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Dear Chimamanda Adichie, Election is not a Literary contest



By Kayode Adebiyi

Yesterday, I read an op-ed by Chimamanda Adichie addressed to the President of the United States published by The Atlantic, an influential foreign policy journal in the United States. Unfortunately, Chimamanda in her very beautiful prose and the usual highfalutin language opined that her candidate, Peter Obi who came distant 3rd in the just concluded Nigerian presidential election was rigged out because the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission failed to follow the law guiding the 2023 election as laid out in the Electoral Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In her now trending article, the famous Igbo-centric novelist wrote and I quote: “A law passed last year, the 2022 Electoral Act, changed everything. It gave legal backing to the electronic accreditation of voters and the electronic transmission of results, in a process determined by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”

The problem with a lot of educated Nigerians with a bit of fame is that they think they know it all and whatever they say or write is golden and everyone must take it hook line and sinker, even when they distort the truth and the reality of what they are writing about.

I will advise Chimamanda to stick to her literary work and stop pontificating on electoral matters in Nigeria, especially when she obviously lacks basic understanding of the letters and spirit of the Electoral Act. As a globally acclaimed writer, it behoves on her to have first gone ahead to read and distill the Electoral Act properly before misleading her American audience. There is no doubt she set out to whip up further emotions amongst her headless OBIdient mob.

The Electoral Act never in any way compels INEC to transmit election result electronically in real time.

The Electoral Act and the Constitution of Nigeria clearly state that INEC alone can determine mode of collating, and transmitting election results. Yes, INEC in many of its pre-election media briefing did say it would transmit result live, but INEC is not compelled by law.

While INEC erred by over-promising, it did no wrong. Neither did the commission flout any law by not doing so. You can only sue an institution for flouting the law. You can’t sue it for not fulfilling a non-binding promise.

In fact, the Electoral Act even gave INEC a window of 7 days after election has been concluded within which the results from the polling units can be transmitted onto election viewing portal.

It is understandable that Chimamanda and many of her ilk, have emotionally invested in Peter Obi’s presidential bid that they refused to pay attention to common sense. They rather hold on to fake news and wishful thinking as facts.

I am convinced that Chimamanda and her OBIdient crowd have this infantile idea that electronic transmission of result is an angelic feature of the Electoral Act. This is far from the truth. Rather it is just an add-on to an already concluded election process.

There must first be an accreditation which this time around every observer hailed as a game changer even by international observer missions.

After accreditation comes the actual voting by the electorate, then counting of results and recording it in form EC8 which each party agents must sign on along with the electoral officer at each polling units. And each agent and law enforcement personnel at each polling unit will have a copy of the already signed form EC8. Now, that is the election!

By this time, all political parties already have the result in their hands through their party agents. What remains is collation of already known results at the ward, LG, State and finally at the National collation centre for the presidential election. Non-transmission of the results political parties already have in their hands, electronically, in real time does not invalidate the actual election that took place.

To buttress this point, as recent as March 10, 2023, a Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that it is only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that is empowered by law to determine the mode of collating and transmission of election results.

In his ruling, Justice Emeka Nwite also held that it is only INEC that has the prerogative to direct how Polling Unit Presiding Officer should transfer election results, including the total number of accredited voters and results of the ballot.

Justice Nwite further held that the collating and transferring election results manually in the 2023 general elections cannot be said to be contrary to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The judgment was on a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022 filed by the Labour Party (LP), with INEC as the sole defendant. LP had prayed the court to declare that INEC has no power to opt for manual method other than the electronic method provided for by the relevant provisions the Electoral Act, 2022.

In the the delivered judgement, Justice Nwite held that the plaintiff misconstrued the provisions of the law and proceeded to dismiss the suit.

He said: “From the argument of the learned plaintiff’s counsel, I am of the humble opinion that the bone of contention or the sections that seeks for interpretations are actually sections 50(2) 60(5) and 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2922. Section 47(2) as cited by the learned counsel to the plaintiff only deals with accreditation of voters using a Smart Card Reader, but not collation or transmission of result as postulated by the learned counsel,” the judge held.

It is pertinent to note that the presiding Judge is not a Yoruba or Hausa/Fulani man. Nobody can accuse him of doing the bidding of Tinubu or Buhari as usual or that he has been bought.

So, again to Chimamanda, stop writing beer parlour gossips as fact and presenting a highly unresearched article in an op-ed to the President of the United States. Americans are no fools, they don’t act on emotions like you, but on facts.

-Adebiyi is a UK-based Public Relations professional and Public Affairs Analyst

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