As we get closer to the hearings of the petition submitted before the Election Tribunal by Gboyega Oyetola, the hopelessness of the complaints filed by the defeated All Progressives Congress (APC) is dawning on it. For weeks now, it had saturated the media space with blatant falsehood and tried to misinform the public of the potency of its petition with the claim of over-voting in 749 polling units.
The problem with that claim is that there is nothing to support it. To understand this, let us take it from the very ground on which the APC argument rests– the purported CTC of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
According to the APC, the document showed over-voting in 749 polling units, all of which were won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the INEC declared winner in the July 16 governorship poll. What the APC however failed to tell the public is that, aside from the fact that the INEC has come out to explain that the data on the purported CTC was ‘incomplete and unsynchronized’, and as such, does not truly reflect the information on the BVAS machine itself, it (APC) deliberately left out 1001 polling units in the contested document won by it.
The clear import from this is that, assuming we go by the APC false over-voting logic, then the 1001 polling units also won by the party cannot be exempted. But the thing is this, the document which the APC is relying upon to drive its case is disputed by the only authority on election matters, which is the INEC.
This must be why the APC has unleashed vicious attacks on the electoral umpire, throwing up all sorts of conjectures to blackmail it from defending an election it conducted. Of a truth, the INEC is an umpire in an election and so should be neutral, but it is important to point out that it has a duty to protect its integrity as well. The APC petition challenged the validity of the election it conducted, and the INEC is under the obligation to show that it did a good job.
Consider, for example, the contested CTC report of the BVAS record. It is well known that only the INEC has this information and will be in the best position to point out what is right and wrong. But the APC does not want it to do it, pushing so hard that the INEC watch the other side while it misled the Tribunal with a patently false document. This will be a dangerous attempt to steal the mandate of the people using falsehood as a ground.
And the judiciary, going by the principle of justice, should never allow this serious threat to our democratic system and the right of the electorate to choose who leads them. It is important to stress that the server, which is the very basis of the contested CTC report, is alien to the polling units and that the Electoral Act does not recognize it as part of the processes of collation and declaration of results.
Section 62 of the Electoral Act, which faintly refers to server of a sort, centers on the Post-election procedure, meaning that whatever is contained in the server report, the BVAS machine itself, and the Form EC8A are the primary result platform. Even more, the section stipulates for the INEC to “MAINTAIN and UPDATE, on a continuous basis, a register of election results…” which goes to sanction the action of the electoral umpire to synchronize data on its server to make it consistent with what is on the BVAS machines.
As a matter of fact, BVAs are like ballot papers used in the field of an election, which are reckoned with by INEC officials and even party agents monitoring election for their candidates in arriving at the on-field announcement of results right from the PUs as required by law. They are the on-field election materials used physically for the purpose of the conduct of an election. The same thing can not be said of server, which is a mere storehouse, where results and accreditation data are kept for future reference and, prone to hazards, such as hacking and manipulations, as it will have to receive and warehouse these informations from the various voting points, which could be affected by power supply or internet network, especially in a developing nation like Nigeria.
It is a settled principle in law that you can not build something on nothing, meaning that without the BVAS machines, there can be no BVAS report, and as such, anyone who is trying to place a premium on a report without the machines on which the data came from, is nothing but a fraud. The simple truth is that just as there can’t be an election without ballot papers and result sheets, so will there not be a BVAS report without the machine itself.
This is why the best place to get accreditation data in an election is the BVAS machines, not a secondary source of evidence, which is the server, that can be easily manipulated through hacking. Don’t forget that the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, had disclosed that the Commission’s storage infrastructures came under serious attack by hackers during the Osun governorship poll.
The question that now begs for an answer is why the APC is running away from the data on the BVAS machine itself, which was the primary source of whatever data is sent to the server for the election. Why is it insistent on dumping a false CTC report on the Tribunal? Why is the APC running away from Form EC8A which agents of the party signed without any pressure?
The polling units are the only place where the winner of elections emerge, and the APC should get out of the illusion that it would again, manipulate itself to power. It happened in 2018 but not again, as the Osun people resoundingly made their choice on who administers this state for another four years loud for the whole world to hear.
• Ibrahim Sarafa is a Public Affairs Analyst and writes from Iwo, Osun state. He can be reached via Twitter @SarafaNgr or email: email@example.com