Most Nigerians would agree that the change in our political landscape we see today in our political landscape came largely as a result of the Card Reader technology. Professor Attahiru Jega, the immediate past Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) more than any single individual will be remembered for a long time for this novelty in our electoral process.
Jega’s courage, vision, independent mindedness and patriotism contributed innumerably to this new dawn and today we are better for it. But at another level, there are also those who believe that the innovation could not have come at a better time. They include the international community, civil society groups, the media, forward-looking politicians and ordinary Nigerians who had grown weary of decades of impunity and electoral fraud.
To these progressive minded people and groups, the modification in our electoral exercise was not only historic but also put paid to all the doomsday prophecies that preceded the elections. I personally commend this group of people who, I remember very well, were vociferous in their campaign and support for INEC and its officials all through those turbulent weeks preceding the election, particularly when the issue of the card reader became a huge national question.
Now that we have the card reader, having successfully returned Nigeria’s electoral conduct to a reasonable height, what then are we going to do with this technology? I think it is important to state here that the biggest asset of this wonder innovation is the fact that it authenticates a voter by matching the finger print with the code on the chip of the card reader. It does not stop there, it keeps records of all cards that have been read and verified.
This is why it is electoral offenders’ nightmare. It also guarantees proper accreditation of voters since it is designed in such a way as to completely eliminate multiple voting. Those opposed to the card reader claimed at the time that it had not been fully tested, and as such, could not be trusted.
I remember how a motley crowd of political parties joined the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to oppose the device, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) remained resolute in its insistence on the card reader. Sometimes, I just wonder where Nigeria would have been by now if the powerful voices of a minority amongst us had prevailed in those turbulent days! I am happy that it is now evident that the card reader, more than any other previous tool, eliminated ghost voters and significantly returned sanity to the electoral box during the last elections in many states.
The least we can do now as a people for posterity and national respect is to strengthen the electoral process. And energising the card reader should be the starting point of this radical and long-awaited reform. President Muhammadu Buhari definitely has his plate full but he must pay attention to electoral reforms for our votes to count in future elections. Personally I suggest he gives special consideration to the card reader as he begins this sanitisation process. We all know that the noticeable incompetence in leadership and flip-flop in government policies at all tiers come for the most part, from ineffectiveness of politicians who bulldoze their way to public office. But there is even the higher issue of national security which is always threatened anytime politicians engage in electoral fraud with impunity like what we observed in some parts of Nigeria.
In states like Akwa Ibom and Rivers where card reader was not deployed and where representatives were not credibly chosen, we all saw the massive violence and mayhem that eventually resulted in many deaths. The bottom-line for me is that Nigeria and Nigerians must resolve to completely wipe out double voting and other electoral malpractices if we hope to make that progress that we all seek. And those who engage in electoral fraud must not be allowed to go free; they must face the full weight of the law.
If offenders are not tried and adequately prosecuted, chances are that would-be offenders will be emboldened. I am always pained when people who have no business in public office foist themselves on the people, either on account of their violent nature or because of their connections with the high and mighty in the society.
This is why Buhari must show courage and patriotism now by dismantling all vestiges of impunity, criminality, violence and incompetence that are all too evident in today’s Nigeria. I am confident that under the Buhari-led administration, lawlessness will no longer have a place either in our political processes or even in our institutions. The signs are already evident but as citizens, we must continually draw attention to this collective challenge around our electioneering.
We must also insist on the right thing which must begin with the elimination of multiple voting and falsification of figures at elections. Nigerians, I must say, are watching developments in the country with keen interest. The mood obviously brings hope and trust in future elections and even in the ones that are currently being hotly contested in different tribunals by candidates who feel genuinely aggrieved.
– Tamunotonye Longjohn