This analysis is meant to guide future exercises. I have already congratulated Mr Olumide Akpata, the president-elect; and I will give him my respect and loyalty throughout his tenure. However, there are a lot of open wounds; the incoming president has a huge task in his hands, to work to heal all wounds. Those who complain about the last elections have some good grounds so to do. It’s my candid advice that the President-Elect, as soon as he’s sworn in, should constitute an NBA Peace & Reconciliation Committee (NBA-PRC) with a mandate to try to assuage genuinely injured feelings and truly frayed nerves. In that way, his leadership would be able to enjoy the support of all.
Before I proceed, may take advantage of this opportunity to respectfully advise our colleagues (supporters of the declared winner) that loyalty to a leader does not consist in one throwing irresponsible slanderous invectives and malignant vituperative remarks against supportedrs of opposing candidates. We are lawyers, not street urchins. Any supporter of any the declared winner whose only way of showing support for the winner (or, whose only way of celebrating victory) is to malign, attack and insult the winner’s opponents, is a disloyal loyalist. I accordingly humbly urge Mr Akpata to immediately do away with any such morose sycophants and brainless brownnosers around him who take pleasure in slander and smear campaign against his opponent, and his opponents’ supporters. Fans such as that are enemies in disguise. It’s against those backdrop that I welcome the statement issued a couple of days ago by Mr Akpata, urging his supporters to stop insulting opponents.
Now, the present commentary is the first of ten short commentaries I have lined up for purposes of analyzing the last NBA elections and making relevant recommendations which, if adopted, I believe, would make future elections much more acceptable to all or at least to a greater majority. My humble opinion is that it’s completely unnecessary, inappropriate to expose early results (of an ongoing election) to the general public. Two reasons I give for this opinion. One, such exposure expectedly gives one side the undue advantage of using their early lead as a tool to indirectly sway some later voters, who, as is typical in Nigeria, might follow the bandwagon and vote for persons they had not intended to vote for. Second, such early result exposure promotes bribery, corruption and violation of the ECNBA Guidelines forbidding campaign on Election Day.
(1). PUBLIC EXPOSURE GIVES AN UNDUE ADVANTAGE TO AN EARLY “WINNER:”
In the just-concluded election, majority of later and undecided voters could also have been affected by the wholly needless result-exposure. Even in the more developed world where online voting (during general elections) has gained ground, it’s not the/good practice to expose results to the general public, until voting is over. The usual practice is to have each candidate send in his/her trusted supporters and agents who would, on behalf of the candidate, follow all developments, minute-by-minute, and deliver timely updates/reports to the candidate. Aside from candidates’ agents, other people who are supposed to be in the strong room to monitor unfolding developments are (2).officials of the electoral umpire, (3). representatives of independent observers or observer-organizations, and (4) accredited representatives of the press. (5) representatives of the leadership of the association (in this instance, the NBA). To have results publicly exposed when voting is yet to be concluded is to give an undue advantage to whoever takes the early lead. Such practice is undemocratic and must be discouraged in all future general elections if we ever hope to elect leaders based on the free decisions of the majority.
In a country as Nigeria where gullibility and the bandwagon-habit are quick to take the place of objectiveness and reason, exposing election results to the public when not up to 5 percent of eligible voters has voted (as we saw during the last election) is sure to lead to the type of scenario we saw. Further, that procedure adopted by ECNBA’s IT consultants, negatived the very essence of general democratic elections. A necessary part of every such election, properly so-called, is that time for voting must be separated from the time for announcement of results, so as to give voters the independence, freedom and space to vote according to their individual convictions, conscience and principles. When you lump the two (announcement of results and voting concurrently) together, it is difficult to not expect the majority to be unduly swayed by (earlier) developments on ground. Imagine a voter who had left his house for the voting center only, on his arrival, to be shown the results of the ongoing election indicating the pattern of voting and who was leading or winning! If you were in such a voter’s shoes, would you not prefer to go with the leading side, even if you had the other side in mind while you were on your way? These things are innate in man: the natural instinct to identify with success, with the “winning party” so to say, and to distance oneself from any “losing” side.
If we say we are adopting a secret ballot system, why announce early results to influence those who have not voted? In such a situation, it takes only a very strong, determined, principled mind to not be swayed! In an election in which over 29,000 persons were listed to vote, telling the world that a candidate was already leading/winning with 54 percent when only below N1,000 of eligible voters have cast their vote, is sure to have some influence on the outcome of the election, especially in favour of the early-leader.
And, as we saw, ECNBA’s lapse in this respect became a ready tool for supporters of the early-winner/leader who then wasted no time in going to town with news (and clinging cymbals) about the 54-percent early win/lead, and using same as a tool to indirectly lure other voters into following the bandwagon. As many a voter under such circumstances would say, who wants to not follow the leading side? This practice must therefore be discouraged if we hope to get things right. The last NBA elections got won and lost when the IT consultants gave this undue advantage to one party.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s expected that in every electoral contest, one party would take an early lead. Such a party could eventually emerge victorious. The reverse could however be the case. But to ensure fairness, equity and evenhandedness, and to refrain from playing into the hands of mischievous (party) supporters, the electoral umpire ought to not make result public until voting is completed. That’s is the only way to afford all sides an equal advantage; and, in that way, the possibility or probability would be totally absent, that the next voter could or would have been influenced by publication of the decision of previous or early voters. That is how an election should be.
Recall that I have earlier suggested, as way of ensuring there is no manipulation in a situation of such withholding of early results from the public, that certain persons (including agents or representatives of candidates) should be allowed access to all developments as they unfold.
(2). EARLY EXPOSURE OF RESULTS OF AN ONGOING ELECTION ENCOURAGES CORRUPTION:
When you expose the results to show that one candidate is already winning by 54 percent, one necessary fallout is that supporters of the “winning candidate “ would begin to make calls and send messages, or even make offers to eligible voters who are yet to cast their vote, urging them to join the winning team. On the other hand, supporters of opposing candidates would continue to mobilize with a view to overtaking the winning side. Whether you call it “mobilizing” or whatever, it is a breach of ECNBA’s statement No 19 which completely forbade campaign of any kind during elections. “Mobilizing” voters while the election is ongoing is a gross act of corruption and breach of ECNBA Guidelines since it’s a form of campaign. If it’s not campaign, tell me, what is it? The early results should have been kept under wraps, but exposed to only those in the strong room (candidates’ agents, members of the ECNBA, the NBA President and his team (comprising selected neutral national officers, election observers and perhaps accredited press men). You cannot make a rule forbidding campaigns during election time and at the same time (the same you) would put in place either by commission or omission, a situation that makes it absolutely impossible to obey your directives. Such is contradictory and would amount to what has been described severally in Latin as “frigus flante calidum simul” (blowing hot and cold at the same time), approbating et reprobando (approbating and reprobating) or et facit aliud contrarium (saying one thing and doing the exact opposite). You tell me to not leave a room within a certain timeframe; the same you make the room uninhabitable or suffocating within that same period. What would you expect of me; to stay indoor and die? Haba? Exposing results to the public before completion of voting is condemnable, and should never again be allowed in any NBA elections, if a free and fair election is what we want.
By the way, let’s even take a cue from the INEC; has anyone ever seen Presiding Officers at polling units announcing the results for the polling unit before the conclusion of voting in the polling unit? Is it not after all voting is concluded that counting of ballot papers starts after which the winner for that polling unit is then announced. Show me anywhere in the world where results are shown to the public before conclusion of voting in a general election.
Anyway, we keep improving upon what we have. The current is an improvement on the last. Besides, what I have explained above accords with my earlier public declaration in May 2020, regarding my resolve to ”work and hope for the best while preparing my mind for the worst.” As the final result of this election has turned out to be what it’s, I urge us all as sportsmen, to push aside whatever we think didn’t happen right, and keep moving together on as one organization, in unity, hoping that whoever wins would do the right thing in the next two years, in the best interest of this profession.
Long live the NBA!