By Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis and Gift Habib
The Independent National Electoral Commission has knocked the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for expressing doubts over the credibility of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and Results Viewing Portal which will be deployed for the 2023 election.
The commission expressed shock that the APC candidate could question the efficiency of the technology which had been used in several polls, including the off-season governorship elections in Ekiti, Osun, and Anambra states.
The former Lagos State governor had on Monday at the Chatham House in London, United Kingdom, said the electoral body had yet to assure Nigerians of the workability of the BVAS and e-transmission of poll results.
He spoke weeks after the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and the National Organising Secretary, Suleiman Argungu, expressed concerns over the planned deployment of BVAS for next year’s general polls.
Speaking at Chatham House, Tinubu said, “We are still building confidence in our democratic and voting system. INEC is yet to assure us (that) during this election that electronic transmission, the technology being used for accreditation and the total vote count, is reliable, dependable and assuring in our democratic process before we introduce a complicated element of ballot counting.”
But responding to Tinubu’s uncertainty, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, pointed out that the commission has been talking about the features, strengths and advantages of BVAS since 2020.
Oyekanmi spoke in response to inquiries by The PUNCH regarding the APC standard bearer’s comment on the credibility of BVAS and the e-transmission of results.
He stated, ‘’The Independent National Electoral Commission has been talking about the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, its features, strengths and advantages since 2020 when it was introduced to replace our beloved Smart Card Reader.
“At every quarterly meeting that the commission held with leaders of political parties since this BVAS was introduced, and I am talking about more than five meetings, it has always been on the agenda and discussed. My presumption is that both the national chairman and secretary of all the political parties that attend our meetings also brief their presidential candidates about the issues discussed.
‘’More importantly, we have conducted off-season governorship elections in Ekiti, Osun and Anambra states using the BVAS and all of these elections have generally been described and accepted as free, fair, credible, and inclusive by all and sundry. The governors elected have quietly been enjoying their respective tenures. Don’t forget that we also deployed it for the Federal Capital Territory area council election and it was a huge success.
‘’The BVAS has been trending on social media platforms and even foreigners visiting Nigeria for the first are asking: ‘What is this BVAS thing?’’
In response to mischief-makers who circulated rumours that the commission had dumped the BVAS, Oyekanmi explained that the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has reiterated severally that there is no going back on the deployment of BVAS for the 2023 general election.
‘’Therefore, if at this moment in 2022, we still have a presidential candidate of one of the 18 registered political parties, saying he needs assurances on the BVAS or he doesn’t know or appreciate its relevance to the 2023 general election, then something is terribly wrong somewhere,’’ he stated.
But the APC defended the reservations expressed by Adamu and Tinubu on the BVAS, stating that their statements were probably misconstrued.
The APC Publicity Director, Bala Ibrahim, stressed that both men were merely striving to ensure INEC is 100 per cent certain about its readiness for the election.
Ibrahim said, “I think we are misinterpreting or refusing to understand the broader meaning of concerns in this context. The concern raised by both the party chairman and presidential candidate is that justice should not just be done but be seen to be done holistically.
“What they are doing is to ensure that the right things are done to avoid giving room for complaints to be raised after the 2023 elections. The process should not just be left at 99 per cent; it must meet up with the acceptable 100 per cent standard.
“If there is an iota of doubt or anything that can compromise the integrity of the election, it must be looked into. The right thing has to be done.”
When asked if the party was apprehensive that the use of the technology might affect its chances in the polls, the director declared that the party has nothing to fear.
This is even as he reiterated that they have the confidence that the commission can successfully conduct the polls if the right things are done.
“No, we are not intimidated. In fact, our imminent victory is more pronounced with what is happening now. If you look at the ongoing rancour, chaos and divisive situation in the camp of the opposition PDP, you will discover that our chances are getting brighter every day,’’ he stated.
Speaking further, Ibrahim said, “The indices have also indicated that the APC is coasting home to victory and it is certainly going to be an ‘Hallelujah’ at the end of the day. I think we should have confidence in INEC. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell the commission to be on its feet. On its part, INEC has assured us that everything is on course and everything has been done to ensure the election will be successful.
“For now, we don’t have any fear. Our only worry is misinformation or wrong information being peddled. We hope people won’t believe the antics of the opposition that is giving the public the impression that the party is not ready for the election.
“Of course, we are more than ready. In fact, let me also remind them that the APC is the party to beat. The ruling party is in power and will want to continue by consolidating what the Buhari administration has done. When the Jagaban takes over, we are confident that he will hit the ground running.’’
Ibrahim’s position was echoed by the Director of Media and Publicity for the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, who said the party leadership and APC candidate simply wanted the electoral body to get its acts together.
The former boss of the News Agency of Nigeria was also positive that his principal would beat the opposition candidates by a landslide.
He said, “What Adamu and Tinubu are trying to tell INEC is to get its acts together. They are not saying anything more than that. Of course, they are not against BVAS. Tinubu as a candidate, even when he was in the opposition, has been at the forefront of using technology to campaign for the election. So he cannot at this time be saying that he is not in support of BVAS.
“What he is simply saying and what Adamu also said is that INEC should get its acts together to be able to use BVAS seamlessly. This is all they are saying contrary to the twist and distortion of the opposition that they are against technology.
“You can see what happened in Osun State, for instance. In one breath, INEC gave the APC a set of results. The party went to tender it in court. Instead of the commission to disclose that they made a mistake, it printed another set of results. How can you print two contradictory results?
“That’s not the kind of thing we are looking forward to. We don’t want an election where people will be arguing that INEC cheated them or anything related to that. This is why we are saying the commission must get its acts together.
“If it presents a result, it should be ready to say ‘That’s the result.’ Not running to get another result. It is so embarrassing.”
On the biggest fear of the APC ahead of the polls, Onanuga maintained that if the exercise was devoid of mischief or rigging, the ruling party would win.
“We are not threatened by the use of BVAS or any technology because we know we are winning this election. In fact, we are winning with a landslide. We have no fear because we believe we will win if there is no mischief or attempt to rig the elections by the opposition.
“Just some months ago, some people told Peter Obi that they could hack the INEC portal when he went on a tour. Once everybody allows the process to go on seamlessly, we don’t have any fear about the 2023 election. We are prepared and believe that with the Almighty God on our side, we are going to win massively,” he stated.