Salisu Mohd Lukman, Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) has commended the National Assembly for responding to the yearnings of Nigerians on the passage of the electoral amendment bill allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit Election Results electronically from polling units.
Lukman also applauded Nigerians and members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for embarking on a robust debate of the issue without which the outcome Electoral Act Amendment would have been different.
He acknowledged that the bill when assented to the law will significantly reduce manipulation of results by desperate politicians, enhancing the credibility of the electoral process.
“INEC will have the direct responsibility of transmitting all election results electronically. This would include developing all the technological infrastructure, procurement and installations of all the hardware and software as well as recruitment and training of all the personnel requirements for the electronic transmission of electoral results.
“No doubt, this is a groundbreaking decision given that the physical process of transmitting election results from voting areas to collation centres give space for rigging. Noting that since 2011, the introduction of card reader technology for voter accreditation has significantly weakened the capacity of politicians to inflate election results, which during previous elections produced voter turnout close to a hundred per cent of registered voters.
“If the new electoral amendment is passed, it should be expected that introduction of technology to the process of transmission of electoral results would similarly weaken the capacity of politicians to interfere or manipulate the election during the process of transmission of results”
In an opinion article titled: Internal Democracy in Political Parties and Prospects for New Nigeria, Lukman also noted that the aspect of the bill compelling political parties to adopt direct primary in candidates selection will enhance Internal Democracy within political parties and encourage citizens participation in the selection process.
At the moment, he observed that political leaders across party lines tend to prefer the indirect, delegate method as it allows them greater control over who emerges as a candidate, and cautioned that as long political leaders continue to narrow the political process to the contest for political positions, the problem will persist.
While he noted that INEC has made advancements in election management since the introduction of technology, he expressed concern that political parties have remained backwards in the area of party management, membership recruitment and participation.
“Notably, issues of membership participation especially during the process of selection of party candidates within political parties in Nigeria is a major source of national frustration, which is perhaps the rationale behind the October 12 Senate proposal to compel all parties to adopt the direct method of primary to weaken the capacity of some power blocs within parties from manipulating the internal process of candidate selection.
“The current dominant reality of choosing candidates for elections in virtually all political parties in the country is through the indirect method of using delegates in all parties. The critical issue of citizens’ participation in politics and how it leads to the difficult task of candidates’ selection is an issue that appears to be the cause of most of the frustration of Nigerians with politics.
“The decision of the Senate to propose an amendment to the Electoral Act to compel parties to use direct primaries to select candidates for election is informed by this reality.”
He said the “constant interest of virtually all politicians to gain an advantage by way of commanding some levels of influence” has not helped the issues and appealed to leaders of APC for a return to the founding vision of the party.
“There is the need to strongly appeal to all APC leaders to return to the founding vision of the party of ensuring that every member of the party is authorised as part of the internal rule to participate in the process of candidate selection for election.
“To achieve that will require the existence of verifiable membership record, which should be electronically preserved. The current manual analogue record must be upgraded to digital and computerised records with very competent officials managing it.
“Part of the appeal to APC leaders is that the process of electing national officers present a big opportunity to ensure that competent officers to run the affairs of the party, and not surrogates, are elected. Competent officers may not be attracted when the funding reality for the party is loosely defined.
“Therefore, as part of the compelling initiatives to return the party to its original vision, leaders of the party should conclude on issues of a membership subscription and specifically take every decision about sources of funding for the party” Lukman stated.