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WOUNDED HOPE: Elections in Nigeria

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INEC to decide on 95 new political parties seeking registration on Wednesday

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 three qualities:
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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