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Travails of Democracy in Nigeria (Part Two): The Looming Election Fiasco—Digital Disenfranchisement of Nigerians at the Polls

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq
Published November 22nd, 2010

It’s unfortunate that President Jonathan allowed himself to be goaded by professional blackmailers and agitators in the Lagos Axis of Evil. What is happening today was long predicted by yours truly in a series of articles warning the government about the likely consequences of throwing away the baby with the bathwater. But the government stubbornly refused to listen to wise counsel and fell for the gongs of rabble rousers. But you know what: Sometimes you give people what they want then sit back and watch where their wisdom or foolishness takes them. So is the case with the Jonathan/Jega tango.—Franklin Otorofani

Democracy has only succeeded in broadening and deepening the distributive channels of corruption in Nigeria, not even the crumbs are reaching down to the people.—Franklin Otorofani   

In his famous Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863, in honor of dead American soldiers during the bitterly fought American Civil War for the emancipation of black slaves, President Abraham Lincoln, otherwise known as the Great Emancipator and, by the way, President Barack Obama’s hometown hero, offered what has become the most famous down-to-earth definition of democracy to have issued forth from the mouth of any human being on earth; with the hardnosed, earthy Lincoln besting the mumblings and musings of egg heads in the Ivory Towers at their own game.

In that address, the late American icon put a human face on democracy. For the first time since the Greeks invented it, democracy finally had a face, and it was the human face of the masses. He not only literarily handed democracy to the American people as their bequest to be used howsoever they wanted it, but underlined the sacrifices that had been made and must be made still to secure freedoms and liberty for the oppressed and dispossessed in the American society—the blacks. The war was a war fought for human values against inhuman forces let loose then in the southern parts of the country. Below in concluding parts is Lincoln in his oratorical flourish issued forth for the history books in a beautifully long-handed calligraphy:

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

A casual observation of the above passage shows this Lincolnian model as a people-centered as opposed to an elite-centered democratic paradigm such as currently exists in Nigeria and other third world democraciesgovernment of the people, by the people, for the people…It can be seen clearly that the people are at the heart of democracy rather than the elites. Government is about them, by them, and for them. And this holds true in Lincoln’s country. As we witnessed on November 2, 2010 in the US midterm elections, when the people want a change in government they had put in power, they get it. True, there may be lobbyists who short-change them by serving special interests to the detriment of the people, but when the people are pushed to the wall and have had enough, they move like a hurricane to sweep away the source of their angst. And no one dare touch their votes, for there is no messing with their votes by some evil politician. Their votes are their only bargaining chips and therefore must count at the polls. And therein lies their power and sovereignty in a democratic system. The people’s power in a democracy is in their votes and if their votes would not count that power is gone with the winds. No one plays games with the people’s votes in Lincoln’s country and gets away with it. All hell would be let loose.

Could we say that about Nigeria where people are herded into polling stations like cattle only for their votes to be thrown out like trash by INEC and judges sitting in their high, ornate offices, far removed from the polling booths to upturn electoral results? Or could we in all honesty claim that Nigerian democracy is for, by, and about the Nigerian people? Could any member of the political class look at Nigerians in the eyes with a straight face and say to them: “This democracy is for you and not for us”?

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If a system of government is anything but of, by, and for the people themselves, it is not democracy. Such a system is anything but…which is quite ironical indeed. It is an irony of history. It’s not the elites who are now the major beneficiaries of democracy today that fought for and died for democracy. They had no investments whatsoever in democracy. When Nigerians in their millions were demonstrating against military dictatorships and bearing down on military tanks and hoses in the streets, these elites were hiding in their rat holes like the cowardly late Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Isn’t it shameful that these same cowards are now reaping where they did not sow? In point fact many of them were the very obstacles to democracy that the people fought against. The enemies of democracy who were in the military and those civilians who sold out to them are the ones now presiding over our democratic affairs today, shamelessly basking in the glory of democracy. Even IBB, the self proclaimed “Evil Genius” who murdered democracy with his military bazookas wants to have a piece of the action.

Their antecedents should perhaps help to explain why they have no regard for democratic tenets whatsoever. And that should further explain why they’re so detached from the people because there is no organic connection with the people having not been part of the people’s struggle for democracy. And that could be reason number one why they’re so insensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people on whose backs they rode to power, whether actually or deemed, since many of them got there on false mandates. Nevertheless, they have appropriated the fruits of the people’s struggles for themselves and themselves alone to the chagrin of the people.

Therefore, rather than being at the driver’s seat the people have been forced to occupy the back seats on the bus timidly peering through the windows to behold the glittering world that is outside their reach as ordinary passengers. But for how long shall the people remain mere passengers rather than the drivers of their very own democracy train? For how long shall the people remain on the backseats of the bus peering listlessly through its windows to behold a better world permanently outside their reach? 

In their name everyone is getting richer by the hour but them. In their name INEC officials are getting rich by manipulating election results. In their name judicial officers are getting fabulously wealthy from election petitions by upturning electoral verdicts like drunken sailors and failed candidates are being imposed on them to rule over them. Just like the same judiciary was used to upend the will of the people in 1993 by IBB’s ABN, history is now repeating itself in the way and manner the judiciary has been used to upturn electoral verdicts and substitute its own results for the people’s with no questions asked, because, hey, it is the judiciary! And the same judiciary has constituted itself into a cog in the wheel of the anti-graft war by erecting a thick wall around so-called “Politically Exposed Individuals (PEI) charged with corrupt enrichment. Their successful prosecution has become an impossible task, again thanks to the Nigerian judiciary. People are literarily getting away with murder in Nigeria in the name of the people.  

In their name political contractors in the north headed by a degenerate octogenarian named Adamu Ciroma is handpicking the man who will represent them in the north in the PDP primaries and eventually the entire country. And the disoriented Nigerian press is in their name conferring legitimacy on this obvious travesty currently unfolding in the north. It sees absolutely nothing wrong in political contractors imposing their handpicked presidential candidates on an entire region and the nation and goes about reporting the Ciroma proceedings with apparent glee. Yet the same press howls hypocritically about lack of internal democracy in the parties! What about internal democracy in the north? What about that? Northerners are not entitled to internal democracy in their very own backyards? I don’t get it.

In their name election results and judgments are declared for the highest bidders and politicians are made kings behind their backs to rule over them. In their name civil society groups are getting rich screaming their voices hoarse while prosecuting their own agenda nicely dressed up in the people’s garb. And in their name INEC is squandering a fortune in the so-called DDC machines just to put their names on a piece of machine memory that could very well disappear no sooner they turn their backs on the oversold and overrated mechanical clunkers.

It seems democracy is for a select few who are able to game the system and profit from it big time and not for them. The Lincoln model doesn’t appear applicable in Nigeria where the people have been reduced to nothing but wretched onlookers marooned to the sidelines of the field of play. They lack the sophistication and wherewithal to key into the democratic process and profit from it like the elites. Lacking such sophistication, therefore, they’re left with no choice but to entrust their destiny in the hands of the elites who, however, have different ideas about what to do with the trusteeships. Like horses, the political elites ride on their backs to their destinations and tether them to poles on street corners, hungry and thirsty while their riders feast on the inside of the citadels of democracy.

Still everything is done in their name. In their name lawmakers make themselves millionaires by pauperizing the people. Report just came out that the lawmakers are leaving town with some 318 bills pending at the House of Reps alone, which they refused and/or neglected to attend to. Yet they have bilked the nation in billions of naira for jobs not done. There is not a single lawmaker who is not leaving the National Assembly a multi-millionaire in just four years of doing nothing but self-enrichment and mindless treasury looting. And in their names judges are fast joining the billionaire class especially those who have the fortunes of sitting in election petitions that have become gravy trains in Nigeria. Democracy has only succeeded in broadening and deepening the distributive channels of corruption in Nigeria, not even the crumbs are reaching down to the people.    

Yet someone fought and died for the democracy that others are now enjoying. If the nation has any iota of respect for the dead who laid down their lives for a noble cause the celebrated words of Lincoln should be learned by rote and etched in the consciousness of every politician and every public officer in Nigeria, because many Nigerians sacrificed their lives for freedom both in the Nigerian Civil War and in the titanic struggle for democracy in Nigeria.

Those who have reduced our democracy to a public auction and organized, systemic robbery, whether they belong to political parties, electoral agencies or the judiciary, have dishonored the dead who fought and died for our freedoms and desecrated the grounds on which they were laid to rest. For them are the immortal words of President Lincoln. The nation’s commitment to democratic ethos must be full and total if only to honor those whose blood watered the grounds on which it was planted on the Nigerian soil more than fifty years ago. It’s the least we owe them so that, in Lincoln’s words, they “shall not have died in vain.”   

Why is democracy such a hassle in Nigeria? Why is a nation that had been exposed to democracy from birth having a hard time mastering the ropes? The answer lies in the disenfranchisement of the people. When the people who are the real owners of democracy are confined to the back seats of the bus democracy is bound to run into rough waters. Democracy is designed for the people to occupy the driver’s seat and if they’re not allowed to occupy that seat the democracy train is bound to derail and crash. Why is this so difficult to inculcate this elementary truth in the minds of the Nigerian political elites? Why are they so determined to keep the people on the sidelines rather than in the field of play as democracy demands? And why is the Nigerian press complicit in this diabolical venture as we see even today unfolding in the north?

It can be said without fear of contradiction that Nigeria has all it takes to become the leading light of democratic governance in the world to which other nations should be looking up to as a role model. But the reverse is the case. Every election cycle brings with it morbid fears and trepidation, all because the political elites do not want the people’s will to prevail in a supposed democracy and device all means to circumvent the will of the people. But here is the bottom line: It’s either we want democracy or we don’t. And we don’t have to make a caricature of democracy if we don’t want it.

Why is democracy always getting a bloody nose in Nigeria? A nation that had had the tree of democracy implanted on its soil more than a century ago does not seem to know its right from its left and seems to be suffering from a chronic disease of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) even in simple electoral matters like voter registers. Before each and every election the Nigerian nation is made to enroll in a democracy class with uppity instructors flown from abroad to lecture her on the rudiments of elections. And she can’t seem to make the grades. Nigeria has become the dullard nation that continues to repeat her democracy classes again and again with no end in sight and no hope of moving into a higher grade.

Time and again she has demonstrated her utter inability to produce a minimally acceptable voter register, the least of all things democratic, because she does not know her population to begin with and everything done is on guesswork. And because she does not know her population she finds herself including goats, rams, dogs, and cows in her voter register to elect her leaders in each and every poll conducted since independence. When goats, rams, dogs, and cows form a nation’s electorate what would the candidates be? Certainly not human beings, I guarantee it! Goats, rams, dogs, and cows do not vote for human beings; they vote for their kinds to lead them into their very own Promised Land. And the leadership provided by elected officials is a reflection of the source of their political authority.

Anyone who would put himself up for election and couldn’t wait to be sworn in to launch, not his development programs for his people, state, and country, but his plans to raid the public treasury with sadistic gusto, cannot be but a human-animal or sub-human species voted into power by human-animals or sub-humans of the species indicated above. Human beings should and must be seen to exhibit nobler and more refined human traits informed by rational deliberations on the common good rather than individualistic, impulsive, and animalistic tendencies that ordinarily belong to the wild.

The complete overrun and takeover of Nigeria’s electoral territory by human animals has meant the sidelining of real humans majority of which have been reduced to mere spectaculars in the game of democracy. Their names never grace the voter registers and if perchance found therein are quickly blotted out and replaced with goats, rams, dogs, and cows. And when their names are not blotted out of the register, their votes are incinerated like some putrid trash heaps pilled up at famous Mile 12 Market in Lagos state.

And that’s why the nation has no credible voter register till date since her independence 50 years ago. And that’s why the nation must cough out N78bn to get one when school children are taking classes under Iroko and Mango trees and the nation’s hospitals turned into graveyards, just to get real humans into a new voter register and take out the goats, rams, dogs and cows that populate the one we have. And that’s why the nation’s sacred constitution must be amended every month to accommodate the whims and caprices of a seemingly eccentric electoral helmsman. And that’s why the nation does not know whether there will be a general election come 2011 or if there will, the date of the elections, thus putting the nation in a state of suspended animation and frightful auguries.

And you might want to ask: where is the guarantee that the new voter register to be delivered with the so-called Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines will deliver as promised? Where is the guarantee that a people who could not operate manually will be able to operate mechanically and technologically. I happen to watch a documentary on PBS Channel 13 where a Princeton University computer professor demonstrated how voting machines could easily be programmed to manipulate results in an election by simply inserting a rogue chip that could grab votes from one candidate and dump them in another candidate’s column and many other forms of electronic rigging, which in the absence of paper trail, could cause permanent and irreparable damage to electoral integrity. In one of such demonstrations the machine produced more votes than the entire population of the constituency concerned. And when the vendor of the machines whose name I will not mention here was confronted it merely shrugged off the results as unlikely in real world situation. Unlikely? Give me a break!  What else could the vendor have said, anyway? It got its money and the people would have to clean up after its trash machines.

Anyone who is remotely acquainted with information technology knows that it is far easier to rig elections through machines than through humans, and even more so in a deeply ingrained election rigging culture as Nigeria’s. There is absolutely no reason to hope that electronic devices will reduce vote rigging in Nigerian elections because it has not done so even in developed nations such as the United States, for example, that is the home and birthplace of information technologies much less in a third world nation like Nigeria that is still green on information technologies where vote rigging is second nature. 

Want some hard evidence? You got it! Bruce Schneier in his article titled: Schneier on Security: The Problem with Electronic Voting Machines cited many instances where voting machines did the rigging for politicians behind their backs rather than humans, this time around. And here he goes:

“In Fairfax County, VA, in 2003, a programming error in the electronic voting machines caused them to mysteriously subtract 100 votes from one particular candidates’ (sic) totals.

In San Bernardino County, CA in 2001, a programming error caused the computer to look for votes in the wrong portion of the ballot in 33 local elections, which meant that no votes registered on those ballots for that election. A recount was done by hand.

In Volusia County, FL in 2000, an electronic voting machine gave Al Gore a final vote count of negative 16,022 votes.

The 2003 election in Boone County, IA, had the electronic vote-counting equipment showing that more than 140,000 votes had been cast in the Nov. 4 municipal elections. The county has only 50,000 residents and less than half of them were eligible to vote in this election.”

Just in case you want to have an idea about individual voter experience with voting machines in the US, here is one taken from a report in the “Sun Journal” Voter reports problem with ballot machine | machine, screen, voter featuring a frustrated voter named Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern, who said he pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked. He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result, he said. Then he asked for and received help from election staff.

“They pushed it twice and the same thing happened,” Laughinghouse said. “That was four times in a row. The fifth time they pushed it and the Republicans came up and I voted.”

“If you’re in a hurry, you may just push the button and not notice it,” he said.

Laughinghouse experience was replicated all over the county and indeed all over the country. As reported in Voting machine problems already | | Virginia Beach, Va.An elderly woman said she tried to cast an absentee ballot for a Democratic candidate, but the Republican candidate's name kept popping up.” And here is another report from Wired.Com: Report: Voting Machine Errors Highlight Urgent Need for U.S ...

In 2002, election officials in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, discovered they’d also been kept in the dark about a known issue with their machines, after their voting system appeared to drop some 12,000 ballots.

“Although 48,000 people had cast ballots, tabulation software for touchscreen machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems recorded no more than 36,000 votes in any race, including the governor’s race. Sequoia admitted it was a software problem and disclosed that officials in a Nevada county had experienced the same issue weeks before the election, and received a patch to fix it — a patch the company neglected to install on the system in New Mexico. In fact, Sequoia had even failed to inform its employees in New Mexico that a problem occurred with the system in another state.”

The above incidents represent a sampling of the problems associated with voting machines in the US. What is true of voting machines is equally true of electronic voter registers, because they’re both based on computer programs. I could be wrong, but something tells me those machines will provide solid business opportunities for both Nigerian and global hackers whose services will be much sought after by crooked Nigerian politicians.

While, to the best of my knowledge and information, no one has been accused of deliberate attempts to rig elections through the manipulation of these machines in the US, the same cannot be said in the case of Nigeria, where rigging is the order of the day. In an environment where judgments in election petitions are known by so-called victorious parties before they’re delivered in the open to fulfill the law, it would be naïve to expect better outcomes with technological deployments in the conduct of elections. In all probability, therefore vote rigging at source is a foregone conclusion. Rigging will simply go digital in Nigeria from manual and there is nothing Professor Attahiru Jega can do about it! INEC has neither the technological wherewithal nor the physical control and management of these machines to ensure both their functionality and integrity of their inputs and outputs. 

And what’s more: whatever security measures put in place by INEC are not foolproof and can never be 100% foolproof when it comes to technology. If the mere award of contracts for these machines have presented such a huge challenge for INEC how much more so will be their actual operation and management!  INEC should have known better that electronic voter registers offer no guarantees against rigging and that realization should have advised an alternative approach. And the government and political parties sold on this idea should have done due diligence to verify its workability and integrity by visiting and learning from other nations that have used them rather than taking it all hook, line, and sinker. It’s foolish to dive right into a river just because others have done so without first learning of the dangers that might be lurking right below the surface.

How much due diligence did the National Assembly and the Federal Government undertake before approving the whopping N78bn voted for the DDC machines? How many technology experts versed in the inner workings of these machines were called to testify at the public hearings at the National Assembly? My guess is none! In fact both the Federal Government and the National Assembly were browbeaten, intimidated, and indeed blackmailed into rushing the approval for the DDC machines within days without asking critical and probing questions to satisfy themselves on the workings of the machines.

And it is extremely doubtful if the technology challenged politicians in the political parties that held meetings with Jega and INEC officials were in any position to do any better than the National Assembly itself. They simply went there to chorus, “Ayes!” to Jega’s infinite demands for funds and time. In this tense climate of hysteria deliberately generated by Jega, therefore, no meaningful due diligence could be expected to have been carried out by both organs of government and the political parties whose electoral fortunes are at stake here.

When everything is left in the hands of Jega to do as he pleases with no questions asked and answered to the satisfaction of all relevant stakeholders including Nigerians themselves, that is a formula for avoidable shipwreck down the path in the rough and turbulent electoral sea that is Nigeria We Hail Thee. The Nigerian government may have abdicated its oversight responsibility when it comes to INEC affairs. It seems everyone in a position to ask questions is maintaining hands off position with respect to INEC. Don’t get me wrong. Jega might mean well for the elections by going for the DDC machines but as they say, the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

If the former INEC chair Professor Maurice Iwu had requested one tenth of what Jega requested and received with alacrity for producing a Voter Register by DDC machines that would soon break down and abandoned as indeed happened during Iwu’s tenure in 2007, the Lagos “Axis of Evil” press would have screamed blue murder and asked for his head to be delivered to it on golden plate. And Nigerians themselves would have been feasting on the anti-Iwu diatribes mounted by the totally biased Lagos press. Yet it is crystal clear even to the most anti-Iwu neurotic that had the former INEC been spruced up and rejuvenated, the preparations for the 2011 election would have advanced full throttle to their final stages by now, and we would not be running into the dead end the nation has been forced into today. 

It’s unfortunate that President Jonathan allowed himself to be goaded by professional blackmailers and agitators in the Lagos Axis of Evil. What is happening today was long predicted by yours truly in a series of articles warning the government about the likely consequences of throwing away the baby with the bathwater. But the government stubbornly refused to listen to wise counsel and fell for the gongs of rabble rousers. But you know what: Sometimes you give people what they want then sit back and watch where their wisdom or foolishness takes them. So is the case with the Jonathan/Jega tango.   

Jega is a rookie electoral umpire and new to INEC with steep learning curve to handle. He has reversed himself several times including the pledge not to ask for assistance from state governors. He’s new to the world of politics and might not know how to handle politicians. He’s indeed a tabula rasa when it comes to INEC affairs and while his freshness might be a breath of fresh air it equally brings with it inexperience and avoidable errors that a more experienced hand might be better able to handle. And such inexperience is compounded by his insistence on the introduction of sophisticated technology that the nation is not prepared for at this time and he’s not even prepared for either as we have seen with the severally bungled contract awards for the DDC machines. A project of this magnitude requires careful planning and execution including test runs and pilot projects in selected areas to validate its workability on the field. Jega has not carried the people along in this project before committing the people to it behind their backs.

The 2011 general elections are just too important to be left in the hands of Jega and Jega alone. Short of tele-guiding the electoral agency relevant organs of government must satisfy themselves through their oversight functions about the integrity of the machines being brought in by INEC and subject them to independent analysis with the best technology experts from anywhere in the world. In particular, the political parties and the Nigerian public in general must be informed in truth and the whole truth about the workability and integrity of these machines so that their votes would not be shortchanged through some dysfunctional mechanical contraption or some digital manipulation by unscrupulous elements planted in INEC to cause electoral mayhem. If INEC is going digital, the National Assembly’s INEC oversight committees must equally go digital by retaining the services of technology consultants and so must the political parties as well. It’s not enough to just dole out money to buy machines. It is equally their responsibility to make certain they’re the right machines that will deliver the goods as promised and expected without mechanical hitches. And this they can do by subjecting those machines to relevant scrutiny during their test runs including their security profiles, which is the crux of the matter.    

Has the Nigerian factor been factored into the designs of these machines? How rugged are they in the extremely demanding Nigerian environment? What are their security features and how robust and foolproof are they? We read of automobile companies advertising their car model as “built for Nigerian roads!” Are these machines “built for Nigerian politicians”? In other words, are they built with the infinitely crooked Nigerian politician in mind?

I would be surprised if desperate Nigerian politicians are not already one step ahead of INEC in their rigging schemes, because, for them losing elections is simply not an option! Elections are meant to be won in Nigeria, not lost. Those being trained on the use of the machines had better be quarantined right from when the machines arrive in Nigeria, otherwise, forget it!

Every public officer in Nigeria is looking for shortcuts to wealth by hook and crook, and INEC officials are no exceptions. This should be a wake-up call for the stakeholders who have simply gone to sleep after doling out huge sums to INEC for the machines. They’re seemingly concerned with electoral timetable only that INEC has forced on them seemingly to keep them perpetually distracted from carrying out their oversight functions on INEC.   

Here is my candid advice: If the nation wants to go digital it should first of all conduct a pilot project to test the functionality and integrity of the technology deployed before going full scale nationwide. That is the sensible and prudent thing to do and it is not too late to dial back to where Iwu left without having a sanctimonious, better-than-thou attitude. Huge egos must give way for the common good. It’s the nation’s very survival that’s at stake here, not personal egos or pathological anti-Iwu rants that’s the issue here. To start a general election with an unknown and untested technology within such a short a timeframe and in a nation called Nigeria is an open invitation to disaster that they nation may find hard to recover from in the short run. We are hurtling down a blind alleyway blindfolded. Like a lamb the nation is gradually being led down the hell hole by the haughty high priests at INEC.

As of today, the greatest threat to the citizen’s franchise is the electronic register, which might turn out to be veritable super rigging machines. Whatever goes wrong at the level of voter register is bound to doom the elections ab-initio. And if experience in the US and other nation is anything to go by it is not difficult to imagine that wholesale disenfranchisement of Nigerian voters is already afoot if those machines make their way into the country for the purposes of the 2011 elections.  We saw what happened during Iwu’s tenure when many of those machines tanked and INEC was forced to indulge in self-help to mitigate the damage at the most critical of times. With the belated award of DDC machines contracts which are yet to be delivered at this moment in time, it will be a miracle if all goes well with those machines and the elections proper. A disastrous electoral shipwreck might not be altogether far away from us as our election ship is currently being tossed about rudderless by the waves in high seas with its clueless captain.  

This is not an attempt at scaremongering, but a timely warning for the nation to be on guard before disaster is forced upon her by INEC. There is absolutely no reason why the Voter Register inherited from Iwu cannot be dusted up, sanitized, and updated to remove the names of animals it might contain and add to it new voters who have come of age since the last elections. After all, people would be offered the opportunity to check their names before the final copies are made out and given to the parties to assure their integrity. The idea of throwing away the baby with the bathwater is not only silly but a costly proposition for the nation and may well doom the forthcoming elections. The bitter truth is that the nation is not ripe for this digital adventure. But the nation could get there one step at a time.

It is one thing for unscrupulous politicians to collude with INEC officials to rig elections at the polls. It is one thing for the judges to sit in elevated platforms to rig results for favored election petitioners in the courtrooms, but it’s quite a different thing to add yet another layer of rigging to polls in Nigeria through electronic voter registers and voting machines with, at best, questionable functionality and integrity and, at worst, downright fraudulent outcomes. The constitutional logjam apart, the DDC machines is not the way to go, at least for now. Jega should step down from his high horse now and change course midstream before it is too late, because the damage to the nation could be monumental, and quite frankly, irreversible. “I told you so?” That’s not one of my favorite lines and I hate for it to be forced on me.          

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. is an Attorney and Public Affairs’ Analyst. He can be reached at

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