Kaduna and Electronic Voting: Lessons for Nigeria - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati

Proshare

Tuesday, September 07, 2021 / 08:54 AM / OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati / Header Image Credit: Premium Times Nigeria

 

"We don't believe in cheating or rigging elections but also we don't want other parties to cheat us, and that was why we encouraged the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission to come up with a fool-proof voting process". - Nasir el-Rufai

 

The prefatory statement above belongs to Nasir el-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna, one of the few Governors who have consistently demonstrated faith in the deployment of technology to protect the integrity and credibility of the electoral process in Nigeria. He is the only one who has given effect to his conviction. In 2018, Kaduna state under his watch, conducted elections with an electronic voting system. This was the first time anyone in Nigeria would adopt electronic voting, and the second case of electronic voting in Africa, after Namibia. That year, the then extant law namely the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission Act No. 10 of 2012 was amended, to establish electronic voting in Section 16 (3) thereof.  There were allegations of multiple voting and other challenges. But this did not deter Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. 

 

On September 4, 2021, his administration repeated the same "offence", if the adoption of modern technology by African electoral umpires can be so described, by ensuring that the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM), again conducted elections in the state's local government areas in line with Section 16(3) of the KADIESCOM Act. At the end of the exercise, it was reported that the challenges observed in 2018 had been addressed. Multiple voting was no longer possible. The software had been upgraded to deny any voter an attempt to vote a second time. About 18, 000 ad hoc staff were deployed whose main assignment was the verification of the voter's register. The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) was a computerized box with simple Cancel and OK buttons that could be used even by the illiterate and the elderly. You select the logo of the party you want to vote for, and simply tap either OK or Cancel - a simple Yes or No choice. The Cancel button in fact allows you to change your mind. Each EVM was powered by a battery that could last up to 16 hours. KADIESCOM worked in collaboration with the telecommunication companies to provide the network for the immediate transmission of results. Voting took less than a minute.

 

The LGA election in Kaduna State on Saturday, September 4 was by no means perfect however. About 11 electronic voting machines were vandalised by suspected hoodlums. This should not be surprising. Violence is part of the sociology of Nigeria's electoral process. Those who do not trust the system would always find a way to violate it. No matter how fool-proof a measure may be, Nigerians would always find a way to disrupt it. Oftentimes, out of raw scepticism. In the course of the elections in 19 LGAs, 41 EVMs were snatched across Kaduna State. Should anybody be surprised? The EVMs looked like boxes. In regular, manual, elections, the ballot box is the main victim in the hands of those who want to manipulate results. The only difference with an EVM is that it is electronic and has a digital footprint. Stealing or snatching it is pointless. The Kaduna State LGA elections have now ended. The APC won in 15 area councils. But the more interesting outcome was the disclosure that the Governor, Nasir el-Rufai lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in his Ungwar Sarki Polling unit in Kaduna North Local Government Area. It is a major dent for a politician to lose in his own polling unit! It makes no difference if his party wins across the entire state. He will be constantly reminded that he could not even get the endorsement of his own immediate neighbours.

 

With electronic voting, it may be difficult to manipulate results, stuff ballot boxes or thump-print multiple ballot papers. It should be noted however, that voter turn-out in the Kaduna Local Government elections of September 4, 2021 was very low. This is a nationwide pattern, and it is one of the ills that must change to properly deepen participatory democracy not just in Nigeria, but across Africa. The big gap between inputs and outcomes in the electoral process in Africa has alienated the people from the system and from democracy itself. Why go out to vote when there are no guarantees that your vote will count or translate into improvements in your circumstances? Why vote for people who will get into positions of privilege on the wings of your efforts and end up forgetting you? The biggest threat to democracy in Africa is this trust deficit and the disconnect between the people and the actual value of elections.      

 

This however should not discount the value of credibility, integrity, transparency and accountability in the electoral process. This is the objective of those who support the idea of electronic voting and the electronic transmission of results. Twice now, in 2018 and 2021, the El-Rufai administration has shown that it is doable. There may be hitches and challenges but these can be identified and fixed in subsequent elections. It may be argued that Kaduna state is relatively small (population - 6- 1 million) compared to Nigeria with a population of over 200 million and 774 local councils). But we have it on record that should Nigeria decide to adopt electronic voting, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can deliver on that score. The GSM operators in the country have also openly said that they can provide the necessary services. There are certainly lessons that can be learnt from the Kaduna experience, and from other countries including Namibia and the West. The only problem we have in Nigeria is the refusal of Nigerian lawmakers at the Federal level to see the value of electronic voting. The adoption of electronic voting by Kaduna State sends a strong message to those members of the National Assembly who conveniently rushed to the toilet, or were absent, or lied shamelessly that there was no mobile telephony in their village when the National Assembly voted on the proposed Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.  

 

Getting the right electoral framework for elections in Nigeria has been a major concern since the return to democratic rule in 1999: the 2001 Electoral Act, 2002 Electoral Act, 2006 Electoral Act and the 2010 Electoral Act. It has been majorly a trial and error process. In 2018, ahead of the 2019 general elections, the 8th Assembly passed a Bill which was forwarded to the President for his assent. The President rejected the Bill, four times, on the grounds that the proposed amendments to the law could not come into effect due to time constraints. We held the 2019 elections, which again expectedly threw up issues about the integrity of the electoral process and the need to modernise elections in line with global best practices. When the 9th National Assembly assumed office in June 2019, its Chairman, Dr. Ahmed Lawan promised Nigerians that the Electoral Amendment Bill would be treated as a priority assignment. Indeed, Lawan kept his word, as he did also with the Petroleum Industry Bill. But it is one thing to make a law. It is another thing to do so in public interest.

 

What was meant to be an opportunity to provide Nigerians with a progressive, forward-looking electoral framework ended up as a farce. In the second week of July, a bewildered electorate watched as Nigerian lawmakers created an ugly scene over Section 52 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which stated that INEC "may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable". The Senate passed the bill on July 15. The House of Representatives did so on July 16. Both chambers of the National Assembly later resolved that the electronic transmission of results would be allowed only with the express clearance of the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly.

 

Thus, Nigeria's lawmakers took away the independence of the country's electoral body, a blatant violation of Section 78 of the 1999 Constitution, and a brazen attempt to sabotage the law. It was most disgraceful that even opposition politicians in the National Assembly could not vote in the people's interest. There were other concerns: the decision to increase campaign expenses: to become President, you would need a minimum of N15 billion, Governor - N5 billion; Senator N1.5 billion, House of Representatives member N500 million and State House of Assembly member N50 million.  In other words, you have to be wealthy to aspire to any important elective position in Nigeria. If this bill becomes law as proposed, only armed robbers and internet scammers would probably end up in high places in this country. President Buhari should not sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021. It takes the country backwards, not forwards. It is the handiwork of cowards and a backward National Assembly. In Kaduna State, Governor El-Rufai has shown that it is possible to try new options and possibilities, and deploy modern technology to leap-frog the process. The navel-gazing lawmakers in the National Assembly should be called out. One of the errant ones has since apologised to her constituents for going AWOL when she was most needed, but there are others, so pompous and confidently ignorant, they just don't get it.


Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd. 


Previous Posts by Author - Dr. Reuben Abati

  1. 2023: Tinubu vs Bello and Others - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  2. Obi Cubana and the Oba Burial
  3. INEC Polling Units and the Future of Elections - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  4. Interviewing President Buhari - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  5. Dapo Abiodun and Honour for Olusegun Osoba - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  6. The Death of Ahmed Gulak - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  7. Nigerian Air Force and Its Crashing Planes - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  8. Fr. Mbaka's Sin - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  9. The South West Presidential Hopefuls - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  10. New IGP, Ebube Agu and Other Stories - OpEd by Dr. Reuben Abati
  11. Ishola, Adesina and Djebah: Their Excellencies, Ambassadors of Nigeria - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  12. The Nigerian Diaspora Vs. Deputy Speaker Idris Wase - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  13. Much Ado About Ogun Cargo Airport
  14. OPL 245: The Milan Prosecution and Lessons for Nigeria
  15. The Nigerian Diaspora Vs. Deputy Speaker Idris Wase - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  16. Getting a VC for Ibadan Varsity: The Ugly Politics - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  17. Keeping Schools Safe in the North - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  18. Okowa and Idumuje-Ugboko Crisis - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  19. Politics and the Court of Appeal - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  20. Ngozi Goes to WTO - OpEd by Dr Reuben Abati
  21. Ahead of Fresh Trouble at the Lekki Toll Gate
  22. Buhari and The New Service Chiefs - Beyond the Handover of Flags
  23. President Muhammadu Buhari Appoints New Military Service Chiefs
  24. Sunday Igboho and the Yoruba Nation - People, Politics and Policy
  25. Playing with COVID-19 in Nigeria - OpEd by Reuben Abati
  26. Eight Lessons from 2020: The Year That Was
  27. Book Review - An Open Letter to Goodluck Jonathan
  28. Inside Nigeria's Killing Fields
  29. Recession Blues - He Who Feels It       
  30. #EndSARS: The Aftermath - Nov 03, 2020
  31. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Best Woman for the WTO Job - Nov 03, 2020
  32. #EndSARS: The State of the "Revolution" - Oct 27, 2020
  33. #EndSARS: The Generation that said "Enough is Enough"- Oct 20, 2020
  34. #EndSARS: Almost a Nigerian Revolution - Oct 13, 2020
  35. How Organized Labour Deceived Nigerians, Again! - Abati
  36. God-wins, Edo and Lessons Learnt
  37. Nigeria and the Southern Kaduna Question
  38. NBA vs. Nasir El-Rufai
  39. Thoughts on Nigeria and Chinese Loans - Reuben Abati
  40. NDDC and Other Stories of Dysfunction and Impunity
  41. Governance Beyond COVID-19: Back to Kwara
  42. Coping with Coronanomics - Abati
  43. Corona Blues - Abati - Apr 07, 2020
  44. The Psychology of COVID-19 - Abati
  45. Amotekun: The Politics of Protection - Abati
  46. New Electricity Tariffs: Questions by Reuben Abati - Jan 07, 2020
  47. Omoyele Sowore: Portrait of A Life in Protest - Abati - Dec 10, 2019
  48. Of Constituency Offices and Projects - Abati - Dec 03, 2019 
  49. The Supreme Court and the Atiku Election Petition - Abati - Nov 05, 2019
  50. The Constitutional Crisis in Kogi - Abati - Oct 30, 2019
  51. The Spiritual Solution to Boko Haram - Abati - Oct 08, 2019
  52. Oct 1: The Journey So Far - Oct 01, 2019
  53. Presidential Powers and The Vice President - Sept 24, 2019
  54. Nigeria, Xenophobia and Ramaphosa's Apology - Sept 18, 2019
  55. Mohammed Adoke Writes Back - Sept 18, 2019
  56. P and ID vs. Nigeria: A Review by Reuben Abati - Sept 10, 2019
  57. When Soldiers Do Police Work: Disaster - Aug 14, 2019
  58. Peter Drucker and The Things That Changed
  59. FBI, Nigerian Fraudsters and Other Stories
  60. P and ID vs. Nigeria: A Review by Reuben Abati
  61. When Soldiers Do Police Work: Disaster
  62. On June 12 We Stand 
  63. The Speech Buhari Didn't Make
  64. The People's Revolt in Algeria and Sudan
  65. The Obasanjo Bombshell - Abati
  66. Ogun 2019 Politics and Deployment of Violence - My Encounter
  67. Chief Anthony Anenih: A Personal and Political Portrait
  68. The "Oshiomhole Must Go" Coalition
  69. Beyond Fayose: The Future of Ekiti State
  70. The "Spirit of Error" in Nigerian Politics 


Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.


Related News

1.       President Buhari Approves Cabinet Reshuffle as Sabo Nanono, Mamman Sale Exit

2.      Press and Politics in Nigeria: On Whose Side?

3.      In Defense of Press Freedom; Resisting the Noose of Autocracy

4.      A Woman's Right Is Also Human Rights

5.      Constitutional Review: Nigeria Needs Electoral Reforms, New Fiscal System - Pat Utomi

6.      Six-Year Assessment Outlines President Buhari's Anti-Corruption Record

7.      FHC Exempts Payment of Default Fees for Filing of Processes for the Period of JUSUN Strike

8.     Africa: The Untold Stories of Women in Politics

9.      Selling an Entrepreneurial View of Nigeria

10.  SERAP Takes Buhari Govt to ECOWAS Court Over Unlawful Suspension of Twitter

 

 

 

 

READ MORE:
Related News
SCROLL TO TOP