·Political analysts however point fingers at system issues and human actions
By Ignatius Chukwu
Political analysts in parts of the Niger Delta say their trust in the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) to make genuine votes count in the coming general elections is unshaken.
The experts reacted to the nullification of the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and declaration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate as real winner.
Majority of the experts held their grounds on the side of the BVAS, some even saying the machine emerged unscathed, while they believe that it’s the human actions from officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that were exposed.
A Port Harcourt-based information and political communications consultant of longstanding, Blessing Nwikina, said the tribunal finding was rather victory for the BVAS.
He said the only panic coming from the Osun tribunal ruling is because political parties rely on their rigging system called ‘deliver your ward’. For this, he said, political leaders brag about certainty of victory even before elections are close.
He said some politicians always planned to hijack electoral materials, where they sit and cook figures, and submit the documents for collation, but that with the BVAS revelation in the Osun election, the rug has been pulled off their feet.
He said the politicians still went ahead to rig in the Osun elections but that the BVAS figures eventually ruled. “It will take time for them to understand that BVAS is anti rigging. So for now, there is no way to circumvent BVAS.”
On the mood in Rivers State now that the BVAS has spoken in Osun, Nwikina said: “What I think may happen here is that the bad guys will only allow voters loyal to a party to access the polling stations and thereby deny opponents votes.
“In the past, militants in the riverine areas were made to ‘flog’ voters from opposition parties away from polling units so that only a particular party voted.”
He however admonished INEC officials to ensure they avoided instance of issuing two reports on BVAS, so as not to be involved in ‘technical’ scenario advantage for a candidate.
In his private opinion, a political commentator and communications strategist, Chris Finebone, now Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, said Osun was a victory for the Electoral Act 2022 in the sense that Nigerians now have a legally recognized accreditation methodology that is recognized by law.
He went on: “Recall that the pitfall of the Card Reader was mainly because it wasn’t entrenched in any law, and this compelled the Supreme Court not to recognize it and that became the law.”
He however cautioned that the BVAS has not been put to use in a general election except for a few off-season elections. “We’re yet to gauge its dexterity when stretched to the limits. In theory, yes, it looks like the way to go but its trial at the next elections will tell us how good it is or otherwise.
“I have always had my skepticism each time INEC officials embark on media publicity blitz to hype what they consider a game changer. They did so for the Card Reader only to resort to Incident Forms following massive failure of the gadget as a tool for accreditation. The hype for the BVAS is on but if communication glitches become widespread on election day, then we’re in trouble. This time there’s no ‘Plan B’ like the Incident Form. For me, the enthusiasm over BVAS is hasty. Only time will prove things right or wrong.”
Jerry Needam, a Port Harcourt-based publicist and newspaper publisher, said: “The heavy trust the people have on BVAS remains intact, in my opinion.”
The publicity secretary of the APC in Rivers State, Darlington Nwauju, in his reaction, said, “For us in Rivers State APC, we still believe that the BVAS is a wonderful introduction to our electoral process that will discourage vote-padding and make voters the kings and queens of the electoral process.
“We still believe so because other off-season elections have successfully held after the Osun elections.”