The Presidential Campaign Council of the African Action Congress and our candidate, Omoyele Sowore, wish to express our dismay at the terribly poor performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the presidential and national assembly elections last Saturday, February 25, 2023. While INEC’s antecedents have inspired little to no confidence in the Nigerian electorate, Saturday’s performance was a new low and raises the question of whether the Commission’s serial ineptitude is due to mistakes or intentional and treacherous acts of collusion with corrupt politicians against the democratic aspirations of the Nigerian people.
With four years to prepare and a huge budget of N305 billion, the Commission’s scandalous performance in Saturday’s elections pushes the boundaries of ineptitude. Its actions suggest a more sinister motivation.
Distribution of election materials and the movement of its staff to polling units across the country were badly planned, if planned at all, and poorly coordinated resulting in disruptive delays, and on many occasions, canceled voting in numerous polling units nationwide. In places where its staff showed up, no provisions were made for their welfare, leaving many of them vulnerable to inducement by unscrupulous political operatives.
There were shortages of ballot papers, the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices, results sheets, and other essential election materials in numerous polling units. Many of its staff reported limited ballot papers for the election, and where ballot papers were available, the logos of some political parties were missing. These unacceptable inadequacies directly led to the mass disenfranchisement of millions of Nigerians.
Interestingly, despite INEC’s repeated assurances to Nigerians on the availability and role of the BVAS devices in ensuring the credibility of the electoral process from accreditation to the electronic transmission of results, the BVAS experiment turned out a monumental failure on electronic transmission of results. The Commission’s staff complained of their inability to upload and transmit results on the system at the polling units as it ought to be. This apparently deliberate malfunction opened the door for potential manipulation of election results on a massive scale as they transited from the units to the wards, and then to the local government collation centers. The failure to transmit the results electronically from the polling units was also a clear violation of the Electoral Act 2022, and already calls to question the legality of the elections.
We also observed the inadequate security for Nigerians as they went to the polls. In states such as Lagos, Rivers, and Kogi for example, political thugs threatened, intimidated, and in many instances, attacked Nigerians as they exercised their constitutional right to vote. Ballot boxes were snatched and destroyed, ballot papers were burnt before they could be counted, certain politicians invaded collation centers with thugs and security operatives in a bid to alter election results; overall , the general sanctity of the process was violated, sometimes with the active collusion of INEC staff and security agencies.
This is already the country’s most expensive election. When the dust settles, it might also go down as its worst ever.
We condemn the use of thugs to stifle the free expression of the democratic will of the Nigerian people. While we recognize that many of these thugs – including those who lost their lives while attacking their fellow citizens – are themselves victims of the corrupt politicians and greedy oligarchs who are the sole beneficiaries of the failed system in the country, we encourage them to join their compatriots in the task of national liberation instead of making themselves tools at the hands of their oppressors.
INEC must be careful because it’s shenanigans are clearly testing the patience of the Nigerian people. The results it proposes to announce in the concluded elections must reflect the votes and results recorded at the polling units.
Finally, it should be stated that INEC’s woeful performance is reflective of the crass ineptitude which has become the defining feature of the Buhari-led APC government. Therefore, whatever the outcome of these elections, the Nigerian people must be ready to assert and defend their freedom, and they can rest assured that the African Action Congress shall stand by them in that endeavour.
Onyinye-Gandhi Chukwunyere AAC Presidential Campaign Spokesperson