The national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, has thrown his weight behind the use of card readers for the forthcoming general elections.
In a statement released Tuesday, Mr. Tinubu said that the Peoples’ Democratic Party was afraid of the will of the people and what their cards would read.
“The PDP remains in virtually the same position they occupied in early February,” said Mr. Tinubu. “They look behind them to find the people no longer there. They are angry because they think the people have deserted them at the eleventh hour.
“The greater truth is that they abandoned the people at the very dawn of this administration. They will now reap the dividends of their indifference. Just as they did a week before the original February election date, all senior PDP figures have run into the street not to contest in the elections but to contest against elections being had at all.”
Mr. Tinubu said that the PDP remained afraid of the outcome of a free and fair exercise, and would rather the election failed to hold.
“This is the reason they vehemently haggle about the use of a card reader for the elections,” he said. They have belatedly learned the card reader will prevent customary electoral malpractices.
“The reader will separate them from their cherished weapons of multiple voting and ballot stuffing. The best hope for them to manufacture victory is to manufacture reasons to nix the card readers, thus necessitating a last-minute reversal to the old, discredited process.”
There has been heightened controversy over the planned use of card readers for the general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Two weeks ago, 15 political parties and five presidential candidates threatened to pull out of the elections if INEC insists on going ahead with the electronic device.
According to the parties, INEC should revert to the old manual verification and confirmation of voter’s cards for the elections.
However, speaking at a town hall meeting in Abuja on Monday, Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman, dismissed opposition to the electronic card readers as “diversionary” and a ploy to move the Commission backwards.
“If we don’t use card readers, we will lose respect and credibility,” said Mr. Jega, a professor of Political Science. “We will be going back to old ways when alteration of results was possible.”
In his statement on Tuesday, Mr. Tinubu backed Mr. Jega’s position, noting that the process was “not materially different than what takes place in other nations.”
“The claim that use of the cards will disenfranchise voters is bogus,” said Mr. Tinubu. “The world over, voters are required to register to vote and to present at the polling booth on election day a voter registration card.
“Neither the card nor the reader itself is used to cast votes. The card is a form of identification, an important and effective method internal control, verification and confirmation, affirming the voter is the eligible to participate in this important civic exercise.
“In the old system, the voter still had to present a voter registration card that would be verified by the appropriate electoral official. The verification process was porous and inaccurate due in part to innocent human error and to wilful malpractice.”
By making the verification process dependent on computer-read biometrics, Mr. Tinubu said, the elements of human error and mischief would be eliminated from the process.
“Fingerprints cannot be altered nor can the machine’s reading of them be distorted,” he said. “Only those entitled to cast ballots will be allowed to receive a ballot to cast. I cannot understand how anyone with even the pretence of a democratic bone in his body can bemoan this improvement.”
The APC leader, however, admitted that the card-reading machines were imperfect but noted that the alternative was fraught with greater imprecision.
“Each national election conducted in Nigeria since 1999 has been a feat of ample rigging and malpractice,” Mr. Tinubu said. “That is the way of the old system. It incentivizes gross impropriety.
“This new way discourages if not prevents it. Unless the card readers are being sabotaged by PDP agents, the possibility of a massive failure of the readers is so scant as to be statistically implausible.
“The rate of innocent human error inherent in the old system far exceeds that of computer error in the new one. When we add the high rate of wilful mischief and wrongdoing the old system condoned, the new digital path is vastly superior to the reversion the PDP would have us make.”