WOUNDED HOPE:ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
By Olisa Akukwe
Edo election has just been concluded, with the usual recriminations and
counter recriminations. The opposition party that lost the election,
characteristically refused to accept the result. And for good reasons!
Many of the election observers also reported unfair and opaque practices.
Edo citizens are still very divided.
But non of these are surprising. Critical national observers know that no
national and sub-national election in Nigeria has been free of rigging,
manipulation and compromise. It has only been of differences in degrees.
Whether it was the Shagari and Awolowo of the second republic, or Zik and
Balewa of first. Abiola and Tofa of third republic or even Tinubu and
Funsho Williams of fourth republic. All were not free and fair, in the
true sense of the phrase. I still remember that Funsho Williams was
leading in Lagos Guber polls after 18 LGAs were announced in 2003. Until
Ikorodu and Epe results, conveniently delayed, came in. Kuforoji, the main
political leader in Ikorodu eventually became Lagos Speaker.
The fact that political players who can compromise the system, do
compromise it is not incredible. The benefits are enormous. What is rather
amazing is that the people who bear the brunt of all these shenanigans
accept the results of these polls. And don’t even audit the process or
demand for credible improvement.
There are myriads of ways our polls are rigged. The most popular, but
actually least effective, is paying voters for votes. This was very common
in this last election.
There is also the unauthorized access to ballot materials, prior to
election. This is also common in Nigeria. And the general public don’t
realise how easily it can be done.
The there is the ubiquitous ballot snatching and stuffing.
There is the result hijacking enroute to collation.
Now that we use electronic voting machine for accreditation, there are
many ways it can still be rigged. Simply removing the battery and spare
for the machine in areas you intend to rig renders the machine useless.
And incident form is no panacea, as you can bring as many people as
possible to bear the names on the register and vote for you. This was done
massively in last general election, in many parts of the country.
The EVS can also be perviously technically tinkered with, so that it will
fail to capture some people. This is done in your opponent’s stronghold,
with stern instructions to your agents to insist on EVS being used. This
only leads to acrimony, and delays. The outcome is mainly the dispersal of
many potential voters.
A competent programmer surreptitiously employed, and given access to the
EVS can tweak the software for selected machines to be sent to your
opponent’s stronghold. There it will misrecord the registered voters, so
that total actual ballots will exceed the registered voters. Thereby
leading to cancellation.
And many more ways!
The purpose of outlining some of the rigging antics is to show Nigerians
we are supposed to demand post election audits! It’s not enough for losing
candidates to go to tribunal, with inadequate evidence.
However it will be more effective if we demand more dependable electoral
process. Many countries have faced this our current electoral challenges.
And found a credible way forward. We also need to. Nigeria deserves a
better electoral process.
We need a system that gives us credible outcomes. Such system should have
1. It should keep digital tallies of votes cast, stored in the hard drive
and memory card. This makes the result almost real time, and more
difficult to falsify at collation.
2 It should print paper ballot of the vote cast, and have a ballot box for
casting. The ballot is actually cast in a ballot box. It helps the voter
confirm that what machine recorded is what he/she voted. It is also used
for correlation of the digital result.
3.It should be able to have a memory you can’t alter. Similar to what you
find in Aircraft’s black box. This acts as a third safeguard. If the three
do not correspond exactly, you know there is compromise.
Such a system is already available, and being used in many countries
including Venezuela, Belgium, Philippines and Brazil.
The Venezuelan voting process is rated as one of the most efficient in the
world. It’s a simple system that embraces all three criteria mentioned
above, and has been adopted by Philippines. Results are almost real time.
And now voter turnout in these two countries are about the highest in the
world. Because credibility has been restored to their electoral process.
Nigeria needs same. The people need to start making credible demand for
the change we need. Our electoral process is still highly compromised. If
we don’t rescue it, we can’t start the journey to restoration.
It’s not just an,opposition party problem. It’s a national problem.
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