The Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has said that the clamour in some quarters for the inclusion of electronic voting and transmission of election results electronically in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, for the 2023 general elections will not work in the northern part of the country.
But Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a swift reaction, took strong exception to Ndume’s claim, saying it was not in the interest of the nation.
However, Ndume, who was the former Majority leader in the 8th Senate, also said Nigeria was not ripe for state police because of obvious abuse that would come from the state governors.
He equally said the military and other security agencies in the country had no excuse not to rid all parts of Nigeria of insecurity, claiming that the federal government had done enough in terms of funding for the military.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard in Abuja, Senator Ndume, who represents Borno South senatorial district on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, said the Noth and especially his home state, Borno, do not have the facilities for electronic voting, adding that introducing it would lead to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
Asked as a ranking senator his take on the controversial electronic voting and transmission of election results electronically, he dismissed the claims that inclusion of electronic voting in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill would stop rigging of elections.
Ndume said: “As a member of the Senate, I am talking realistically, the issue of electronic voting is futuristic, but not realistic for us, in the north particularly. Can you do electronic voting or transmission of results without electricity? The answer is no.
“We don’t have electricity in most of the areas in the north, especially the rural areas, the importance, or the main objective of election election, is to allow every Nigerian that is of 18 years old, to exercise his constitutional right to go and vote.
“And for that vote to be counted, the elections should be credible. It is not electric, or electronic that will make that work, it is the determination of the citizens.
“We have conducted several elections in which APC or ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party) then, as the opposition lost, and we never cried out. For the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) when they are talking that we are planning to rig, there is no rigging that will pass the one PDP did particularly in 2007.
“When in a state they recorded more votes than the registered voters, yet, what we did that time was to go to court, and they ridiculed themselves. And now they are crying out and being futuristic to say that APC is trying to rig election. If APC was to rig election, they wouldn’t have won some of the elections that were conducted under the watch of this current president and he allowed it.
“We lost some states during the last election. Under the president’s watch, instead of gaining they (PDP) gained more states. So PDP is just trying to distract People, crying foul where there is none and all that. The main purpose of election is to allow people eligible ones to vote, we are going to stand against anything that will make the election vulnerable.
“What they are trying to do is to make the election vulnerable. Supposing somebody drops a virus in the process, supposing somebody hacks the system, supposing somebody obstructs the collation Centre or attack the saver, what will happen?
“But if you have hardcopies, everything is done in hardcopy, even America, one of the most advanced countries in the world where we are copying their democracy, they resort to the manual system to do the election.
‘’There are some areas you know, even in the last election in America during Donald Trump, election was done in hardware using hardcopies. So for people to start coming up with this funny thing that there must be electronic voting and transmission of results electronically, after all, the election that was conducted under the watch of Mr. President is adjudged to be one of the best credible election ever held.”
On the argument that electronic voting or transmission of results electronically will reduce killing and tension as well as curtail rigging, he said people only rig election where they are strong.
He said,” That will not happen if you are not popular you don’t rig where you are not popular. Let me tell you you don’t even start rigging where you’re not popular. Why didn’ they rig in Anambra, they can’t get away with it. Anybody that is able to rig election is popular, you can’t rig where you are not popular at all.
“In Jigawa recently in a particular ward, when they wanted to rig the election or announce somebody, they (electorate) stayed there and defended their votes. All I’m saying is that there must be credibility and credibility does not come only through electronic voting.
“In fact, electronic voting is more susceptible to manipulation. You have yahoo yahoo boys everywhere, you know, of Nigeria’s even hacking into Ministry of Defence in America, Nigerians.
“So we don’t want to get involve into that, particularly we the northern senators, because we are the ones that don’t have the facilities or the infrastructure that is required to conduct electronic voting.
‘’So if you guys (the southern part of Nigeria) want electronic voting, that’s for you. But we in the north, especially myself now in Borno State, we don’t have light for four months. And even if we have light there is no network in most of the local governments.
‘’So you are saying that we should go through electronic voting, for what? Let’s go out and vote the way we have been voting before.
“PDP conducted election four times, why didn’t they introduce electronic voting since them? Is it now that there appears to be a gang-up? In fact, it is through this electronic system that you can have real chaotic system that will just ignite like fire.
‘’In George Bush election and that of Obama, it was clearly shown that you will go and vote democrat and it will record republican because it was manipulated and virus was inserted. So if you electronically vote for democratic party, it will record for republican, the evidence was there.”
Fielding questions on his take on the clamour for state police, in view of the security challenges in the country, he said state police was not the solution because it would be abused.
He said: “ I am against state police, we are not there yet, everybody is taking advantage of what he has. Look at what they are doing with the Amotekun, what they are doing with this localised security outfit. What we need in this country is universal law and order, strict law and order that applies to everybody in a centralised system.
Reacting to Ndume’s claim, PDP’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the main opposition party would not engage in North-South debate, adding that the interest of the whole country was what mattered to the PDP
According to him, “Senator Ndume is absolutely wrong and his comment is unfortunate; electronic transmission of results will work in any part of the country for reasons that are already known.”
While Ologbondiyan was diplomatic in his reaction, Diran Odeyemi, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, blasts the federal lawmaker, urging him to tell Nigerians if he was planning to rig the next general elections in the north.
“What is Ndume planning to do? As far as we are concerned, results can be transmitted anywhere it is possible to make telephone calls. The senator is probably not aware of the technological advancement made in the last couple of years by the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, as well as the telecom companies.
‘’Nigerians want results transmitted electronically to guard against rigging. Is Ndume planning to rig?” he asked rhetorically.
“But you can have local police to compliment. And that is what the government is doing. It says look, there is community policing. You can support the community policing. The community policing is the work of the state under the central police but you can’t have parallel power.
“Federal government is federal government, state government is state government. There are some powers that are there in the constitution that can be exercised by the state government and there are powers there that are clearly stated for the federal government.
“Every governor now wants to have his own security. We can imagine the situation we would be having in this country now if some governors had security under them with guns and everything, they will terrorize their opponents, so let’s improve on the system that we have. “
Asked as Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, his expectations from the new Chief of Army Staff who was recently decorated by President Muhammadu Buhari, he said the army chief should hit the ground running because the government had provided the fund for him.
He said: “Well, in fact, what we’re expecting is performance now, especially that he has been given the full powers, he has been decorated, coincidentally, the supplementary budget has been passed.
“All they want from their side as army we have given them. So it is now high time for him to hit the ground running. And Nigerians are expecting and we are expecting that he will perform. As we have started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, this insurgency must come to an end.”
On whether the budgetary allocation to military, especially the army, was enough to fight insecurity, Senator Ndume said the government had given enough to the military to perform.
“In the history of this country, there has never been a time that the army was given such a huge sum of money for defence generally even police, army, navy, DSS (Department of State Services), every security organisation, this supplementary budget is like the budget for security forces of Nigeria.’’