Former Senate President and Chairman of the newly inaugurated Constitutional and Electoral Reforms Committee, Dr Ken Nnamani has hinted that Nigerians may use their mobile phones to vote in the 2019 general elections.
According to Nnamani, the advancement in technology has made things possible to the extent that Nigerians may vote from the comfort of their homes without being subjected to the hassles of queuing up for hours at polling boots.
Speaking in a exclusively interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Abuja yesterday, Nnamani said with the flaws in the country’s electoral system, President Buhari will want to leave a legacy where politicians spend less money and less electoral malpractices.
Also, the former Senate President note that the much talk about Justice Uwais’ electoral reform report which was submitted in 2008 will not be thrown into the dust bin, adding that it will form an integral part of their report.
Nnamani who said many Nigerians would be surprised on the improvement the committee will make on the Justice Uwais report which will be merged with various electoral laws also pointed out that as good as the report is, it does not capture the present global trend of electronic voting.
He said if countries like India with a voting population of about 800 million can conduct election and the result would be released within the shortest possible time through the use of, technology, Nigerians can vote in the next election through the use of mobile phones.
Nnamani said, “We think that among other things, we will try to introduce things that are new and current. Take for instance the card reader issue. People are complaining that it was not captured in the Electoral Act, but you know very well that it is a good instrument to conduct election.
“The whole world is going digital and we cannot be left behind. Things like card reader and mobile phones voting must be encouraged. Also most Nigerians have cell phones now; there are elements of biometrics in these phones. I don’t know why we cannot vote using the phones. There are many introductions that can be made and they are achievable.
“India has in excess of 800 million people voting and you don’t hear that people are in one court or the other quarrelling; people are snatching and carrying ballot boxes. If we are able to vote from our bed rooms or anywhere, we will not create the chances of snatching ballot boxes. If we are able to transmit election results from our polling units straight to INEC, (I believe there must be programme that can capture this), hijacking of ballot boxes or changing of results from point A to point B will stop.”
He continued “I feel that Mr President wants to leave a legacy. He wants to fine-tune our electoral process. He wants to minimise violence in our electoral system, he wants to confer credibility on our electoral laws, electoral act and guidelines.”
“The reform of the electoral system implies re-visiting Justice Uwais 2008 electoral report. I observed that many people are asking question, why another committee when Uwais report is there. I think that Uwais report is a very good fundamental and monumental work which will always be remembered in our electoral system but it did not cover the electronic voting system.”
“However, nothing is so good that one cannot make it better. In other words, nothing is so excellent that you cannot improve upon. Between that 2008 when the report was prepared and now, there have been lots and lots of changes, events and circumstances considering the legislation, the pronouncement from the courts, and of course, the general trend of elections,” Nnamani said.
He said Nigeria is not the only country that is going through reformation of existing rules and regulations guiding electoral processes, adding that “President Buhari and all those involved in the
administration of the country at the moment have come to realize that when we get our politics right, many other good things will follow.”
Nnamani further said that what is most critical in every election is the process, adding that as excellent as Uwais report is, it can be improved upon.
His words: “We can make it much better. There have been several amendments on our Electoral Act to the extent that Judges are even getting confused. If you say Electoral Act, which one are you
refereeing to? Is it the 2009 as amended, or 2004?
“This one amended, that one amended. We have gotten to a point where we have to clean up these amendments, consolidate and have one comprehensive electoral act, at least for now.”
“We have to look at what other countries are doing. Nigeria is not the only country practicing this Presidential System of Government. But bear in mind, as I said, if we get our electoral processes correctly, so many other positive things will follow. It will reduce violence, it will reduce bitterness, it will reduce so many things that follow poor electoral process,” Nnamani said.
Nnamani said that the committee was setup to fulfill President Buhari’s promise that he will reform the electoral processes, having discovered some of its flaws. “He (Buhari) wants to minimise violence, he wants to ensure/create a level playing field for all politicians such that the mandate is conferred on our leaders through the ballot and not through the judicial system where we spent more time in court to get justice”, he added.
While explaining why politicians get involved in anti-party activities, Nnamani said flawed primaries will translate into people going into anti-party activities.
He sad, “Anti-party activities usually come after primary elections. If the primaries are conducted properly, the election will be smooth. But if you impose candidates that are not popular, so many party members could work against that. That is what is called, Anti-party. Anti-party activities have a source. If the electoral system can be such that primary elections are conducted properly, chances of people supporting their party during election will be high.”
While expressing confidence on the ability of Buhari to implement the outcome of their report, Nnamani who presided over the 5th Senate that nailed the third term agenda of former President Onasanjo in the coffin and buried it said, “I think that this time around there seems to be political will to implement what will be the outcome of the report.
“Uwais report is excellent but there was a little bit of laxity in its implementation. Given the pedigree and antecedent of the President and his disposition( remember, he talked about reforming our electoral system); I don’t think any right thinking person in our country will doubt his intention when it comes to political will to implement our report. That is another difference between the former and now. Uwais report is a good one but the initial attempt at its implementation whittled down the report.”
On the issue of inconclusive elections recently being experienced, Nnamani said his committee intends to tackle it headlong.