25 May 2018

Nigeria: Why 2019 Election Would Be Another Mess

Except for the December 12, 1959 Nigerian Parliamentary Election, every other national election in the country has been plagued by fraud. The streak of electoral fraud runs from council elections to the presidential. The 1959 election, which ushered in self-rule, was largely satisfactory to the parties, not just because the First Republic politicians felt anything could go so long as the British departed, rather it derived hugely from the fact that it was handled by the departing colonialists, who, though commercialists and imperialists, understood that proper rules of engagement are critical in the affairs of men.

The next parliamentary election, conducted by us, which held on December 30, 1964, left no one in doubt about the kinds of animals in us. Violence, rigging and all manners of manipulations determined who won or lost. In fact, the 1964 Parliamentary Election could not hold in Eastern, Mid-Western regions and Lagos until March 18, 1965 due to protests and boycott. The many negatives from the campaign pitches, fraud and civil unrests from the 1964 election and its 1965 spillover, became the munitions the military needed to brush aside the politicians and enthrone a dictatorship that spanned 13 years on the bounce. That of 1979 was not different. It became even more aggravated in 1983, emboldening the military to once again blunder into governance with another round of dictatorship that lasted 17 years on the trot.

To some people, the 2015 general election was credible just so long as it saw a power switch from the ruling party to opposition, yet the election was no less tainted by fraud as those that preceded it, but not by any wily design of the government of the day.

The trail-blazing concession of defeat in the 2015 presidential poll by the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, ahead of the official prouncement of the results, inebriated some Nigerians to the extent that it weighed more in their eyes than the naked subversions of the due processes designed by the government to drive the elections. Anyways who should bother with the interrogation of the conduct of an election in which a loss was completely cool with the sitting president? For this, we swept under the rug the fact that in some states, the number of votes cast bizarrely tallied with the number of voters recorded during voters' registration exercise that was concluded about two years earlier. Such a curious tally tells us that no one among those who registered to vote in such states died within the two years space or relocated, was indisposed or refrained from voting. Added to these is the later revelation by Tanko Yakassai, an influential opinion leader from the North on "how the 2015 election was rigged in the North." Apart from disclosing that the card reader technology was only marginally applied in the North whereas the elections in the South were anchored on the devices, he said southerners living in the North who could have voted for Jonathan were made to flee, following threats of violence while those who remained couldn't venture out to vote for fear for their lives.

"What happened in 2015, where the majority of southerners resident in the north were scared away from their places of residence, where they had registered to their place of origin and therefore could not have the opportunity to vote, was rigging.

"Again some of the southerners who did not run away, were afraid to come out and vote on the day of election. So, scaring people from coming out to vote for the candidates of their choice is also a form of rigging," Yakassai said.

The issue here is that if the 2015 election was this fraud-infested, in spite of the manifest efforts of the then government of the day to make it free, fair and credible as expressed in its reassuring steps and amplified by the infusion of transparent cutting-edge technological inputs, where then lies our hope in 2019 election in which nothing, either by word of mouth, body language, legislation or additional technology input, points in the direction of a desire by government or INEC to improve on what we had in 2015?

Electronic voting is the global new face of polling which has caught on even with Africa. While Yakubu Mahmood's INEC is today losing sleep, trying to see how it can grapple with the problem of accommodating about 70 political parties in one ballot paper for next year's election, its counterpart in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has long unveiled the machines it would deploy for electronic voting in the country's December 23 general election.

Namibia, four years ago, became the first African nation to embrace electronic voting which it deployed in its November 28, 2014 general election.

Nigeria's experiment with digital data capturing of voters began with Professor Attahiru Jega, former INEC chair under Jonathan. Components of it are the permanent voters' registration card (PVC) and a card reading machine that authenticates a voter's identity and biometrics before a nod to vote. It is a sad commentary that four years after, nothing was added to it.

I am desirous to see the government and the national electoral body concerned about creating an even electoral playing field and advancing the country's electoral administration.

For now, nothing points in the direction of any kind of interest or will by either the government or INEC to bring about any electoral improvement.

Nigeria

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