Before our democracy is electrocuted by electronic voting….

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On Thursday 15 July, at the final deliberations on the Amendment to the 2011 Electoral Act, the Senate, by a vote of 52 to 28, threw out the clause that should have guaranteed electronic transmission of results in subsequent elections. It was a vote that was strictly done on party line.
All 52 who voted NO were of the ruling party, APC, while all the 28 who voted YES were all PDP senators. The daggers were drawn by each party. No dissent was tolerated and every member present adhered strictly to the directive of their respective parties, even if the directive is at variance with the yearnings of majority of the people. The raging argument that the absentee PDP senators could have changed the outcome, does not hold water. Of the 28 absent senators,14 are APC, and 13 PDP, with Ifeanyi Ubah of YPP completing the 28 absentee senators. So, even if the 13 PDP absentee senators had been present, their maximum could have been 41, which is even less than the 52 APC who voted. The APC bared its teeth and had its way.
No member was given room to manoeuvre. The subsequent yarn by senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, to explain himself out of his voting stance, was just an academic exercise in futility and blatant disrespect to our collective intelligence. He voted NO and according to the presiding officer on the day of voting, the Senate President himself, Ahmed Lawan, the Senate had passed the bill. Hear him: “…..in this situation, the Senate has passed the Electoral Amendment Bill and we anticipate our counterparts in the House of Representatives will do the same. If there is even a minor disagreement between our version and theirs, a harmonization committee, the conference committee will be formed. If there’s no difference between what WE HAVE PASSED (emphasis mine) and what they will pass, then the Bill will be sent to Mr. President for his assent and the Bill becomes an Act”.

So, what was Bamidele talking about, that their voting was not the final stage. MOB was once a student leader and a human rights activist. He still wants to be identified as such – still fighting for the masses, even when he has since crossed the rubicon. Distinguished senator Bamidele, you did not commit any crime by voting NO. You were once a distinguished student leader and a fearless activist. But now, you have chosen a different trajectory in your journey of life. It’s not a crime sir. Just stay where you are, and stop playing to the gallery. On the day of reckoning, we will know where everyone is, not by their rhetorics but by their actions.

Now, as Senate President Ahmed Lawan implied, their counterparts in the House of Representatives had more than “a minor disagreement’. Their own debate was more tumultuous. Plenary activities were halted four times due to their disagreements, which at times even led to physical fisticuffs among members. Unlike the Senate where there was an apparent harmony between the President and his Deputy, the presiding officer at plenary in the House of Representatives, on the day, Deputy Speaker, Ibrahim Wase and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, appeared to be singing from different hymn pages. While Gbajabiamila tried to be diplomatic in dealing with the situation, Wase was more combative and was not ready to brook any dissent. At the end of the proceedings which split on to Friday, normally a non-meeting day, the PDP members had to stage a walk out in protest to Wase’s hardline stance. The House could not consequently passed its own version, leaving the whole bill in abeyance until the National Assembly resumes in September.

But why is APC oppose to electronics transmission of results? Their contention that many parts of the North cannot be covered by technology, is not tenable. There is virtually no where in Nigeria where telecommunication service provider has not reached. And where there is service provider, electronic transmission of any kind of data, is possible. That is why we have electronic transmissions of JAMB and WAEC results; that is why POS and ATM services are possible and available everywhere. So, why should that of INEC be such a rocket science impossibility? And why is APC concentrating its arguments up North? Are there no technologically inaccessible areas in the South? Are we to believe the insinuation in some quarters, that recording almost 70% of registered voters in sahel and Boko Haram areas like Borno and Yobe States, is due to ballot stuffing and rigging, while the savannah and relatively peaceful South, is recording less down 30% of registered voters on election days?

The present democracy is very fragile. One would have thought that the preoccupation of the ruling APC is to strengthen the fabrics of democracy. But day by day, their policy thrust seems to be a fast lane to armageddon. The rising cost of living, the dilapidated state of our roads, the sorry state of the health sector, the high rates of kidnapping, assassinations, banditry and all sorts of insecurities, as well as sectional and regional agitations, are not on the front burner of APC. The one thing that seems to give a ray of hope that there could be light at the end of the tunnel, a system that will offer more credible elections than we have now, is what APC is up in arms against. The APC may believe that they will ride the present storm, as usually is the case with us. We blow hot at the start but after a while, the whole thing dies down and we go back to our normal life until the next storm. But “one day”, as our elders put it. “monkey go go market, and him no go return”. Who ever thought that tiny ants can build gigantic anthills.

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