Growing up, two proverbs stuck out for me, one by my father, and the other was a Pidgin English saying. One was: “If one person buries himself, one hand will stick out”. Young, impressionistic, and inquisitive, I asked for an explanation. My father explained it away both as an idiomatic expression and a literary saying. According to him, if one person tries to bury himself, certainly the hand that covered his body with sand would need another hand to cover it. And left that way, the man wouldn’t be fully buried.
The other was: “If a cunning man die, a cunning man go bury am”.
Looking at the charade made of the February 25 presidential election by Professor Mahmood Yakubu and the Commission under his watch, those ancient wise sayings of our people come in handy. It is about what happens with any perfidious lie; once told, a bigger one would be required to cover it. Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his Commission seem to be on a voyage to find bigger lies to cover the one told on February 25 presidential election results.
This journey became more obvious when INEC approached the Tribunal for an order to reconfigure the BVAS to enable it to use the same machines for the March 11 guber and state assembly polls.
Yes ordinarily, INEC would need the BVAS to conduct any election under the Electoral Act 2022. The BVAS performs two major functions that will permit the Commission to fulfill the mandatory and obligatory requirements of the Electoral Act 2022. One is accreditation before voting to prevent proxy voting, and the other is a verification and confirmation of the accredited number of voters and votes received by the parties/candidates that must be done by the Collation or Returning Officer.
After jeopardizing the presidential election, INEC has realized how fatal it will be to the entire exercise if further elections are conducted and results declared after circumventing the express provisions of the extant electoral act (2022). For the avoidance of doubt, Section 64 (4) of the Electoral Act states: “a collation officer or returning officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election, subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the number of accredited voters stated on the collated result is correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units and that the votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the votes or results recorded and transmitted directly from polling units”. This is called ‘Condition precedent’ in law.
Earlier the same day, INEC sent out a message directing Nigerians to be ready for the guber and state assembly polls this coming Saturday. And before the day wound down the same INEC told Nigerians that the guber and state assembly elections had been postponed to 18th March. Such knee-jerk reactions usually come from a confused bunch. INEC is now much like that man who buried himself, leaving his arm sticking out on the sand.
Prof Mahmood Yakubu let himself and Nigerians down in the terrible manner he conducted the presidential election on February 25. He deliberately abandoned the electronic transmission of results as required by the electoral act 2022, particularly section 64 subsections 4, which requires the collation or returning officer to follow an obligatory process; he or she is required by that section (Condition precedent) to compare the transmitted results directly from the polling units with the copies brought to the collation centre by the INEC officials who conducted and declared the results.
This is to ensure there is no falsification leading to inflation or deflation of results, judging by the accredited number of voters in the polling units recorded by BVAS. This is the only real difference between repealed electoral act 2010 and the electoral act 2022. INEC and CSOs fought for the electronic transfer of votes to achieve real-time and to eliminate manipulations of results perpetrated by the INEC officials who often colluded with desperate politicians.
Thankfully, the President signed this critical element into law. Yet, Prof Mahmood Yakubu led the INEC to abandon the Electoral Act 2022 and did manual collation after curiously shutting down INEC IReV. There is no doubt it was deliberate and not a network glitch as they wanted Nigerians to believe. If it was not deliberately done, INEC would have raised an alarm when it occurred as a natural reaction.
Rather, it took the Commission over 12 hours to respond with a terse press statement that made many uninformed and bald-faced lying claims.
As if to erase any doubts, Professor Mahmood Yakubu refused to take the window of one to two weeks offered by the electoral act 2022 to review valid complaints that border on the integrity of the process and clear violations of the enabling act that were repeatedly pointed out by Senator Dino Malaye and others. More worrisome was the fact that Mahmood thrice promised to review the complaints once done with the collation. He didn’t keep that promise, the same way he didn’t keep the promise on electronic transmission of results designed to ensure real-time uploading of results. Where then is his professorate, integrity, and patriotism?
INEC went to the Court of Appeal to get permission to reconfigure BVAS. They got it, but not exactly what they had in mind. The Court of Appeal was wiser. The appellate court permitted the INEC to reconfigure as long as the contents of the BVAS will remain intact and saved in a backend server. This was like Shakespeare’s pound of flesh in his classic, Merchant of Venice; Shylock was asked cut it without without drawing blood.
Mahmood and INEC would want permission to erase the presidential election data. Now, the Court of Appeal is saying whatever you do, do not tamper with the data. In other words, INEC can reconfigure as long as the data is unaffected.
Postponement of the guber and state assembly polls was therefore inevitable because INEC would have to produce the digital infrastructure to back up the data. What is more, the transfer of data will be done on the BVAS machines used in 176,606 polling units where the presidential election took place before reconfiguring. This cannot be done overnight. If the Commission does not do this, they cannot collaborate the results upon which they based Tinubu’s victory as required by law. This could mean some INEC officials could be headed to jail and that would render presidential election cancellation inevitable. This ruling gave hope that substantive law will prevail in these Presidential election petitions, not politics and antics as is often the case.
The BVAS revolution is therefore real. Nobody can bypass the magic machine and go undetected.
For the opposition parties, particularly the PDP and the Labour party, one would urge patience. The process is everything. Those instigating convulsion of the polity may have enlisted the services of INEC leadership. The short-changed Nigerian masses should note that any violent response to their provocations would mean playing into their hands.
Nigerians must be patient and watch closely the INEC macabre dance. The dilemma of INEC stems from the fact that the majority of the BVAS uploaded results automatically when the IReV came back on after it was switched off. That’s the way the BVAS is meant to function… simply click the ‘send’ button and anytime the server comes up and the BVAS has access to the internet, uploading would happen uninterruptedly.
That is the one hand INEC is trying to bury but it keeps sticking out. Let’s wait it out, for as our people would say when a cunning man dies, a cunning man will bury him.
Dr. Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter: @DrLawMefor1.