Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos
With a cryptic signal message, the decision, last week, by some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House Representatives to vote against electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, might have been influenced by Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
By implication, the senator representing Lagos Central in the upper chamber of the legislature, it was believed, subtly passed on the message of her husband and one of the national leaders of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by voting against electronic transfer of results.
A member of the House of Representatives from Chinkun/Kajuru Federal Constituency area of Kaduna State, Hon Yakubu Barde, who identified the role of the APC leader in the voting pattern of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, described the moment the game changed as akin to the biblical anecdote of the "voice of Jacob and hand of Esau".
The vote by South-west lawmakers clearly contradicted what the region had long been reputed for - the champion of democratic values, transparency, electoral reforms and its general progressive leaning.
It, however, came as a shock to many observers, who watched with dismay as the representatives of South-west voted against electronic transmission of election results, which would no doubt strengthen and deepen the evolution of the nation's electoral system, her democratic process and significantly reduce incidents of ballot box snatching and other forms of election malpractices.
According to Barde, the moment the news of the "no vote" decision of Tinubu's wife was relayed to members of the House of Representatives, it immediately swayed the voting choices of some APC members, many of whom he claimed were earlier rooting for electronic voting.
The lawmaker, who claimed to be ashamed of the charade that took place in the House during the debate and voting exercise, also lamented the attitude of some of his colleagues, whom he alleged campaigned vigorously against the electronic transfer of results as though it was an "anti-north clause".
Speaking on the Morning Show, a popular programme on the Arise News Television, Barde explained that, the moment Senator Tinubu voted against the transmission of election results at the senate, it was immediately interpreted by some House members that the APC leader wanted a vote in that direction and with such perception, influenced voting for non-transmission of votes.
"I like to be very honest to myself, because if you know what happened on the floor of that house. There was this insinuation that Senator Remi Tinubu had voted no for electronic transmission, and what some people are saying was that it is the voice of Jacob, and the hands of Esau, which means that her husband, the elder statesman, Bola Tinubu, who is the leader of APC, is against electronic transmission of votes.
"So, automatically everybody, most of the people that are in the APC said, that's the the voice of our elder. Because before we pass it, we had information already that the Senate had passed it and Remi Tinubu voted no. So, that alone had a lot of influence on the decision of some lawmakers. Unfortunately, because for me, I don't think I should work based on what senate or somebody who is in my party has done; I work based on what Nigerians want and that was what happened and it became partisan," he said.
Barde was, therefore, convinced that Tinubu's influence and inclination to non-transmission of votes electronically encouraged the lawmakers to vote against the clause.
"It's unfortunate but let's not deceive ourselves, it happens. But what I want you to know is not all APC members that were on the floor in that house on that day that were supporting the non-transmission of voters as a result, I mean voting result electronically - a very tangible number felt we should do it electronically.
"So, I'm not saying everybody, but some of them really wanted it to be transmitted electronically. Now, since it became like a party affair, somebody, who was in APC will just say, oh, let me just sit down, because this walkout is not by members of my party but if you see what happened, predominantly those that walked out were members of the opposition party," he said.
Furthermore, the legislator said: "You see, unfortunately, the insinuation which I happen to be privy to was that some people said yes, we heard that Remi Tinubu voted no and for that, it means that our leader in the APC, who is Asiwaju, is also inclined to the non-transmission of votes, electronically. I can tell you from from the vineyard that I overheard people (lawmakers) say that and that's just the truth".
But the Kaduna lawmaker was worried that the voting was made to look like an anti-north clause.
"As far as I am concerned, if you talk about democracy, the process where leaders emerge is very very important and democracy believes that people's view or whatever people want should be sacrosanct. Now, why I said I apologise is because the manner we went about it was rancorous. That was not how parliamentarians should behave. So, for me, I felt ashamed that I was part of this. We want credible election, regardless of what party you belong to.
"The most important thing is that, let the view of the people supercede whatever interest anybody has and that is democracy. Now, we want it to be transparent. The best thing we can give to Nigerians as lawmakers, today, is to make sure that the process is transparent and people's view is what will emerge at the end of the day.
"So, I voted for electronic transmission of election result and my reason for that was it will enable us get some level of trust from international community; from Nigerians, unlike before, where somebody will just snatch the ballot box, run away with it, and they will tell you; oh, sorry, that election in that particular ward, or that polling unit will be canceled", he said.
Reiterating where he stood, Barde maintained: "I have always said it in different for a, we must love this country. The moment issues are taken into partisanship, ethnicity, religion, region, it defeats the essence of our nationhood. So, on the floor, you could imagine some people were canvassing that the north is not yet ready (for electronic voting). We have to make the north ready. If INEC has told us that they can transmit election electronically, what are you afraid of? Is there something you are hiding?
"So, it baffled me, because I don't have that answer, but I wish I had an answer so that I can tell them that we have a remedy. But, unfortunately, you never know details of people, but I want to tell them on the floor of the House that day. Some people were canvassing it to be a clause against the north.
"This is not the way I think we should behave. Election transmission electronically has nothing to do with ethnicity. It has nothing to do with party, but you will even look at what happened on the floor. It became partisan. APC against PDP. It is shameful - very shameful as far as I am concerned.
"So, for me, it was not a good one. But I believe there is still room to make amendment and I pray that when the committee that will seek to harmonise this position of the Senate and the House of Reps will look into it with all sense of responsibility, and let the views or yearnings of Nigerians prevail."