By Daniel Dafe
The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), the umbrella body for the Urhobo people in Nigeria and Diaspora, has expressed shock and disbelief at the rejection of the electronic transmission of results in 2023 polls by the National Assembly, wondering why the desire of the Urhobo people and indeed the entire people of Nigeria to have polling units results electronically transmitted was rejected by federal lawmakers.
In a statement signed by the President General of the socio-cultural group, Chief Joe Omene, the body said that by this act, it has become clear that Nigerians only have representatives but do not have representation in the Red and Green chambers.
According to the statement, UPU “now knows those who pretend that they are representatives and those who truly respect the wishes and desires of the Urhobo people that we should have an integrity driven electoral process, wherein the votes of the people must not only be counted but must be taken into account through a transparent process of recording the results from the polling units as INEC demonstrated in Edo and Ondo governorship elections recently.”
The statement added: “The Urhobo people of Delta state have been at the receiving end of invidious bogus votes turned in from communities and LGAs around us where there is no physical evidence of people to justify the huge votes often posted. After some results are collated and this is what electronically transmitted polling units results will stop, yet our representatives voted against it.
“Lawmakers in their individual self driven motives rather than the collective interest and the general desire of our people, betrayed their own Southern Governors’ unequivocal support for electronic transmission of polling results to promote peaceful, credible, free and fair elections.
“History they say, is the graveyard for contending opinions and our own electoral history and those of other countries has shown that rigged and manipulated elections have uncertain consequences for peace, security and development.”
The organization said that “rigged and manipulated elections have led to the fall of several democratic regimes, with the National Assembly the worst victim of such failures, being the only arm of governance that is often obliterated when democracy fails.”
While applauding the twenty eight (28) Senators who backed the electronic transmission of results and represented the overwhelming desire of the people of the nation, said that “they have written their names in gold and so will they be remembered and rewarded in 2023 as true representatives of the people.”
“Those other fifty two (52) Senators that expressly rejected electronic transmission of polling units obviously voted for election rigging in 2023. Those who deliberately absented themselves at one of the most crucial legislative decision making of this year obviously did so in support of rejection of electronic transmission. History has recorded the role they have played or failed to play and so shall they be remembered for rejecting the transmission of already known and declared polling results that INEC merely wants to send by SMS to a dedicated server.
“lf people are afraid of the word transmission, let them use SMS and how many of those talking of hacking have had their SMS contents hacked?
“It is shameful to hear members of the National Assembly rationalize and exhibit ignorance or outright mischief on national television that transmission of polling units election results will “disenfranchise” their people. How will already counted polling units results that have been recorded, declared and duplicates given to party agents of political parties that INEC wants to transmit electronically “disenfranchise” people who have voted and their votes already counted?
“Truly, Urhobo people have a saying that when a group of people are in the court of public opinion and want to lie, they will always say that their witnesses are in heaven. How will already sorted ballots and counted votes to be transmitted digitally as text lead to denial of the voting right of people who have already voted and their votes counted and recorded?
“An even more dramatic fact, as noted by UPU Research and Response Team (RRT) is that most of the legislators that voted against (52), or absented themselves (28) from clear support for electronic transmission of polls, have themselves being victims of failed party nominations or general elections in the past, yet they decided not to use this opportunity to make an enduring law but have appeared to put the 2023 election on a cliff hanger of uncertainty.
“UPU’s firm support for E-transmission of polling units results to avoid manipulation of the choice of the people is borne out of the realization that democratic elections is an elitist hegemonic selection process whereby a general election is used to elect people that political parties have pre-selected. Therefore, it’s only a free and transparent process of polling units recording of votes that will give the Urhobo people and other Nigerians a fair opportunity to use the ballot when political parties fail to reflect public aspirations as they often do in the process of selecting candidates for general election,” UPU added.
The statement continued: “Given the available facts, UPU had expected our representatives at the National Assembly to give a robust support for electoral integrity like the Governors but our people watched with shock how legislators after another gambled with integrity by the introduction of confounding clauses to water-down clear unequivocal support for Electronic transmission of polling unit election results.”
Furthermore, UPU thanked the minority leader, Senator Abaribe for moving a motion that made it possible for the Urhobo people to know the position our representatives took on this matter, noting that “the wind that blew made it possible for the Urhobo people and indeed Nigerians to see the fowl’s rump.”
UPU opined that the rejection of electronic transmission of polling units’ results is a red flag about the integrity of the 2023 General election that it will be compromised.
“To restore the faith of our people in the next elections, UPU calls on the National Assembly to return to the path of integrity by clear unconditional support for electoral laws and process that will provide confidence and fidelity by way of transmission of polling unit results through electronic infrastructure that INEC has piloted and demonstrated to the public successfully in several states,” UPU averred.
UPU therefore called on the National Assembly to have a rethink over its decision to reject E-transmission of polling unit election results
“Now is the time for lawmakers to listen to the voices of the Nigeria people calling on them not to stop the election management body either through deliberate budget sabotage from performing its constitutional duty.
“By the conduct and actions of our lawmakers, they have sent a very disturbing wrong signal to our people that the 2023 general election will be a matter of survival of the fittest. We are waiting at home for all those who moved and worked against the collective interest of the Urhobos for election where votes returned should not be more than the inhabitants of those communities and LGAs in our state.
“This is a challenge and an overwhelming responsibility that all sons and daughters of Urhobo nation and indeed Nigerians must take up and ensure that those who voted against our collective desire are rejected in 2023,” UPU said.
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