Former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has said Nigeria could not continue to lag behind as the whole world had started to adopt electronic transfer of election results as a veritable way of deepening electoral democracy.
In another development, Jega, has declared his membership of a new political party, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and advised Nigerians not to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 elections.
But both the ruling and opposition parties have responded to the statement credited to Jega. While the APC thought Jega’s outburst was wrong and untenable, the PDP insisted the ruling party and its president, Muhammadu Buhari failed the country.
Speaking on a television programme, Monday in Abuja, Jena said, “Increasing use of technology is global best practice in order to improve the integrity of elections. In Nigeria, we have tried to introduce the use of technology on an incremental basis.
“Most countries of the world are trying to improve the integrity of election, because the integrity of elections is key to deepening democracy and sustainable development,” Jega said.
“We started with the issuance of the smartcard readers and voters card. Then, it was upgraded to the use of the smartcard for verification. Clearly, the logical next step is to improve the integrity of the transmission of the results.”
According to the former INEC boss, “Countries that are not as developed as Nigeria even here in Africa are using electronic transmission of results. In Nigeria, we know that the easiest way politicians change results is when you begin to physically move the result sheets from the polling units to the ward collation centre up to constituency collation centre.
“They can waylaid officials or collaborate with crooked officials to change the results. So many of us were looking forward to ensuring that by the next electoral cycle in 2023, we will have another upliftment in the use of technology in Nigeria’s electoral process, which is the use of electronic transmission of results.
“To be honest, I was dumbfounded when I heard that the Senate had on the one hand under Section 50 (2) approved that INEC can use electronic voting but then under the same clause, said provided that there would be no electronic transmission of results.
“Electronic voting requires more infrastructure, not only technological infrastructure including electricity and other things. It is a bit more sophisticated than electronic transmission of results. The National Assembly should review that provision, because we need to go in the direction of electronic transmission of results,” he said.
Jega, who announced his membership of PRP, who spoke in an interview granted BBC Hausa and said, “Nigerians should dump the two parties, because of their bad antecedents over the last 20 years.
“Looking at their inability to change the economic fortunes of Nigeria for 20 years now, it is now apparently clear that they would not do anything even if Nigerians vote for any of the two parties again.
“We are hearing nothing. That is why I’ve since registered with the Peoples Redemption Party( PRP). I am now a PRP member looking for ways to help Nigeria.
“The APC and PDP have formed governments, we were all witnesses. They did not come with a good intention to make amends. If you look at the fight against corruption, all these corrupt people that were supposed to be prosecuted, sneaked into the APC.
“That is why we believe now is the time to establish a platform where every good Nigerian should join and contribute towards building the nation on the right path,” he said.
In his response to Jega, National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, in a statement said maligning the APC would not provide him a springboard to achieve his desires.
“While the PDP failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians as a government and opposition party, the APC is thriving, healthy and assiduously cleaning the massive mess left behind by the PDP, which failed to deliver democratic dividends to the people of Nigeria after being in charge of the country for 16 years.
“The APC is a strong, united, popular and focused political unit. Hence, the Professor should note the political lesson that maligning the APC would not provide him a springboard to achieve his desires. Nigerians are wiser and remain the ultimate judges.
“It is however instructive to note that having recently abandoned his academic pursuit and blindly plunged into the arena of PDP’s brand of politics, the erstwhile electoral umpire as a politician can make such political statements occasionally while trying to launch his political career in a mushroom political party,” he said.
But the PDP has cautioned Jega from further infuriating Nigerians by trying to dry-clean “the rudderless, inept and debauched All Progressives Congress (APC), despite the unbearable devastation the APC has brought to our nation in a space of six years.”
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said it was unfortunate that Jega, a professor of political science, could portray an ignorance of the manifest contrasts between the robust fortunes of the nation under the PDP and the wasteland she has become under the APC.
“Perhaps the Professor needs to be reminded of how the PDP worked hard to revamp our nation’s economy, paid off our huge foreign debts and went ahead to grow the economy to become the largest investment hub in Africa as well as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with Fitch B+ rating; only for the APC to wreck the economy and turned our nation into the world poverty capital and a debtor country in a space of six years.
“Today, under the APC and Buhari, these gains have been wrecked with massive closure of businesses, which saw over 60 million Nigerians losing their means of livelihood, with alarming 33.3 per cent unemployment rate and over 82.9 million more and about 25 million families not being able to afford their daily meals as our country ranks 98th out of 107 in Global Hunger Index, due to the obnoxious policies of the APC and President Buhari.
“Nigerians are already confronting the fact of the failures of the APC as well as President Buhari and would therefore not require a manipulative tendency of any individual seeking political relevance ahead of 2023,” the opposition PDP said.