Kaduna State made history today, Saturday, May 12 with the use of Electronic Voting Machine, EVM, in the conduct of its Local Government elections. Indeed, it scored two vital firsts, which should, if the options were available, launch it straight into the Guinness Book of Records; it became the first sub-national unit in the world to use electronic voting and the second place, after Namibia, in the African Continent to do so. Currently, there are only 10 countries among the world’s 193, (United Nations),where the system is in use. These include the United States of America, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Namibia and Philippines
According to reports, voters who had been sensitised on the new method, arrived polling units to cast their votes to elect Chairpersons and councillors for the 23 local governments in the state and did so with ease unknown to voting in this country.
There was no ballot paper, only displayed logos of political parties taking part in the polls. After accreditation, the voter walked to the machine, scanned the logos on display and pressed a preferred choice and the machine recorded it and printed out a receipt.
In Nigeria! To imagine that someone, somewhere had been thinking up this novelty while thugs and their paymasters been having a field day in all elections conducted in the country and more recently in many parts of the country where the All Progressives Congress, APC, ward and LG congresses have turned into battlefields, is to say the least, a wonderment.
A voter using the EVM
Governor El-Rufai who said he opted for the EVM to promote transparency and electoral integrity, not minding which party won the elections so long as the people became the final arbiter in the process, deserved not just praise but a national honour. With this stroke of insight, he has redeemed the poor electoral image of the country, where elections are manipulated and violated with impunity and connivance of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Commission’s recent prosecution of some of its Resident Electoral Commissioners and official’s for election rigging attests to the foul method deployed in the conduct of elections. Even its attempt to use Card Reader in the 2015 poll ended in a fiasco. They better hurry to Kaduna and learn a lesson or two from the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission, SIECOM, whose Chairperson, Dr Saratu Binta Dikko-Audu was said to have been instrumental in having the EVM installed.
She had reasoned out the method and suggested it to the governor who agreed and proceeded to get the lawmakers enact a law to support the system, the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission Law No.2 of 2018.
While commending the governor, the people, his lawmakers and electoral officials for this historic achievement, we urge the Federal Government, the National Assembly and the INEC to borrow a leaf from Kaduna State and see what can be done with the system and make the 2019 general elections a genuine one. If Kaduna can do it, so can Nigeria. The energy the NASS has been wasting on voting to re-order elections in 2019 should now be redeployed in this direction in their renewed pledge to revisit the failed first attempt. Kaduna SIECOM officials visited Brazil to learn how the system works, INEC should go to Kaduna at no cost.
Kaduna State, for a long time , has been troubled by crisis arising from ethnic and religious suspicion, power struggle between competing and quarrelsome politicians in that diverse state. State politics generally has played a major role in causing the crisis. Hopefully, the expected outcome of the election should justify its use and serve to bring the warring parties to talking terms for the good of Kaduna State.
What El-Rufai has demonstrated is instructive: You need democrats who have become so in their innermost intentions, political parties that are agents of mobilisation and education and a transparent voting system to get the country working. When people know they can elect their representatives, they become stakeholders in the system, they become citizens and genuine followers of leaders who feel obligated because they know where their powers lie. When violence, do-or -die mentality is removed from elections, when victors and losers alike take the outcome with sportsmanship, when transparency and integrity is built into the system, there can only be a resounding multiplier effect of these virtues on national politics and economy.
We urge other state governments to copy the Kaduna example and begin the journey to restore legitimacy in our electoral system and give sovereignty back to our people.