Fresh figures of voter registration trigger fear of electoral manipulation

Posted by News Express | 4 July 2022 | 1,062 times

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•INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu


Following the huge figures being recorded in the ongoing voter registration in parts of the country, there is growing fear that the 2023 general elections may be manipulated.

According to disturbing reports from parts of the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is being accused of mismanaging the on-going voter registration and this may provide a leeway for unscrupulous politicians and political parties to manipulate the voting process.

There are reports of under-aged registration, registration of persons from neighbouring countries to swell the votes of some parts of the country, just as transfer of voters and errors have manifested.

 Bishop Funso Awe, the 2019 governorship candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), one of the respondents maintained that in talking about possible manipulations in the 2023 general elections, there is need for people to look at the voting pattern in Nigerian elections.

Awe, Bishop of the Orthodox Anglican Church, Lagos Mainland Diocese, stressed that the country now has a voting history of 24 years and as such can chart the voting pattern.

According to him, “We can even chat out the total number of registered voters or real voters. The ratio of registered number of voters and the actual voters is 60:40 in a lot of areas, if not less. So, it is either some people register where they cannot vote or in areas like Lagos where there is serious movement or relocation of individuals from where they reside, when they register on the day of elections, thereby they cannot vote.

“Some people register in the villages, move down to the city far from the point of registration,” he said, adding that the real Nigerian politicians are not usually bothered about the upsurge in voter registration as they have always known how to vote for people who did not vote.

 He stressed that “Upsurge or no upsurge, there will be manipulations. The members will not stop it. Even in the last US election, there was rigging. Even several days after the election, people were till bringing in votes.”

On his part, Lagos lawyer, Barrister Emeka Iheonu, stated that the fear of poll manipulation in 2023 is real, adding that despite the huge figures, the only way the forthcoming elections will be manipulated is via vote buying and bribing gullible INEC officials and electoral officers.

He stressed that “From all indications, there will be an increase in ballot snatching and violence during the elections so as to prevent honest and genuine candidates.”

Tony Ademiluyi, another public affairs analyst, said that census, even before Independence, had been a highly contentious and controversial issue.

 According to him, “a huge population is surreptitiously tied to electoral victory, which is the only leeway to sharing the booty, popularly called the national cake. The huge figures being recorded in the ongoing voter registration is highly commendable as most elections, even the last one in Ekiti, are always marred by voter apathy.

“However, the polls would definitely get manipulated as each geo-political zone battles to present huge population numbers. “I saw a video where a 20-year-old from Niger said he had voted thrice.

The 2023 polls will get manipulated by unscrupulous politicians as politics is the most lucrative venture in the country. INEC can guard against this by ensuring that the accurate figures are truly reflected to avoid a conflagration in the highly tense polity.

“The machines must work optimally and top notch security must be there to avoid ballot box snatching,” he explained.

Bishop Dr. Basil Bernard, a cleric and commentator on national issues, stated that, “Yes, I see the fear of electoral manipulations as real because Nigeria has a history of dodgy politics and elections. No credible election has been held in Nigeria. This is why our electoral matters after the elections always end in the law courts.

“The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, in his sincerity after he took over the mantle of leadership in 2007, told us that the election that brought him to power was rigged for him by the Obasanjo government.

“All forms of election offenses manifest in our elections such as rigging, thuggery, vote buying, and ballots snatching, etc. In Nigeria, we practice politics of power acquisition and decision making.

“Those in charge do not allow the votes to count. Our kind of politics has always been for sale and the money bags always lay hold to it. What happened during the party primary elections a few weeks ago is a prelude to what they will do during the main elections.

“What INEC should do to guard against poll manipulation is to make up their mind first and then stand with Nigerians in sincerity, at least for the first time, to make sure the votes count, especially now that we are talking about direct transmission of election results.

“We are pleading with INEC to explore the best option to make sure the 2023 poll counts, especially now that our youths have caught up with the political revolution we have been preaching to them for several years as leaders of tomorrow. Pastor (Dr.) Victor Mathew, Executive Director, Kingdom Advocacy Network, acknowledged that indeed there is an upsurge in the number of people seeking registration for their PVCs,” he said.

Pastor Victor, State Secretary, Directorate of Politics and Governance (DPG), Lagos State, explained that generally in Nigeria, there is voter apathy because progressively from data available, the number of people who vote in general elections has been going down.

According to him, the North votes massively more than people down south, adding that Nigeria has a high youth population which before now, has not been involved in the political process.

“From what has been observed, the youths are the ones driving this upsurge in registration. On the issue of fear, there is always in the mind of Nigerians that INEC always works for a certain vested interest.

“But I strongly believe that people have become more enlightened and sophisticated politically. INEC has pledged to conduct a free, fair and credible election, I believe INEC will not compromise the elections.

 “The citizens must frustrate any effort to compromise the elections. The people must be very vigilant, not engage in vote selling,” he said.

Engineer Ibezim Agunegbe, also a public affairs analyst, said: “The main issue here will be if the electoral umpire will be unbiased. As long as the INEC, as an institution, decides to do the right thing, manipulation will be minimal. The onus is on INEC and the legacy Buhari is trying to leave behind.

“My main concern is Lagos State. I see a situation that on the presidential election day, the ruling party may send out thugs to disrupt voting in areas suspected to be mainly for other ethnic nationalities as more than 40% of the registered voters are not Yorubas.

“This is why we need to start sensitising against at the national level and security agencies, if non-partisan, could easily control this time bomb,” he added.

 Also, Comrade Aluh Moses Odeh, National Leader, All Middle Belt Youth Forum (AMBYF), in his contribution, said: “I don’t think there is anything to fear about the surge in INEC offices for registration at all. It is passing a message that Nigerians are now politically wiser than before and want to participate actively in choosing who they will entrust their futures in his hands.

“It is unfortunate some Nigerians are experts in expressing fear over everything, is it not voter apathy that gives room for manipulation? “So, why the fear of possible massive turnout on Election Day? This is the handwork of mischief makers to weaken the electorate and also to undermine the new Electoral Act.

“Proper enforcement of the law matters, too, reason I want INEC to live up to its responsibility and redeem its image by ensuring those grey areas, which are late arrival of sensitive materials, voting into the night, malfunctioning of the card readers which they said will be replaced with BVA, etc, should be looked into.

 “In fact, INEC knows what to do to earn applause from Nigerians. Take a look at what is happening after a presidential candidate defected from his former party,” he explained.

Another commentator, Dr. Andrews Okhirebhu, in his detailed explanation said, “First, it is a welcome development, though long awaited, as that is as it ought to be. Seeing this new development is something that should be applauded.

“The question is: Why the growing fear of a thing that should bring joy and encouragement? To be sincere, this very question can only be judiciously answered with corresponding questions, looking back at the record of the politics and electioneering in Nigeria.

“Has it been free and fair, indeed? Has the conducting umpire lived and acted with credibility each time? Have the political players been in order in the politicking activities in the past years? These are questions that must be answered first to douse any emerging and growing fear of political manipulations, and other negative vices in spite of what seems to be a new political order, with the massive turnout at voter registration.

 “Frankly, with what we are seeing and hearing of the increase in voter registration, what can we say are the motivations? How tenacious would that hold in the long run? “Now, is there any inner awakening and political enlightening as against the religion and ethnic biases over the years that the despicable politicians use as their last cards for their die-hard desperation game of do-or-die political adventure, which has plugged the nation into the middle of the sea of nowhere?” he said.

Shakirudeen Olofin, a leader of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) in Lagos State, stated that “Let me start by saluting the great Nigerian youth for living up to expectations. The large turnout of Nigerians at various PVC registration points is an indication that it will not be business as usual.

 “Let me allay your fear. The social media explosion has changed the political dynamics. INEC has promised immediate posting of results online from all the polling units. This will work against election manipulation.

“The fear I am seeing in the forth-coming general election is huge vote buying. Let me use this medium to call on an average Nigerian youth to hold their destiny in their hands by shunning vote buying and also preventing such ugly incidence in their polling units.

“INEC, political parties and social media influences and the entertainment industry should see the campaign against vote buying as their own contribution to birth a New Nigeria that we all can be proud of in the comity of nations.

“The 2023 general election results would be a repeat of the June 12, 1993 election where virtually all Nigerians of voting age participated in the exercise. God bless Nigeria,” he explained.  (Daily Independent)

Source: News Express

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