors of their respective university to present the results from the various states, with party agents and accredited observers participating. After each state presents its result, the entire state’s results are tallied to get the national election result and the INEC Chairman then declares the winner of the presidential election based on the results collated from all the states and Abuja, after taking all observations, complaints issues raised by party agents.
I have listed the progressive stages in this long, meticulous and tedious process to show how the electoral system in Nigeria works and to bring out these salient points:
a. That the main, most critical aspect of elections happens at the polling units, which is the basic and micro level where polling takes place and that results obtained at these units determine the winner of elections.
b. That reservations, objections, and complaints about the conduct of elections first emanate and are handled at the polling units and that based on satisfaction with how these complaints and objections are raised, party agents sign the result sheets.
c. That whatever happens at the other collation centres, wards, local government, state and national tallies with the outcome at the polling units and that noticeable alterations at each level after the wards are treated in respect of their veracity at the stage or level it is noticed.
d. That the National Collation Center is just to tally the results that have been compiled from the polling units to the wards, to the local government, to the states and the national collation centre is hardly a place to raise issues that occur at the polling units.
e. That depending on the capacity of each party, it is not impossible to know the results of a presidential election, a few hours after the conclusion of polls, as the results of each polling unit are endorsed and declared.
My reason for this detailed excursion is to expose the mendacity of the two opposition parties that are now making outlandish claims concerning the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
My intervention is equally targeted at a section of the international media, which gleefully jumped at the phoney claims by the opposition to thumb down such a meticulous process and perhaps the freest, fairest and most credible election ever held in this country. The penchant of a section of the international media to gobble any negative information about Nigeria, ostensibly to suit their pre-election Armageddon prediction for Nigeria, often leads them to jump at any sly effort by the opposition to rubbish the county as a result of their failed selfish projections and there was plenty of such dubious buy-in with the 2023 election. As the opposition parrot the selfish orchestra of a ‘rigged election’ without any scintilla of evidence, so did a section of the international media parrot the tale of a ‘flawed election’ without subjecting their report to minimal enquiry.
Let us note that the plank on which the opposition rests its wonky rigging charge was that election results were not uploaded directly on the INEC server from the polling unit, in ‘real time’ What a charge! The opposition parties (here, it is the two losing parties, the PDP and Labour Party that are marketing this rigging charge) raised the allegation of not uploading results at the polling units in real-time at the national collation centre, during the declaration of results from the states. By this time, they had the results from all the states so they know whether they won or not before coming to the collation centre. Of course, they knew they lost the election and were therefore determined to cause obstructions that they hoped would sabotage the process and throw up a diktat. The opposition tactics themselves raise pertinent questions; Why didn’t PDP and LP raise allegations of rigging at the polling unit, ward, local government and state collation centres? Why did they wait till the results get to the national collation centre before raising allegations that results weren’t uploaded to the INEC server?
Again, what actually does an electronic transmission of election results from the polling unit to the server actually contribute to the fairness and credibility of elections? Essentially, what is transparent at the polling units is indeed by efficacy transparent at the ward level right to the National Collation centre!
Are PDP and LP arguing that there were differences between the results they signed and collected at the polling units, wards, local governments and states collation centres? Is the difference in the fact that results were not uploaded to the INEC server as soon as they were declared at the polling units? If there were differences between results, why did the opposition parties not raise these differences at the earlier stages of collation?
These and many more are posers the section of the international media and other interests would have raised before magnifying the mischievous, dubious allegations of the opposition after they found out they lost an election that saw many people in positions to rig the election, losing their states and strongholds in a manner never witnessed in Nigeria before.
As has oft been emphasized, the courts are there for those who feel the election was rigged to expose such acts of rigging and possibly get a reprieve. In Nigeria, there are legions of instances where election results had been upturned at the courts so the two aggrieved losing parties, having reluctantly elected to take this course, should channel all their energies to proving these cases of rigging during the election. The courts offer the opposition the theatre to prove before the whole world how the 2023 elections were rigged and we eagerly await such exposure for the benefit of our democracy.
But then, why are PDP and LP so piqued by INEC’s failure to electronically transmit polling units’ results to the INEC server in ‘real time’? Why are their ludicrous charges of rigging anchored on this very thin, shaky and collapsible prop? An effort to interrogate this abnormal obsession will reveal an elaborate plot to hack and manipulate results uploaded to the INEC server, to produce dubious results that are different from the votes cast by Nigerians. Reports of the arrest of several people in various parts of Nigeria with cloned BVAS machines and other electronic accoutrements and the recent report that the INEC portal witnessed millions of attempts to hack it on election day, lends credence to this suspicion. INEC knew of this deliberate cyber attack strategy and decided that only declared, certified and endorsed results from the polling units are uploaded on the INEC server; not in ‘real time’ but after the declaration of such results. Indeed INEC has done that and this leaves those who are bellyaching over the failure of INEC to upload results in ‘real time’ to cross-check if the results they have tally with the results declared and uploaded by INEC. Who has any issue with this? Is the prejudiced section of the international media aware of this process and the underlying factors behind INEC’s refusal to upload results in ‘real time’ before they go to town with the pejorative narratives fed to them by losing and mischievous oppositions?
Are PDP and LP, with their obsession with electronic transmission of results ‘in real time’ justifying the popular opinion that the refusal of INEC to upload results ‘in real time’ frustrated their alleged robust plan to hack the INEC server and replace real election results with their fake versions?
It is even important to know that no law mandates INEC to upload election results from polling units ‘in real time’ as the mischievous opposition claims. A Federal High Court in January ruled that INEC cannot be compelled to electronically transmit election results from polling units. Indeed the court ruled that it is at the discretion of INEC to decide which collation method to use for the 2023 election. So how does failure to transmit results electronically from polling units to the INEC server, immediately after the announcement of results, amount to ‘rigging’, as the sly opposition claims or vitiate the outcome of the last election, as the equally sly section of the international media charge?
Knowing the desperation of some interests to tamper with the INEC server, INEC decided to manually collate the results at all levels and then upload the vetted results to its server. That way, each party has the privilege of endorsing the results at the polling unit, ward, local government, state and federal levels and getting copies of the endorsed results. Both the PDP and LP have copies of these results and their agents endorsed them and they are critical to their vow to challenge the results at the courts. So why the hullabaloo about INEC not uploading results ‘in real time’? Who are those behind the multifarious and desperate attempts to hack and compromise the INEC server?
So, let the prejudiced section of the international media shine their eyes (as we say in popular Nigerian lingo) and question the opposition’s inappropriate interest in uploading election results in ‘real time’ and juxtapose this against the many attacks on the INEC server on election day. The international community and its media should interrogate every propaganda from the Nigerian opposition before lapping on such to discredit a very credible election that recorded very many upsets as never ever seen in Nigeria’s electoral history.
So surprising that the opposition has no real and tangible pieces of evidence of infraction to justify their desperate negative campaigns against the election. The only ground they trumpet is that the results of the election weren’t uploaded to the INEC server in ‘real time’ which neither was an infraction to the electoral law nor does it signify any electoral fraud.
It is quite easy for the section of the international media that markets the jaundiced ware of the opposition on the 2023 election to hide their partiality in a nebulous and often dubious crusade for a ‘perfect election’ which itself is a utopia as no such thing as perfect election exists. The last United States election that was won by President Joe Biden, against former President Donald Trump is still in dispute today and has bred millions of Americans now fondly tagged ‘election deniers’ who emphatically believe that Biden didn’t win the election. So why should a section of the international media, bent on promoting the warped and deeply mischievous interests of the Nigerian opposition, hide under the nebulous demand for a ‘perfect election’ to demarket an election That was outstanding for the way and manner those who are in a position to rig the election, lost their strongholds?
Nigerians, including the mischievous opposition, know that the election conducted on February 25 remains our best so far. There was no report of ballot snatching; a notorious glitching that had defaced Nigerian electoral practice for several decades. There were no reports of vote-buying, of the scale that we are used to in the country:’s electoral history. The BVAS eliminated double or multiple voting as we used to know.
These and several reasons account for the shocking outcome of the election where both the President and the President-elect, with several governors lost in their states to the opposition. Surprisingly, the opposition PDP and LP are desperately tarring the election because they lost and unfortunately, a wing of the international media is magnifying their efforts. I advise the international media to get themselves educated on the Nigerian electoral process and electoral law, subject the last election to deeper scrutiny before they hawk the prejudiced opinions of those that lost the election and employ the same to tar a credible election, which, I repeat, remains the freest, the fairest and the most credible election ever held in this country.
Prof. Ojo Emmanuel Ademola.