Humphrey Nwosu, professor of political science, and the man who occupies the pride of place as the election umpire who conducted Nigeria’s acclaimed freest, fairest and most credible election on June 12, 1993, is not comfortable with the simultaneous accreditation and voting system which is being adopted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for the 2019 general elections.
Nwosu believes it encourages rigging. The former chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission, NEC, shared his thoughts on The Verdict, Channels Television’s political programme focused on the 2019 elections. The peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the main challenger of the ruling party in Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections, had kicked against the simultaneous accreditation and voting adopted by INEC in its election guidelines. The party had advocated separate accreditation and voting in order to prevent rigging but was rebuffed by the electoral body.
But Nwosu aligned himself with the position of the PDP. He believed that rigging could be eliminated through separate accreditation and voting as it was in his time. According to him, “how we ended it
Nwosu, the initiator of the option A4 open ballot system, however regretted that this had been jettisoned. “But now they modified it; you accredit, and you go and vote. And when they wait and no more people are coming, they use the register, look at the number of people on it, and stamp them, stamp them; (ballot papers) and vote for them. That is why you sometimes have outrageous numbers returned. But we have passed that era. Babangida administration eliminated it, but it is still now in vogue”.
The former election umpire would not subscribe to adopting extreme measures to deal with ballot box snatching as prescribed by the president. The president, Mohammadu Buhari had given marching order to the military to deal ruthlessly with anyone who would snatch ballot boxes, warning that such a person would do so at the expense of his life. But Nwosu said while he would condemn anyone who has any intention of snatching ballot boxes, or using violence to mar the election, death should not be the sanction. While aligning himself with what the law says, a position adopted by INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, Nwosu stated that “such people, if identified, they should be dealt with according to the law which says up to 10 years imprisonment and N500,000 fine or both because life, sanctity of life, we should begin to attach great premium on life”.
Nwosu considered the unwieldy number of 93 political parties to be listed on the ballot in Saturday’s election as one of the challenges confronting INEC, as against the two-party system introduced in the administration of the then military president, General Ibrahim. According to him, the present 93 political parties do not make sense to him, and he would not advocate it. He believed that the two leading parties – PDP and APC sponsored some of these parties, with some withdrawing due to lack of funds and structure across the country. Nwosu lamented that successive governments did not build on the strong foundation laid in the past. He explained that “In order to remove money-bags, in order to make sure that these parties (Social Democratic Party, SDP, and National Republican Convention, NRC) serve the national interest, they were co-founders and co-owners, they had grassroots support, they were even funded by government and driven by ideologies – a little bit to the left a little bit to the right, according to how you feel and not according to your ethnic group, and not according to your region”. Giving credit to Babangida who unfortunately annulled that election, Nwosu wondered why we should we go back to 93 parties when it was clear that most of these parties don’t have the structures and the funds and as a result, “they will resort to money bags, and they are resorting to money-bags. There are godfathers now. Godfathers my Commission tried to do away with between 1989 and 1993. God fathers, are they not there now? They are there determining; do this, don’t do this. Are we having institutional memory, building on what we left behind?”