Former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, says electronic voting is the only way to get to credible elections in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
Speaking on the presidential panel of The Osasu Show Symposium 2020, Jonathan, a UN special envoy on crisis management, said the outcome of elections should be decided by the ballots, not by any other means, not even the courts.
“To me if Africa especially will move forward is not just about routine conducts of elections, this year alone in West Africa made up of 15 states, we have five states that had elections,” Jonathan said.
“So in terms of regular elections, we are progressing, but are these elections credible? Are they representing a constructional democratic setting is the issue.
“Regular elections, fine, but elections per se is not democracy. If the votes of the citizens don’t count, then it is as good as military dictatorship. So from me, the reforms first get to us making the vote counts.
“And taking a critical examination about the way elections are being conducted across the continent at least from the once I’ve observed, I’ve seen that the only thing that we must do to get there is through electronic voting.
“People may feel, yes someone could manipulate, smart boys who can hack into the system and do all kinds of things, yes, but still people still use electronic system to move hundreds of millions of dollars across the world. So I still believe very sincerely that that is the way to go.”
Jonathan signed Nigeria’s electoral act in 2010, pushing a number of reforms, including the overhaul of voter’s register.
Jonathan, who is known to favour technology, added that for elections to be credible, they have to be decided by the ballot, not by any other institutions, including the courts.
“For elections to be democratic, that means that the outcome of the elections must depend on the ballot not any other institution, not even the court.
“If the ballots don’t decide who wins, then we are not practicing democracy. And If we are now in a situation where people use force of arms using thugs that is well in Nigeria to win elections, then we can’t say we are practicing democracy.”
Also speaking on the presidential panel, former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, said COVID-19 has caused an upsurge of teenage pregnancy and reversed gains on gender equality in Africa.
“ I have been saying for the longest time that Africa must focus on the girl child from ages zero to ten. There is so much harm that happens between the ages of zero to ten and that would get worse as a result of COVID-19,” Banda said.
“These are the girls who are sitting at home, they are being defiled, they are getting married. The ones that have got married, the 15,000 that I talked about earlier in Malawi are between the ages of 10 to 14.
“So we need to pay a lot of attention to the eradication of harmful traditions that negatively impacts our girl child.”
Banda said the government must pay attention to women, and help improve their income because “when a woman brings income to the household, the household benefits, they have proper, better nutrition, better health and better education for children including girls”.
Osasu Igbinedion, the chief executive of The Osasu Show and the convener of the symposium, called on the African Union to rise to the opportunities presented by COVID-19 to drive prosperity for the continent.
“As a matter of urgency, we must rethink our policies, our politics and the way we do business,” she said, calling for technological innovation and self-sufficiency on the continent.
She said Africa must truly respect rule of law in order to give confidence to Africans and its investors in the post-COVID new normal.
Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who joined the virtual symposium from Washington DC said Africans must focus on wealth creation and skill-based education.
He said too much attention has been given to gross domestic product as an indicator of development, neglecting human capital development, and structural transformation of economies.
Other dignitaries who spoke at the event included Bankole Wellington, the media entrepreneur better known as Banky W; Benedict Oramah, president of the Afreximbank; and Chike Ukaegbu, a former presidential candidate in Nigeria.