For the benefit of those who were born after 1993 or those who were still too young during the 1993 Presidential election in Nigeria, this article will start by explaining what Option A4 method of voting means. Option A4 electoral system also known as open ballot system is a method of voting whereby voters openly queue behind the picture of their proffered candidates in an election. This system was introduced by Prof Humphrey Nwosu under the regime of President Ibrahim Babangida. This method of voting when used in 1993 election produced the fairest and freest election in Nigerian history.
There were no rigging, no electoral malpractices, no ballot snatching, no shooting etc. Above all, this is the least expensive method of voting as it does not require ballot papers, ballot boxes etc. This was one of the best ideas to come out of Babangida’s government, yes something good can come out of Nigeria. However, the major disadvantage of this method of voting is that people will know whom you voted for, therefore no secret or privacy of your votes. Your choice is public knowledge, which might likely endanger the voter. Sadly this method of voting was jettisoned at the onset of 1999 democratic dispensation.
Yours truly ran series of online campaigns for many years for Nigeria to revert back to this system of voting. In fact one of my good friends (Mr Onyeka) who lives in the same city where I live in Leicester, nicknamed me Option A4, and that is what he calls me till date. Compare this system with what is currently in operation in Nigeria now. Firstly let’s start with 1999 general election, where Chief Olu Falae then Presidential candidate of All Peoples Party alleged rigging of the election and went ahead to challenge the Presidential election result in court. He lost his case.
During the 2003 general election former President Obasanjo declared it as a do or die affair for him and his party. Over two hundred people were killed during the election. His opponent then, Gen Buhari (the current Nigerian President) went to court to challenge the result, but he lost the case. 2007 election was marred with serious irregularities. Late President Yar Adua who emerged as President from that election, acknowledged the irregularities of the election that brought him to power. He set up Justice Uwais electoral reform panel. Yar Adua’s opponent then, Gen Buhari (our current President) went to court to challenge the Presidential election result, but he lost the case.
During the year 2011 general election, over eight hundred (800) people were killed all over Nigeria. In fact President Goodluck Jonathan set up his own electoral reform panel. His opponent then, Gen Buhari (our current President) went to court to challenge the Presidential election result, but lost the case. 2015 general elections witnessed some many electoral malpractices and frauds. Many people lost their lives too.
Fast forward to 2019 general election, same old stories of electoral malpractices. Before the election itself, President Buhari gave order for the security services to shoot at sight anyone trying to snatch ballot boxes. During the 2019 Presidential election in Rivers State alone, over thirty people were killed. Many died during the conduct of the rest of the elections. The government spent over two hundred and fifty billion naira (N250 billion) to conduct the 2019 general election, but outcome of the election was worst that previous elections in Nigeria.
The political parties and individuals would have also spent so much during the election. Therefore, the total estimated cost of 2019 general election can be about five hundred billion naira (N500 billion). President Buhari’s opponent Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has already gone to tribunal/court to challenge the result. Many that lost state gubernatorial elections, senatorial and House of Representative election are also heading to courts to challenge different results. Legal fees are huge as both the winners and losers would pay for legal representations.
Suffice it to say that current electoral system in operation is a torn in our flesh except we do not wish to say the truth to ourselves. Option A4 electoral system did not witness any electoral disputes, no court cases, except when President Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election and people went to court to challenge his actions. But since we abandoned this method, every other election from 1999 till 2019 (20 years) had experienced bitter electoral court cases that run into billions of naira. The only major benefit of our current system is that of privacy of your votes, as no one knows whom you have voted for or against, unlike the Option A4 where everyone will know whom you voted.
Looking at the human and material costs of our current system which does not produce free and fair election and the Option A4 which costs much less, no malpractices, no killings, yet produces free and fair election. Without doubts, the later is preferable under any circumstances despite its disadvantage highlighted earlier in the article. The question is why don’t we go back to the system that produced the freest election in Nigeria’s history? Help the author to ask the same question?