The introduction of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System machines into Nigeria’s electoral process has to a large extent reduced rigging and produced results, which shocked legacy parties, ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS writes
When the idea of introducing the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System into the electoral process was first mooted by the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, it created a wave of mixed feelings among the people.
The BVAS machine is a device for the accreditation of voters through biometric capture, uploading of polling results, and other functions.
A larger percentage of Nigerians didn’t know what to make of it. Many pondered hard on what difference it would bring to the country’s long history of election irregularities such as rigging, ballot box snatching, thuggery, shooting, intimidation of voters, vote buying, violence, and collusion with ad hoc electoral agents and security operatives, among others.
Their argument may be seen as valid if the number of casualties who were victims of bloodletting, thuggery, and post-election violence is anything to go by.
But Yakubu stuck to his gun, insisting on doing the needful. For a first-time visitor coming into contact with him, the INEC chair cut the image of an umpire who is determined to do better than his predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Prof. Mohammad Kuna, a special Adviser to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in recent interviews, said biometric technology was designed to verify permanent voter Cards and enable human recognition through a biometric verification mechanism, using both fingerprint and facial recognition of voters.
According to him, the device can also capture images of the polling unit result sheet (Form EC8A) and upload the image of the sheet on INEC’s Election Result Viewing platform (IReV).
BVAS plays an important role in verifying the genuineness of voters’ cards and authenticating voters during accreditation.
He said the design of the electronic device made it impossible for anyone to tamper with results uploaded to IReV via BVAS.
“With the nature of BVAS, the uploaded polling units (PUs) results cannot be manipulated. The machine was not designed to edit the photographic results uploaded and sent to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV); and once sent cannot be recalled,” he said.
Also, former Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mike Igini, stated that BVAS had returned power to the people because the device would make rigging near impossible for politicians.
When Yakubu insisted on BVAS, it didn’t take long for Nigerians to get a clearer picture of the difference BVAS can make in a major poll following the loss of the incumbent Governor of Osun, Adegboyega Oyetola, at the July 16 governorship election in the state.
Oyetola, an All Progressive Congress governor, lost to Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party. The latter was declared the winner of the poll, where he garnered 403, 271 votes as against the 375,027 polled by Oyetola.
In a dramatic fashion, an election petition tribunal in the state nullified the election that produced the ‘dancing senator’ as governor six months later. A report said evidence from the BVAS showed alleged over-voting in favour of Adeleke.
It was a defining moment for the ruling APC, and there were cries of foul play from the opposition and critics of the technological device. This was followed up by threats and calls for BVAS to be abandoned ahead of the 2023 elections.
Complaints about the possibility of the gadgets being vulnerable to hackers and disruption by telecommunication challenges, especially in areas with no network, were rebuffed.
A determined Yakubu emphasised publicly that “the system of using the BVAS for the conduct of elections has come to stay. There’s no going back.”
According to him, the era of politicians taking undue credit by stuffing ballot boxes with invalid votes is gone forever.
His position was re-echoed by INEC’s National Commissioner for Information, Festus Okoye, who described the device as a game-changer in the country’s electoral process. Okoye vowed that no amount of protest can stop its usage in the 2023 elections.
He further stated that no pressure from political parties or politicians can make the commission discard the use of BVAS, which is stipulated in the Electoral Act 2022.
Okoye also opined that there would be surprises at the 2023 polls. Indeed, he was right in his permutation following major upsets and earthquakes that rocked the presidential and National Assembly polls on February 25.
Perhaps the biggest shock can be said to be the loss in Lagos, reputed to be the stronghold of kingmaker, political godfather, and APC presidential poster boy, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to the dark horse of the election, Peter Obi.
Obi polled a total of 575,735 votes to floor Tinubu, who could only garner 573,001 votes. The Labour Party candidate won nine local government areas of the state, which included Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Amuwo-Odofin, Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Kosofe, Oshodi-Isolo, Somolu, Ojo, and Alimosho.
The former Lagos governor, however, triumphed in Agege, Apapa, Badagry, Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikorodu, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, and Surulere.
Similarly, the National Chairman of the ruling APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was overrun and lost his senatorial zone to the Social Democratic Party’s candidate, Ahmed Wadada. Wadada scored 96,488 votes to defeat the APC candidate, Ahmed Tukur, and emerge the winner of the Nasarawa South senatorial district election.
In the same vein, at least seven outgoing governors failed in their attempts to cross over to Nigeria’s Senate after their two-term tenures of eight years each.
A prominent member of the five aggrieved governors of the PDP, otherwise known as the G-5, Governor Samuel Ortom, lost his bid to clinch the Benue North West Senatorial District at the National Assembly. He lost to his APC counterpart in the district, Titus Zam.
Ortom’s comrade in the G-5, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was humbled in his quest to win the Enugu North Senatorial District. Ugwuanyi was defeated by the Labour Party’s Okechukwu Ezea.
A third member of the G-5, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, was equally put to the sword. Ikpeazu lost his bid to represent Abia South Senatorial District in the 10th National Assembly. He lost to a veteran lawmaker and grassroots politician, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
With the loss of the three high-ranking members of the Integrity Group, political pundits have predicted that the chances of Governor Seyi Makinde, the fourth member of the G-5, is hanging on a thread as the Oyo governorship poll beckons.
In Taraba, an outgoing two-term PDP governor, Darius Ishaku, lost his senatorial ambition to his APC counterpart, David Jimkuta.
On the flip side, the doors of the Senate were also shut against two APC governors, Simon Lalong of Plateau and his comrade in Cross River, Governor Ben Ayade.
Lalong’s loss came to so APC supporters as a shock. As the Director General of Tinubu-Shettima’s presidential campaign council, many have predicted that he would enjoy the privilege of being in the ruling party.
Another APC governor, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, was another casualty in his bid to represent Kebbi Central Senatorial District in the forthcoming 10th National Assembly. He lost to Senator Adamu Aliero.
Still on the senatorial election, former governor of Kano State in the Third Republic (from 1992 to 1993), Senator Kabiru Gaya, lost his seat to a former Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Kawu Sumaila, of the New Nigeria Peoples Party. Gaya, who represented the Kano South Senatorial District on four occasions has been in the Senate since 2007.
A member of the PDP, Senator Philip Aduda, who is popularly called ‘Abuja landlord’ was roundly beaten in his fourth attempt to return to the National Assembly. Aduda, who has a larger-than-life posture similar to that of a governor in the FCT, was disgraced by a female candidate of the Labour Party, Ireti Kingibe. The irony of the humiliation was his loss to a non-indigene of Abuja.
Although it is an undeniable fact that a certain presidential candidate has developed an enviable record of scoring millions of votes in his geo-political zone, the BVAS has presented us with the truth and a new reality of our elections.
Prior to the 2023 presidential and NASS elections, the normal permutation could have been a case of Obi, Tinubu, Kwankwaso, and Atiku sharing the ballots of the 84 million registered voters announced ab initio by INEC, and Nigerians would begin to anticipate who would get the larger shares, including some eleventh-hour non-existent votes to decide the winner.