Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has bemoaned the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, its chairman, describing it as archaic and primitive.
Speaking with Daily Independent, George said INEC should replace its current manual voting with the electronic version.
He argued that the current template being used by the electoral body made it easy for elections to be manipulated and results falsified.
Last Thursday, a High Court in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, sentenced a professor of Soil Science at the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Peter Ogban, who was the returning officer in the senatorial election in Akwa Ibom North-West in 2019, to three years imprisonment for manipulating the 2019 senatorial election results in the state.
Ogban, who has been standing trial since November, 2020, was convicted on the allegation that he manipulated the scores of two political parties, falsified and announced fake results in two local government areas of Etim Ekpo and Oruk Anam.
According to George, who is the Atona Oodua of Yorubaland, that wouldn’t have been possible if voting was done electronically as the results of the election would have been free from human manipulation.
He condemned a situation whereby INEC would be announcing results on national television and then proceed on a break to wait for electoral officers to physically bring in election results.
The former military governor of Ondo State said: “I want to plead to the managers of this country.
“The electoral process we are still running in this country under INEC is archaic, dead, and primitive and sounds like an old school mother’s doorbell. This is the 21st century where modern technology is available.
“After election has been conducted, why do we have to wait for people to physically bring results from one riverine area to the INEC headquarters? What nonsense?
“They will be announcing results and INEC will say they are going on a break because they are waiting for one professor to bring the result of a local government or state.
“Why should they be physically carrying results as if we are in the Stone Age?
“If we are doing diaspora voting, will they wait for one professor for three days to bring results from America or other parts of the world before announcing them?
“Look at the banking sector. If you have an account, when someone deposits money into your account, you get an alert.
“If you withdraw money, you also receive an alert. On the day of election, if you give them your PVC and they swipe it, it will show green, which means you are the one. Why can’t they do the same with voting and election results?
“Why can’t we vote by simply thumb printing for our political parties instead of printing and carrying ballot papers about?
“Wherever you are in this country, you should be able to vote by pressing the button and it will be registered.
“Security experts’ outfits will block any interference. They will say they are moving sensitive electoral materials.
“I am saying all this can be done electronically. You can have the hardcopy as a back-up but not this nonsense we are still doing and will still do in the 2023 elections.
“That is why all the results are fake and are subject to manipulations.”
Speaking further, George said the claim by Professor Yakubu that he had improved upon the achievements of his predecessors cannot be said to be true given the fact that elections are still being conducted manually under his leadership.
“The current INEC chairman keeps saying he has improved upon what he met and I ask, where is the improvement?
“Are we doing elections electronically? Did you see what happened in America during the last presidential election?
“Did you hear when Donald Trump was asking someone to overturn the results and add votes in order to favour him?
“The person bluntly told him it is not possible. The results are sealed and there is no human manipulation or intervention.
“If it had been a manual thing, Trump would have had his way. It may be possible here in Nigeria but not over there.
“Until we get to that level, we won’t get the benefit of democracy. We are just on the fringes now and whatever is going on is a mirage and falsehood,” he said.
However, responding to George’s claim, Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC Chairman, said the electoral body was only operating according to what is prescribed by the 1999 constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act.
He cited Section 52 (1b) of the Electoral Act which clearly states that the use of electronic voting machines for the time being is prohibited.
He said INEC was desirous of having electronic voting and that was why it was currently working with the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act and correct other anomalies visible in the electoral system.
“The voting and result declaration methods being used by the Independent National Electoral Commission at the moment were prescribed by the 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act. The methods are essentially manual.
“For instance, Section 52 (1b) of the Electoral Act clearly states that “the use of electronic voting machines for the time being is prohibited.
“In fact, Section 44 (1) states that the Commission ‘shall prescribe the format of the ballot papers which shall include the symbol adopted by the political party of the candidate’.
“That is why INEC is working with the National Assembly to amend the current Electoral Act to allow for electronic voting and correct other anomalies,” he said.