The much-anticipated 2023 General Election took off on a good note on Saturday, February 25, with the Presidential and National Assembly Elections across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory despite the initial fears of postponement.
While logistics challenges nearly marred the kick-off of the exercise in most states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) succeeded in breaking all odds to set another democratic process in motion, though with pockets of killings and violence characterising the first round of the polls.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances and over-reactions to the results being awaited, a smooth and seamless transition to another government is, therefore, underway as the Muhammadu Buhari Administration wraps off its eight-year tenure.
Without any iota of doubt, some good and very important lessons must have been learnt by the electoral umpire in the organisation and conduct of the general election as evidenced in the improvements that have been introduced into the system, especially in the use of technology.
Although it remains a controversial feature of the electoral process, especially with the inadequacies and failure in some instances, the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters, is a game-changer in the electoral process.
We recall vividly the controversies surrounding the effectiveness and integrity of the BVAS in the aftermath of the 2023 Osun State Governorship Election and the clarification made by the former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mike Igini, which has since laid to rest the fears expressed in some quarters about the reliability of the electronic device for the ongoing general election.
According to Igini, “The BVAS’s integrity remains intact…It has been under pilot in several bye-elections and a number of off-season elections before even the 2022 Act was signed on February 25, 2022. This is to tell you the journey that this BVAS has travelled, the mileage it has covered. The BVAS is a technology that has been used to put the Nigerian people at the centre of electoral democracy and put the candidates at the periphery on Election Day.”
We are glad that many Nigrians, who voted during last Saturday’s elections, actually confirmed the effectiveness of the device in enhancing the registration and accreditation of voters before the actual voting, though there were some hitches, which were quite unexpected.
The importance of the BVAS in the electoral process is such that the device became one of the targets of hoodlums and political thugs who attacked some polling units across the country during the Presidential and National Assembly elections. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, actually confirmed the loss of eight of the BVAS machines during attacks on polling units in Delta and Katsina States, adding that three of the machines were later recovered.
Nonetheless INEC still has a lot to do, given what transpired across the country during the first round of the elections. From the late deployment of personnel and electoral materials to inadequate materials in some areas, we make bold to say that Nigerians do not deserve the kind of treatment most of them were subjected to while trying to exercise their constitutional rights.
Some of the security personnel deployed to some polling units, especially policemen, unfortunately turned themselves into observers and collaborators of sharp practices, in some cases, instead of stopping the snatching of electoral materials and destruction of others in many states.
The last round of the process on March 11 with the State Governors and State Houses of Assembly Elections should therefore be another opportunity for INEC to put its house in order and get its act right. Nigerians expect a much more improvement in the conduct of the next phase of elections to make the whole exercise credible.
As one of the most expensive elections in the chequered history of Nigeria, we expect nothing less than a perfect delivery from INEC as the confusion and controversies trailing the exercise cannot be justified. INEC therefore has to step up its game to reassure Nigerians of its readiness to deliver free, fair and credible elections to Nigerians.