There is a video clip trending on social media about Swedish members of parliament (MPs). It is ostensibly intended to compare Nigerian MPs with their Swedish counterparts. It states inter alia:
- Swedish MPS: No assistants, No coffee, No high salaries.
- The Swedish Parliament has only three cars. They’re only used for official occasions.
- Swedish MPs are expected to use public transport. They are issued a yearly ticket.
- Until 1957 they were not paid for their job.
- They get about 4, 300 US dollars a month, which is less than the salary of a primary school teacher.
- The MPs cannot increase their own salaries.
- One-room apartments (no separate bedroom) are provided for those from outside the capital Stockholm.
- The apartments have no dishwashers and washing machines.
- Visiting friends and family are not allowed to sleep over at the apartments. If they need to, the host MP pays.
- The MPs buy their own food and wash their dishes after eating, etc. etc.
I stopped watching the video at this point, without bothering to confirm whether the information is true or not. What a calculated insult on the dignity of Nigerian parliamentarians! This is the kind of thing that justifies a permanent ban on social media. Nonsense! How dare these evil detractors and envious social media miscreants expect Nigerian MPs to be washing their own clothes, plates and spoons, and to sleep in a studio apartment!? Have they forgotten that Nigeria is one of the biggest oil-producing countries in the world? Is there oil in Sweden? The gold in Zamfara State alone is more than all the gold in Sweden. These people must be joking and the joke is not funny. Till today, the problem of Nigeria is not money but how to spend it. Even if it is money, there are friendly nations ready and willing to lend us whatever amount we need to make our MPs comfortable. This is very annoying and can make our MPs to go on strike. Thank God they passed the electoral amendment bill or ACT (pun intended) before people started posting this rubbish.
It is a good thing that the senators are now on a two-month vacation. They need to rest after such a tiring exercise, including those that were resting somewhere when the brouhaha over electronic transmission of results was being transmitted electronically to all corners of the country from the Red Chamber in Abuja. This is the time for them to enjoy the exotic furniture acquired with their humongous furniture allowances. It is the time to recline in their palatial country homes occupied by rodents and roaches and bedecked by cobwebs whilst they are busy with matters of state in the federal capital. If we must continue talking about the grounbreaking vote on electronic transmission of election results, we should do so in hushed tones to avoid disturbing them.
In my Diaspora sojourn, one thing I’ve heard people say is that Nigerians like to talk. And they just talk the way they feel without considering whether the next person is comfortable with what they are saying or not. That is how one Professor Farooq Kperogi in faraway Atlanta, USA, is busy saying that “the political elites of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have chosen to regress to the stone age in matters of election at a time that Nigeria is relentlessly digitalizing in every other sphere. Banking is now almost entirely digitized, POS vendors have become ever-present fixtures in even the remotest Nigerian village, ecommerce is now mainstream, national standardized tests such as the UTME are now wholly electronic, and the Communication and Digital Economy Ministry insists that every phone in the country should be linked to citizens’ National Identification Number.”
He even asked the APC stalwarts who argued that electronic transmission of results can make PDP Yahoo boys to rig elections, “if ‘Yahoo Boys’ who’re experts at robbing people of money don’t intercept the enormous electronic bank transfers that politicians routinely make to people in both towns and remote villages, why would they be interested in, or be successful at, altering the results of elections?”
I hear that Kperogi is a professor of Communication. There is one saying of my people that I know our politicians would like to communicate to him: If urinating is not difficult, why does the fowl not urinate? But wait a moment, do fowls not urinate? Anyway, that’s not the issue. If Kperogi thinks it is easy to win election, let him come and contest for councillor in his local government area, instead of blowing grammar in Atlanta. Who grammar epp?
But whether we like it or not, some of the most effective remedies for serious ailments are not sweet. Just like truth. The bitter truth is that there is no justification for the decision of the senators that voted against electronic transmission of election results, apart from self-preservation. The benefits of electronic transmission of results far outweigh the limitations. In countries that have adopted the system, like South Africa, you can tell the result of the general election from your living room. Results are beamed live by TV stations from the central results centre in the capital as they are transmitted electronically from the nooks and crannies of the country. There may be delays owing to the elements, e.g. late voting in areas made inaccessible by flooding or storms, or even connectivity, but such is so minimal that it makes no significant impact on the outcome. The world saw it during the last presidential election in the US that is the poster boy of democracy. The major television networks announced the results even before the electoral body. That was possible because of electronic transmission. Imagine what the Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol would have done to ballot boxes in some Democratic strongholds if they were being transported physically to collation centres!
Some people might argue that the US has functional infrastructure to support the process. But the US did not wait for 100 percent practicability before commencing the process. For instance, we know the volume of votes that come out of Lagos and Kano in every election. We know the network coverage in both states. The chances of rigging will be drastically reduced if the results from the densely populated urban centres are guaranteed by the double-layer authenticity conferred by electronic transmission. It will be obvious that something underhand has taken place if the vote tallies from some far-flung rural areas without network overwhelm the returns in densely populated urban centres with network coverage and with more registered voters.
Besides, in virtually all states in Nigeria today, as has been pointed out by analysts, POS machines are used for banking transactions, and candidtaes register for WASCE, NECO, and UTME examinations electronically. How are these possible without network coverage? A casual check of the broadband coverage of Nigeria reveals that there is no state without network. Connectivity varies from one service provider to another. Thus, an area not covered by MTN may be covered by Globacom, etc. It would not be difficult, therefore, to deploy the appropriate networks during the exercise, just as some users have different sim cards in their phones for use at different locations, depending on the connectivity.
The senators also displayed amazing ignorance on the ramifications of electronic transmission. ‘Electronic’ is not limited to the internet. Transistor radios have been a permanent part of the paraphernalia of nomadic herders all over Nigeria, long before the advent of the internet. They get news about the world even in their forest habitats. Whatever is used to transmit news to those electronic radio sets can be used in reverse to transmit results to designated centres with connectivity, from where the information can be relayed digitally to the central collation station. That would still be a much faster process with limited chances of tampering with the result along the way, as there would be recorded versions of the transmitted information at the originating stations.
One would have expected the senators (don’t mind mischief makers who spell the word as SINATORS), among whom are very learned men and tested administrators, to insist on electronic transmission and prescribe measures to ensure network coverage for vast areas of the country before 2023. If that is the kind of project that the huge amounts the APC government borrows serially are applied to, the benefits would transcend transparent elections to catalysing the digital economy that is the future of the world. Many smaller countries have adopted this system. Why is the giant of Africa afraid to take giant leaps into the future when it matters but prefers to make the people retrace their steps on medieval routes into the past? Coming closely on the heels of debates about grazing routes, the APC senators’ argument on practicability was too hollow, if indeed they were interested in an electoral act to improve the credibility and validity of elections in Nigeria. A couple looking for a child does not wait for clement weather before making love. This is really no rocket science, except that the majority of our parliamentarians are not interested in the science of it. They are obvously propelled by a sense of self-preservation. Our people say, ‘Even a blind man does not need to be told that sand has been deliberately added to his meal.’ Mind you, our people are very wise, except when it comes to being deceived by politicians.
Self-preservation is in the DNA of politicians everywhere. For instance, electronic transmission of election results in Ghana has been discarded. In the case of Ghana, it was not because of inadequate internet coverage. It was an issue of trust. According to africanelections.org, Peter Mac Manu, the campaign manager of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), on Sunday 31st July, 2016, expressed dissatisfaction about the Electoral Commission (EC)’s decision to transmit results electronically during the December 7th elections, stating among other reasons that it was not backed by law.
The governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) fired back, accusing the NPP of hypocrisy, since they were involved in the decision to transmit the December 7 polls results electronically. The NDC further added that electronic transmission was the “brainchild” of the NPP. However, the NPP described the accusation as “propaganda” and indicated that, even though they welcomed the electronic transmission, their position was misconstrued. It dismissed the explanations by the Electoral Commission that it was part of the reforms recommended by the Electoral Reform Committee, and accused the EC of lack of transparency, a euphemism for collusion with the governing party.
So, you see? It is mainly about the political parties everywhere, even in the US where Republicans accused Democrats of trying to rig the general election being supervised by the governing Republican party, just because the Democrats were in support of the time-tested mail-in voting!
Thanks to Senate President Ahmed Lawan for confirming what we have always suspected. In the extraordinarily long press statement by his multi-certificated special assistant on press matters, that reads like the minutes of a village meeting, we are given a blow by blow account, literally, of how proceedings on the bill unfolded and ended in the Upper House.
According to the statement, the senate president remarked that “There was no victor, no vanquished in this affair. Everyone did what he or she did for the full commitment and realization that what we want is one and the same thing, but the path (sic) we have taken are different.” Yet, the statement cast Senator Abaribe Eyinnaya and the PDP as having suffered a terrible defeat. Otherwise, what is the use of the highlighted portions in the following sections of the statement?
- However, lawmakers such as Enyinnaya Abaribe, Thompson Sekibo and Albert Bassey Akpan, WHO BELONG TO THE OPPOSITION PEOPLES’ DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP) DISAGREED with Senators Sabi Abdullahi and Ndume, insisting that the previous recommendation be retained.
- APPARENTLY DETERMINED TO HAVE THEIR WAY, the minority leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while citing order 73 of the Senate Rule, called for a division.
- A DEFIANT ABARIBE REFUSED ALL ENTREATIES for him to withdraw the point of order, despite attempts by his colleagues to sway members of the minority party during a closed session that followed and lasted almost 20 minutes.
- Sensing the Minority Leader’s refusal to shift grounds, THE SENATE PRESIDENT IN AN UNEXPECTED MOVE TOOK ABARIBE BY SURPRISE and approved the request for division amidst called (sic) for voting on the amendment put forward by Senator Bassey.
Abaribe and Co. WERE DETERMINED TO HAVE THEIR WAY. Really! Was it personal? Were they not arguing on behalf of Nigerians? When did minority start having their way? A DEFIANT ABARIBE REFUSED ALL ENTREATIES (not even Senator Abaribe or the minority leader this time)!
The semantic import of this press statement is that the PDP was trounced by the APC. It does not reflect the purported intention of the senate president to avoid division in the House, and it exposes the hollowness of the “no victor no vanquished” charade. There is no doubt that the PDP would have done the same thing, if the tables were turned. It is hardly about the people with the current crop of politicians. It is about the supremacy of their parties and the longevity of their mandates. The altruistic ones are an endangered species, sadly.
From Random Thoughts: A Collection of Essays and Poems By Tony Ekata