The long-awaited Nigerian Presidential/National Assembly elections held on Saturday, were marred by sporadic shooting in some states in the north, killings in some states in the south and reports of card reader malfunctioning, ballot box snatching, arson and vote buying across the country.
According to reports by some civil society organizations that observed the polls in different parts of the country, at least 16 persons have been sent to there early graves.
In a particular polling unit in Okota area in Lagos State, some hoodlums alleged to be supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and members of Oduduwa Peoples Congress (OPC) stormed the polling unit, chased voters away and burnt the ballot papers to ashes.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, suspected hoodlums broke into the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Oriade local government area, State of Osun.
They reportedly first opened fire to scare away officials of the commission and party agents before seizing ballot boxes, thumb-printed ballot papers and setting them on fire.
The numerous security challenges that voters faced in some parts of the country despite the prompt action taken by the Acting Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, ordering a comprehensive, round-the-clock security in all offices and facilities of INEC nationwide and directing all commissioners of police in the 36 states and Abuja to put in place adequate, functional and purposeful security arrangements aimed at protecting all INEC offices and materials from all forms of crimes and mischief before, during and after the elections, beat our imagination.
As early as 3am Saturday morning, several voters had arrived at their polling stations to ensure that their ballots were counted in an election which is arguably the most keenly contested presidential election in the history of the country.
In some poling units, there was no sight of INEC officials as at 2:00 pm on Saturday while it was a case of shortage of voting materials in some places. This is unfortunate considering the fact that the said elections were postponed by one week by the election umpire to allow it make adequate arrangement for a smooth electoral process that will be devoid of logistics challenges.
It is now a fact that Nigeria spends hugely in every election cycle year. For the conduct of the 2019 general elections, N189 billion was approved by the senate for INEC. A larger chunk of this budget for the electoral management body could have been saved for other development projects, if only the head of the commission, members of the legislature, the executive and leaders of political parties can put on their thinking cap.
It is not a brain surgery to conduct elections. Why are we having difficulty conducting elections in the 21st century an era of technological explosion
Going forward, we believe that it is high time Nigeria adopted electronic voting in future elections. By adopting electronic voting, it will profit the country in so many ways. First, it will make voting processes easy for the voters. For instance, over 70 per cent of people of voting age in our country today have mobile phones. Each of these phones functions with a registered SIM card. Just the same way banks have portal which allows customers to do transaction online, the electoral body can link every voter through the Bank Verification Number (BVN). This way, the electorates can log in to INEC portal on election day , select a party of their choice and cast their votes.
For the fear of those who may be worried about how this system can work in senatorial, governorship, House of Representatives,state houses of assembly and local council elections, this is how it will work. During registration of SIM card, details of one’s state of origin, home address and local government area are obtained. With that, it will be difficult for anybody who is not supposed to vote in a particular state or local government to vote. It will also reduce the humongous cost of procuring electoral materials for elections. Furthermore, it will eliminate vote buying, thuggery, victimization and the use of ad-hoc staff and their training, which is capital intensive If Ghana, South Africa and other African countries can have effective and efficient electoral process that is less cumbersome, less expensive to run, Nigeria can do better.
As the most populous black nation in the world and the giant of Africa, we must rise above the crowd by legislating on a hitch-free electoral process that will help to deepen our democracy. The time to act is now!