New Telegraph

2023: The difference new Electoral Act will make

B y virtue of the 2022 Electoral Act which came into force on 24th February, 2022, Nigeria got a new legal compass to guide her electoral system and the nation’s politics. The 2022 Electoral Act brought with it changes which have been described as watersheds in the political history of Nigeria. Of all these changes, two are outstanding; and they are the Bimodal Voter Authentication System, BVAS; and the electronic transmission of results directly from the polling units to INEC result portals through a device known as Z-PAD. Since the enactment of the 2022 Electoral Act, patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians have been celebrating these two provisions for the many differences they can make in the 2023 general elections and in subsequent elections as long as they remain extant.

It is necessary to recall that the manual method of accreditation of voters and the manual or kinetic method of transmission of election results have literally been the weak links or breeding points/ enablers of rigging which is the ultimate aim of electoral malpractices in the entire Nigerian political and electoral system. It is the intention to rig elections or the bid to facilitate rigging that created the syndrome or menace of thuggery which grew and matured into a major or an outstanding characteristic of Nigerian politics as well as the albatross of democratic development in the nation and in many African countries. Over time, thuggery became rife in the Nigerian political environment and electoral system. In fact, in Nigeria, thuggery has graduated into a source of “employment” for our youths who see it as a profession!

Thugs are so influential within the polity that anyone who wants to succeed in his or her political career must either factor and budget for them in his/her political programmes or ignore them at the detriment of his or her political career. Nigerian politics has deteriorated to a point where thugs are rewarded with sensitive leadership positions like legislative seats across the tiers of government and even executive positions at local government, state and national levels. Some notable politicians like the present governor of one the states in the North Central geo-political zone of Nigeria has confessed that he started life as a political thug. This is not an isolated example. Many who sit in various capacities as elected or appointed administrators of public trusts rose to those enviable ranks through political thuggery.

At the moment, the soul of Nigeria like the proverbial grass is suffering in the titanic fight which the development of the country has become between the glorified thugs in public offices and patriotic or well-meaning Nigerians who want to repair the nation. For long, these thugs have held sway in the Nigerian political environment, but beyond the long teary nights, joy seems to be in the offing for Nigeria and the Nigerian citizenry through the Electoral Act! At this point, it is pertinent to ask: What roles did political thugs play during elections in the pre- Electoral Act 2022 in our political environment? As mentioned earlier, the major role of thugs was to facilitate rigging of elections. In doing that, political thugs created chaos and applied violence and threats.

They either cowed or maimed their targets at the points of the manual accreditations, sometimes during voting and mostly during the manual transmission of election results. The history of Nigerian elections is replete with killings and maiming of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), officials, voters, rival candidates in the election and their respective supporters.

In all the elections held so far in the present republic, killings, injuries, ballot box snatching, ballot paper snatching, massive thumb-printing or voting, disruption of voting, intimidation of voters and returning officers and falsification of results et cetera by thugs have been recurring decimals! These resulted in the incurable voter apathy on the part of voters who would not like to expose their lives and limbs to danger in the warfare which the exercise of franchise has become in Nigeria. The youths who have energy would rather invest their strength in the instantly-paying thuggery than exercise their franchise. That was how thuggery took over the electoral system and even the political environment.

However, with the new Electoral Act 2022, the 2023 general elections promise to be different. The elimination of manual accreditations and kinetic collation and transmission of election results through the introduction of BVAS and Z-PAD will render political thugs useless and eliminate thuggery in the Nigerian electoral system.

For the first time, results of elections shall be determined to a large extent by the actual votes and voting preferences of the Nigerian electorate. This is enough to say that votes shall ultimately count in 2023! With this development, Nigerians who have attained the age of franchise are hereby enjoined to register as voters, collect their respective voters’ cards and make effective use of the cards during the 2023 general elections. INEC is hereby charged to incorporate in her voter education exercise a notice to those who thrived on thuggery that there would be no need for their services in the 2023 general elections.

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