READING THE CARD READER ISSUE
Desperation surges within the presidency and PDP camp. Postponing the election to March 28, this group thought they had bought added time to alter the electoral equation in their favor. They were frightened that February 14 would have been their demise. Four weeks out of the six week delay, they have not found the elixir they craved. The date change has not changed the electoral dynamic in their favor. With the damage they have done to the nation, how could they think a mere six weeks would return to them the precious goodwill they had so meanly squandered? They now discover there likely is no sudden alteration that can repair the mess they have made of things. The extra time has only been a temporary stay of execution of the people's sovereign will against a desolate government that, through its callous neglect of the economy and national security, has been more hindrance than help to the people it once vowed to serve.
The PDP remains in virtually the same position they occupied in early February. 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. They remain afraid of the outcome of a clean and free exercise. They would like it to be loose and murky or not to hold at all.
This is the reason they vehemently hackle about the use of a card reader for the elections. 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.
The claim that use of the cards will disenfranchise voters is bogus. The world over, voters are required to register to vote and to present at the polling booth on election day a voter registration card. This process is not materially different than what takes place in other nations.
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, the elements of human error and mischief have been eliminated from this important process. Fingerprints cannot be altered nor can the machine's reading of them be distorted. 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.
They cry that the card- reading machines are imperfect. No one can guarantee that each and every machine will perfectly work. However, the alternative is fraught with even greater imprecision. Each national election conducted in Nigeria since 1999 has been a feat of ample rigging and malpractice. 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.
At the end of the day and every day has its end, the people need to vote and need to have confidence in the entirety of the process. The computerized card reader gives us a high probability of finally conducting a clean and fair election. A return to the old system is a sure return to crimes and wrongs that have made our elections a mockery of the democratic ideal and of the people's will. If one system gives us but the mere possibility let alone probability of a credible undertaking while the other system is doomed by the certainty of the misconduct it produces, it simply makes more sense to opt for the chance of success instead of settling for the certainty of failure.
That the PDP cohort wants the old way means they do not want to advance democracy by insuring a decent electoral process. They want to kidnap democracy by orchestrating the electoral result.
They are afraid of the verdict of the people because they know they have ill-served the nation for so many years. The energy this administration should have invested in governing the people for six years is now being expended in these last few weeks in the frantic attempt to scuttle or side-wind an election that is tantamount to a referendum on the Jonathan administration. They want to save their skin by choking your democracy. Their efforts come as too much, too clumsily, too late.
Do not be persuaded by their attempts to paint themselves as last-second democrats. Their governance has been haughty and arrogant, an eruption of insecurity, unemployment and deep economic recession depleting the national treasury by the day if not by the hour and minute. The times have been fertile and fecund for them but barren and bankrupt as to you! Their long track is one of disservice to you on all accounts — employment, power, water, roads, national security, corruption, education, health, housing and social security. Now at the last minute, they want you to believe they have become paragons of democratic virtue, the guardians of your right to vote. This is an insult to our collective wisdom. Your right to vote is seen as a wrong to them. They don't seek democracy. They seek to strike fear in you that you may recoil from grasping the democracy that is now so closely at hand.
Let us give true democracy a chance. At the end of every contest, the cards must be placed on the table and read. Let all the cards that you as voters hold in your hands be read. Only those afraid of the will of the people fear what the cards shall read.
Written by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a leader of the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress, and a former Governor of Lagos State.