As the Students’ Union elections draw by, all eyes — including those of the authorities — will be on the entire electioneering process. The searchlight of most stakeholders will be beamed on the processes that produce those who shall occupy the Kunle Adepeju Building. But, more often than not, in focussing on the Big Fish, we forget to ensure that all is well with the smaller ones. In this report, this reporter chronicles his findings, acting on a tip-off by a concerned student of the faculty of technology about the many strange activities that marked the pre-election, election, and post-election periods.
BEFORE THE ELECTIONS: GUIDELINES TO ASPIRANTS ONLY; A SCREENING PROCESS THAT SHOULD BE SCREENED
It is the usual practice for any electoral commission conducting election to release, via electronic broadcast messages and in print, the guidelines and set rules that will set the tone for how the elections will eventually pan out, and what will be considered an offence punishable by disqualification (or not). However, a few days to the day of election, an (unsigned) document from the electoral commission was released to all aspirants acquainting them with the ‘rules of engagement’ for the then-forthcoming elections. Not a word was sent out to techites and the generality of UItes detailing the schedule of events until 24 hours to the commencement of voting. This is in contravention of Article B Section 1 of the Reviewed TESA Constitution which demands the faculty’s electoral commission to “draw up electoral regulations and guidelines subject to the provision of the Constitution and other relevant rules and regulations shall be published at least 14 days before the election.” Going by the dates, not only is the entire electioneering process deficient since the schedule of events was not published to the public, the documents sent to aspirants should have reached them before the aforementioned date. More sacrilegious than this gross negligence on the part of members of the electoral commission is the fact that as against the normal electoral sequence of screening-press night-election, the electoral commission decided in its wisdom to organise what it described as a ‘manifesto/press night’. Apart from it being an anomaly to organise a ‘manifesto/press night’, the supposed ‘manifesto/press night’ was brought to the notice of no pressman and attended by no pressman registered under the Union of Campus Journalists. The only provision made for the press in any form whatsoever was contained in the document released to aspirants stating that during the screening process, the electoral was expecting the ‘presence of the following personalities: TESA President, TRC Speaker, and possibly, TESA PRESS.’Perhaps the biggest abomination of the pre-election process happened during the screening. Any electoral commission, once constituted, is supposed to be independent of any external force whatsoever. However, this time around, the external forces were in full blast as the President, as well as the Speaker of the faculty’s Legislative Council, were on hand to screen candidates! When confronted with this allegation, the electoral commission simply refuted by saying that the President was ‘present upon the Chairman’s request.’, while the Speaker was present when the electoral commission was ‘doing the screening for the Vice-presidential aspirants and only asked questions or gave them a sort of advice before he left.’ Besides the mockery all actors made of the screening process, it is arguable the electoral commission shed a bit of its credibility by this singular fact.
ELECTION DAY SHENANIGANS
(i) MISSING MATRIC NUMBERS
It is mandatory for electoral commission to obtain the matriculation numbers of all students within its purview from the Management Information Systems (MIS) office through the Hall Warden (for halls) or through the Dean (for halls). In this case, the electoral commission thought it best to ask Presidents across departments to send in details of all students across all levels. Class representatives were also asked to send details of classmates. The result: on election day, the list of students from the department of Mechanical Engineering, as well as a few names randomly scattered across departments, were missing in the list of accredited voters. And the electoral commission thought it unwise to halt the election because of these techites until agitations were made by the affected parties. For some context, mechanical engineering is the department of the only other candidate for the presidency. Make of that what you will.
(ii) SECURITY OPERATIVES ABSENT; TECHITES RESORT TO DIVINE PROTECTION
Like it has been mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is mandatory for electoral commissions to do a number of things in the build-up to an election. One of them is to write the university’s security department, requesting the presence of a member of staff from the Department to ensure order during the conduct of elections proper. The electoral commission claimed to have written to the security personnel in the faculty, who then directed them to their ‘headquarters’. One is left to wonder if the faculty of technology operates a separate security apparatus from the university’s. On being quizzed as to why the advice of the ‘security personnel in the faculty’ was not heeded, the electoral commission simply told this reporter that the timing for the election was very short and ‘this we couldn’t pull through until the D-day’. Thus, the election was left to the mercy to disruptive forces in the faculty of technology, if they exist. However, what struck this reporter the most about the security debacle is the testimony of the electoral commission that suggests that this anomaly has been ongoing in the faculty for some time. Techites can only hope for divine protection while casting their votes in case of a breakdown of order since security operatives — who are also poorly equipped for the job anyway — are at large while they vote.
(iii) DUES RECEIPTS REPLACE ID CARDS AS MEANS OF IDENTIFICATION
In a broadcast message sent across to techites less than 24 hours to the commencement of voting, it was contained as a clause that ‘your TESA due receipt will be needed to exercise your voting rights.’ When confronted with this, the electoral commission once again responded by saying that ‘anyone without their ID cards were allowed provided they had their TESA receipt.’ While not entirely bad, an ID card remains an ID card. Anything short leaves the system prone to impostors. And if there were any, the commission rendered themselves helpless towards trying to detect them.
AFTER THE ELECTIONS: RESULT RELEASE BY SCREENSHOT; ELECTORAL CHAIRMAN ADMITS ‘ERRORS’
After voting closed, various testimonies this reporter gathered alluded to the fact that the results of the election were screenshot and uploaded on the WhatsApp status updates of Mr. Victor Caleb Igbikiowubo, the TRC Speaker with the caption “Tech Results”. Although there was absolutely nothing wrong with that, the said post came even before the ‘official’ release of results by the electoral commission — a document which was signed by no one, yet again. In the barrage of WhatsApp status updates which followed the conclusion of the election, the Chairman of the electoral commission, Mr. Stephen Oladele, admitted that the commission ‘made some errors’ in the course of duty. While errors are inevitable in any system, one would think that this was a process ridden by one error too many for the Chairman to relegate them to simply making ‘some errors.’
Strangely too, a member of the electoral commission was seen in a video obtained by this reporter drinking, whining and dining with the incumbent President, as well as the President-elect. Once again, it is left to the reader to make of it what he or she will.
LESSONS FOR ALL
There were, and still are, insinuations that the executive and legislative powers were used in some capacity to ensure that the victor in the presidential elections emerged. And it is irrefutable prima facie seeing how close to the electioneering process the electoral commission brought the TESA President and the TRC Speaker. Halls of residence and faculties must do more to protect the sanctity of their elections. And there is no better way of doing this than appointing the best hands into the commission saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections. It has been noticed in recent times that the adoption of the e-voting system—as was adopted in this case—has marred many elections on campus. Electoral officers must be trained and adequately prepared for whatever roles they are to play during elections because elections are the forerunners of development. If electoral procedures and processes are skewed and the wrong leaders emerge, development becomes difficult. Thus, elections are supposed to be sacred. And, being the microcosm of what goes on in the town, the gown must not get it wrong because getting it wrong means there is little to no hope for Nigeria’s electoral umpire, INEC. And if there is little to no hope for the conduct of credible elections in Nigeria then there is little hope for the country itself.