2019 elections and the remaking of the Nigerian project

LEADERSHIP recruitment is what elections are about. It is a process that is central to society’s capacity to solve problems. Should something go wrong with it, most people would wish it were possible to leave all other problems in society unattended to in order to streamline or sanitize the process. It is in order to streamline the process, by identifying with alternative proposals for a biometric system of voting, that I want to pay attention to the cartoon image of Nigeria that has emerged from the General Elections of 2019.

To talk about a cartoon image of Nigeria is not far-fetching. The country has often been viewed as something of the world’s capital of corruption, as Francis Fukuyama posits in one resounding chapter of his 2014 book on ’Political Order and Political Decay’. In 2017, Nigeria had the distinction of being heckled for insecurity, and for hosting the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. By 2018, Nigeria had become known as the capital of world poverty with UN statistics showing 13.2 million children of school going age virtually carpeting the streets outside the school system. Now, following the victory handed to incumbent President, General Muhammadu Buhari, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, after the Presidential elections of 23 February, 2019, Nigeria is being described, and not inefficiently, as the capital of election rigging and electoral malpractices in the world.

The reality is that the General Election was merely the latest insertion in the history of an awfully compromised leadership recruitment process. It is a process that has given Nigeria a rash of unelected leaders for several decades. Meaning that: without a template of free and fair ballot, the country has witnessed gladiators angling for power and office by slumming it out in a truly shabby electoral culture, in a mimic democratic dispensation of which the presidential election was supposed to be the height of civic experience. Indeed, the large turnout at the Presidential elections on February 23rd showed how much the people were wishing for a better deal. At the polling station where I was voting for the first time, after a hard-won transfer from a distant local government, I became aware of how distraught the electoral culture made many people feel. The derailment of franchise was of particular concern to the voters as they were sharing their experiences of the previous half decade of what many, not sarcastically, continued to call a nascent democracy. Their narratives began with expressed trepidation as to whether the votes will be allowed to count ‘this time around’. It happened that, on one occasion four years ago, the votes at this particular polling station were cancelled because someone was killed at the polling booth. On another election day, some identified thugs stole the ballot box and caused another cancellation. A third election, a gubernatorial, was cancelled because hoodlums who had snatched the ballot box were apprehended and beaten up.

The resulting commotion at the polling station became the reason for a cancellation. The voters were disenfranchised. And there was no police action, no prosecution to deter future recurrence. True, nothing untoward happened ‘this time around’ on February 23, after the voting, and into the long night of waiting to the next day at the collation centre where, as folklore had it, ‘anything could happen’. But cynicism was strong and was not dispelled as I moved with journalists and observers and keyed into social media and ‘live’ television coverage of the election. There was no escaping the conclusion that the electoral cultures of the land were indeed of a kind, acute sink-holes of corruption, electoral malpractices and violence. On this, let’s be quite square: that the electoral cultures covered so many strands including padding of voters registers, registration of under-age voters, imposition of candidates where candidates used to be returned unopposed, multiple voting, ballot stuffing, stealing or burning of ballot boxes in constituencies where opponents are strong, purchasing of voters cards for custody by party warlords, deliberate destruction of election materials, and announcement of wrong results at collating centres.

We may well add the bribing of security officers or hiring of thugs in military uniforms to block voters from performing civic functions, the illegal disuse of electronic machines, deliberate depression of voters’ roll against unfavoured constituencies, inflation of voters roll in favoured constituencies, wrongful allocation of votes at collation centres, and hence deliberate falsification of election results. All of it tended to happen between the electoral commissions, the so called umpires, and the regular political warlords, vote wreckers, who treat elections as lower case civil wars that they may upgrade, at random, to full-scale explosions, with Kalashnikovs.

For a little history: it should be noted that all the malpractices and irregularities have been in the repertory of election riggers, in an inchoate or advanced form, since the first of major elections across Nigeria’s three colonial regions in 1951. That year was when three political parties, Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, in the North, National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun, NCNC, in the East, and Action Group, AG, in the West, began the competition that would create implacable antagonisms, artfully nurtured by colonial gerrymandering and pumping of irreconcilability. The competition formalized the distancing of region from region, achieving an in-ward looking format for each, that worsened the struggle for virtual loot-sharing at the centre.

From the standpoint of recruitment of leaders: the fracas between the regions progressively recreated the stratagem that had been put together by Frederick Lugard, the amalgamator of the original Northern and Southern protectorates. In a 1902 memorandum to the British Colonial Office, he vowed to put an ethnic group over the North and the North over Nigeria from one generation to another. It was left to the colonial resident of Katsina, Richmond Palmer, chosen by him to plant Indirect Rule in the South, to organize the Conference of Northern Residents which formed the base for organizing regional hegemony.

Once Palmer became Lieutenant Governor of the North, after 1924, the colonial strategy of overcoming central institutions by emplacing ethno-regional bias was dutifully secured. The battles between colonial officials in the north and colonial officials in the south was fierce. They ensured that more land from the south was added to the north and in 1939 the smaller southern protectorate was split into two towards a future that could protect British interests. Another decade down the road, after the All-Nigeria Conference gave Nigerians a fore-taste of self-rule, the regional election in the North was rigged by colonial officials in favour of the traditional elites of the Northern People’s Congress.

They displaced the early riser, the radical Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, as well as the United MiddleBelt Congress, UMBC, from political centrality in the North. The power of incumbency was used to prevent the franchise in the North from being based on universal adult suffrage. Women in the North could not have the vote. Not until much later, in 1979, thanks to military rule. Meanwhile, the NPC’s hold on the North meant using jail, trumped up charges, and extra-statutory violence by dandoka, Native Authority police, to hound opposition, and using thugs self-described as dan Mahaukata, sons of madmen, against other parties of the North. Parties that were formed in the South and in coalition with Northern Opposition, were forced to run obstacle races. The conservatives wanted a Federal system in which every region would be for itself, a virtual confederalism in which political parties would not cross regional boundaries while the progressives wanted Nigeria to have a common welfare system and local self-rule for regions run by national political parties. Across the Federation, other parties actively frustrating free and fair elections, took a cue from the NPC, which , from 1954, was the senior partner in the ruling coalition at the centre. The NPC’s triumph over pan-Nigerian consciousness was at its height in the 1964 General election when 84 out of 137 candidates of the NPC from the North were returned unopposed.

In general, across the regions, in the first Republic, the battle slogan of the incumbents was ‘whether you vote for us or you do not vote for us, we shall win.’ In the Second Republic, with the downgrade of mobile units of the Nigeria police into petty dandoka roles as ‘kill and go’, only the militariat in the barracks were deemed able to defeat the marauding ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. It happened. In the ill-fated Third Republic, in the so-called freest and fairest election that one man so easily annulled, both slave and slave master, landlord and tenant, labourer and entrepreneur,’agbero and the owner’, were lined up behind candidates in an underdeveloped Option A 4 voting system. Constitutions and manifestoes had been drafted for mere parastatals masquerading as political parties which ‘bloody civilians’ were not even allowed to form on their own. In the Fourth Republic, before do or die tactics became the announced vogue, the rigging slogan was ‘if we could win an election organized by the military when we were not in power, how can we lose the one that we ourselves have organized!’ Quite intriguing today is that Nigeria is gravitating towards having a new slogan: ‘if we could out-rig a government in power when we were in opposition, how can we let ourselves be out-rigged as incumbents?’

Of course, the great facilitator of the rigging propensity, across the decades, has been the slap-dash surrounds of political party finance. The access to political money in the economy happens to be as fickle as the general state of employment. Or unemployment. All in a parlous state. Payment of dues and subscriptions by members of political parties have been unavailing. This has given primacy to capitalist and baronial financing of political parties. It has induced incumbents to destroy normal accounting systems in government and to engineer self-help security funding. It has since given way to pure kleptocratic financing. Not to forget: in the colonial era, the NPC depended on funds straight out of Native Authorities. The attempt by Nnamdi Azikiwe as Premier of Eastern Region, to use a personal bank, ACB, dependent on access to state funds, to do party finance, was scuttled by colonial authorities via the Forster-Sutton Tribunal.

The Action Group, which borrowed money as normal businessmen could, from the Marketing Board, to build estates that could finance political party activities, had its assets seized by the ruling NPC/NCNC coalition at the centre. Socialist parties that sought funding from abroad, were liquidated by government after the January 1966 coup. State subvention of parties, as the constitution recognized after 1979, and as happens in many democracies of the world, has been ritually sabotaged by ruling parties across Nigeria’s history. Quite critical for thinking about party finance, was the intervention of the military dictator, General Muhammadu Buhari, who seized power and sent politicians to gargantuan jail terms for enriching their political parties. Unfortunately, he was not, and has not, been able to provide intelligence to move party finance away from pure kleptocracy. The consequence is that, since foreign aid is legally not an option, the assault on state coffers has had all rooftops looking the same.

Including all ruling parties at state and Federal levels. That is, no matter how loud the megaphones of incumbents in their supposed war on corruption, they have been mired in the same loop of pure kleptocracy. Also, in the absence of fair legislation guiding party finance, a free for all has overtaken all electoral malpractices. Although thriving democracies in the world enact laws that are observed fairly rigorously to contain corrupt political money, the Nigerian circumstance of free-for-all loot-hunting and loot-sharing has been abetted by inane laws and equally inane security structures, which pamper incumbents and their cronies. Hence the wooliness to be observed in the construction of electoral commissions with doubtful umpire status, which administer elections, and register and monitor political parties. The short of it is that in the kleptocracy that the political system has become, a sharp distinction has to be made between the strategic malfeasance and distortion of process by the personnel of electoral commissions administering the elections and the mischief of the party stalwarts who organize virtual looting squads around elections.

This point deserves emphasis because electoral commissions, even now that they are described as national and independent have been always too beholding to the agenda of incumbents and the ethno-regional calculations of power activists. What is more, in relation to the 2015 and 2019 elections, there has been the glorious run of a regional agenda in the performance of Professor Attahiru Jega, and his protégé and successor, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, as Chairmen of INEC. Both of them have been poster icons of a regional security assertiveness, in the Independent National Electoral Commission which has turned, provably, into an industry for undermining a pan-Nigerian definition of free and fair elections. Once Jega set the template, as a respecter of geo-ethnic frames, doing geo-cultural suppression and inflation of the number of registered voters, it was left to Yakubu Mahmood’s INEC to round out the score. The Independent National Electoral Commission has since been serving as a hatchet for depressing registration in one cultural geography and inflating it in another, disenfranchising registered voters, denying them Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs, leading to the eventual suppression of voting across designated parts of the Federation. Before 2015, the trust reposed in the Chairman by a populace that was quite enamoured of his reputation as a radical progressive, was turned into a means of over-determining the whole electoral process against free and fair outcomes.

In short, the rigging of the election was being achieved in advance and being scientifically processed with the active involvement of those who would be its victims. Irrespective of who paid attention, the outcome was rounded out in a square design for the 2019 Elections.

Instead of the commendation which INEC ought to deserve for the painstaking job of weeding off over-registrations and under-age voters (forever ubiquitous on INEC menu), the evidence of ethno-regional bias, and intimation of worse, has littered the landscape of their performance. What seemed like a mere sketch, four years ago, has blossomed into a strategic, and repeatable, accomplishment in fore-handling. As I have written elsewhere. ‘‘INEC began registration of voters, as was the case with their predecessors, so close to the election as to truncate the process of raising objections to mis-registrations. Instead of an electoral commission that registers all qualified people all the year round as people reached the voting age of 18, Nigeria has had an Independent National Electoral Commission that makes being a voter not a right but a privilege that can be withdrawn. This was the case when one third of registered voters were literally deregistered as they were not given permanent voters’ cards to vote! Mark the record: Bornu, Adamawa, and Yobe registered, 68.29%, 80.68% and 74.95% collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards, as against 36.44% for Ogun, 49.94% for Oyo, 38.94% for Lagos and 50.23% for Imo state. By what professional magic, asked one interlocutor in The Guardian of February 18, 2015, did Jega reach 68.2% of voters in Borno, where (due to Boko Haram terrorism), many of the people were refugees “ now in Cameroun? What magic did Jega use to reach 79.4% of Katsina within 60 days, a state with lesser (sic) literacy level than Lagos which has 38.39% in 90 days?” It was easy to conclude that “Even Professors cannot commit a perfect crime”. Hence disenfranchising a third of the electorate on the presumption that they had no permanent voters cards remains a permanent blot on the electoral system that Jega ran. Even the attempt to stem or fudge it by postponing polling day was worse than a ruse as it merely exposed the unfair and unfree nature of the whole exercise. It set the template for the future. After his victory, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a February 2016 visit to London, narrated how Professor Attahiru Jega admitted to a National Council of State meeting that his electoral Commission was satisfied with 60 percent rating on the scale of free and fair elections! Quite a rating! He was comparing his own performance to his own 35 percent rating of previous elections. The truth is that no previous electoral commission in Nigeria’s history had made as vaunted an attempt to reduce the number of voters from particular parts of the country as Jega’s did”. That is, except for his successor, Professor Mahmoud who has benefitted immensely from Jega’s deviation from transparency. At any rate, the filaments of Jega’s INEC are notoriously present in today’s INEC in line with the testing-ground “rooting for a 30,000 increase in polling units from 119, 973 to 150,000 after reducing the number of registered voters from 73 million to 53 million, a truly non-transparent operation against padding, and without the proportional representation promised.

As one Daily Sun advertorial on September 11, 2014 stated: “if with registered voters of 13,188,864 the South West had 24, 673 polling units as compared to North West registered voters of 18,607, 496 with polling unit of 29,961(and this gives a proportionate variance of 29% for registered voters and 17.7% for number of polling units), what was then responsible for the 47.4% disparity in the number of new polling units allocated between the North West and South West if the claim of proportional representation holds? Or how could FCT that has only 892,628 registered voters with 562 polling units compared to South East with 7, 178, 185 registered voters and 15, 529 polling units (giving a proportionate disparity of 87.6% for registered voters and 96% for polling units in favour of the South East) suddenly be allocated only 1, 167 polling units compared to 1,200 polling units for FCT? How does this advance Prof. Jega’s theory of proportional representation?”

Evidently, whether acted upon or not, the testy allocation of polling booths contextualizes so much else. For instance, due to slapdash accounting or mischief by INEC, the figures for registered voters in 2019 moved from an original 84,004, 084 to a contingent 82,344107 registered voters, out of which 72,775,502 collected voters cards. It is now the business of the courts to decide whether 35,098,162 as argued by prime critics or 29,394,209 as stated by INEC is the acceptable figure. It is a matter of 2.5 million votes out for grabs. An equally substantive issue is that after the Presidential election on 23rd February 2019, it became obvious that while registered voters were enjoying inflation in the North, the Southern states were generally having a depression of their numbers. It would normally be considered as sectionalist to point out such details. But there is such unmissable brazenness in the figures. In 2015, the north had 16,227,005 votes; in 2019, the figure made an upward progression to 17,259,624. The south moved from 12,051,078 in 2015 to a swift hawk’s dive to 9,195,201 in 2019. The gap between 4,175,927 votes difference in 2015 and 8,064,423 votes difference in 2019 speaks to the inflation in the North and the depression in the south. The 9,195,201 votes cast by 17 southern states, with 5,703387 going to pdp and 3,491814 to the APC registers the reality of a stronghold of the opposition being stormed and downsized. Too much in evidence, is that, coldly, calculatedly, between 2015 and 2019, the voters in the south East suffered a computer carnage. How come INEC bureaucracy was so so fastidious and efficient at reducing padding from 7.6 million registered voters in 2015 with 5.6 million pvcs collected in the Eastern states? In 2019, there were 2,097,493 actual voters in the South East down from 2,663,154 in 2015. Who will know this and not marvel at the voting figures from Borno which more than doubled from 499,183 in 2015 to 908,284 in 2019 with 92% of that, 836,496, going to the incumbent President?. Arguably, INEC as the electoral supremo may have had a smart appreciation of rigging dynamics that can explain how the total of 1,556,313 shared between PDP and APC in the Rivers state and 1,260,315 between them in Delta states in 2015 plummeted in 2019 to 624,681,in Rivers, a decrease of 931,632, and 815,360 in the Delta, a decrease of 444,955 votes. PDP’s whopping share of 1,487,075 in the Rivers in 2015 was down sized to 473,971 in 2019. If over-voting in the South South, in 2015, conceivable in an electoral culture of malfeasance, can explain the sanitation exercise that INEC has achieved in 2019 in Rivers and Delta states then there must be alchemy, not science in the dazzling and highfalutin registration figures in Katsina and Kano, and the election results generated thereby. Pure Mathemagics! Of which the case of Kaduna state gives the accredited Voters at 1,428,895 votes.

The APC winners received – 1,044,710 votes and their PDP opponents got – 815,168 giving a total of 1,859,878 votes. What happened to the 400,000 over-voting? It is a case quite similar to the collated results for Yobe State in the Presidential election. It gave a total Number of Registered Votes as 1,365,913, accredited Voters as 601,056, Total Votes Cast as 586,137, Rejected Votes as 226,772. Interestingly, the APC got 497,914 and the PDP – 50,763. A simple question: If total votes cast amounted to 583,137 votes and there were 226, 772 rejected votes, how did the APC score 497,914 votes? Anyone who has encountered such information in the media is obliged to wonder at the INEC results which show that General Muhammadu Buhari scored 15,191, 847 against Abubakar Atiku’s 11,255,978 votes. How justify global figures for the Presidential elections with the mind-boggling figures that INEC has affirmed! Very seriously, the mathemagics of INEC figures authorize the zeal with which Abubakar Atiku has offered to go to court to contest the victory granted to Muhammadu Buhari in the elections. As he has claimed in his petition, “contrary to what INEC declared, he garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes, ahead of Buhari who …. got a total of 16,741,430 votes”.

One point of great concern is that the means for in-built correction in the political system, through tribunals and up to the Supreme Court, are threatened with redundancy. The election petitions filed by the aggrieved in all the Presidential Elections of the past, heinously rigged as they all have been, never acceded to any correction. Largely, this makes for the established mythology that no election petition can ever succeed against a sitting President. The proof of this in the Fourth Republic covers the judicial resistance by the Presidential candidate of the ANPP, Chief Olu Falae, to the victory of President Olusegun Obasanjo at the inception of democracy in 1999. Falae was literally harassed and blackmailed at home and abroad until he agreed to withdraw the case from the court. True, late President Umaru Yar’adua of the PDP, has been unique in admitting, before the Supreme Court gave him clearance to carry-go, that the election that brought him to power was flawed. Otherwise, it is not in the character of incumbents to be so sanguine. The epic and lost legal battles of General Muhammadu Buhari across three elections 2003, 2007, 2011, before his election victory in 2015, confirm the myth of unwinnable petitions against an incumbent President. In the case of President Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent who lost the 2015 Presidential election to a long-distance runner called General Muhammadu Buhari, the narrative remains the stuff of legend. In spite of humungous irregularities that marred the elections, the loser, true to his own vow never to let his ambition become a reason for bloodshed, conceded defeat. He withdrew for peace to reign, making it the only Presidential election that has not been contested in court in the Fourth Republic.

In essence, the mythology that no one wins a petition against an incumbent President, has formed the rationale for the motley that constitutes what deserves to be called the DontGoToCourtLobby. Or rather, they are different lobbies advising and cajoling former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in the 2019 Presidential Election, not to go to court or if already there, to withdraw the case. Too evidently, they are not speaking for vast communities across the country whose votes had never been allowed to count in elections. Imagine so many long-suffering constituencies where the repeated success of riggers, ballot stuffers, allocators of, and announcers of wrong results at collation centres, had established rogue political cultures for political parties that have become major domo, permanent stomps, helping to sustain the myths of a thriving democracy! It shows there are good grounds for the charge that, in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 or 2015, the elections were in the language of the international observers, marred by irregularities. it is no longer a case of Nigeria having no history of, and no template of free and fair elections to go by; but that the rigged elections of the past are being used as models, normalizing atrocious mathematics, in 2019. Such that: overcoming opponents by any means possible soon acquires respectability in the hands of undiscriminating analysts and columnists performing some Greek chant and chorus.

Now, as the patterns already created by riggers continue to serve as the basis for ascribing voting behaviour to ethnic and religious groups and fractions, much of the analyses of voting behaviour and voting patterns across the country, merely amount to recycling myths. It explains, without question, why every next election has become worse than the preceding one – on the scale of free and fair. Besides, the contrived managerial incompetence of the electoral commissions, and the deliberated mischief of incumbents and their driven partisans, have beefed up the Nigerian factor of sectional drives . In 2019 the uses to which incumbents have put the militariat, in shameful acts that Nigeria’s military establishment ought to consider treasonable, shows the kind of impossible challenges awaiting those who see Nigeria as too eminently save-able to need current mimic messiahs. Why waste enormous national resources to bolster their egos, their stand, and stature instead of building systems that work!

To be sure, looking beyond mimic messiahs is what post-election interventions should be all about: to return things to normalcy by reflecting on how to equate the ballot with the actual wishes of voters. It should, I believe, involve a remake of the whole voting system, a re-orientation of the Independent National Electoral Commission which administers elections, and a stringent reform of the finance of political parties. In this regard, my tack for a start, is to identify with, and add my mite to the proposal for an alternative biometric system of voting, towards a genuine electoral reform that can meet the irregularities and malpractices that are so hideously on display. My wish is to adapt earlier proposals in Taking Nigeria Seriously and The Nigerian Agenda to recent developments. The purpose is to advance a system that is simple, sensible, secure, and friendly to all; especially, friendly to the non-literate in our midst for whose sake, I think, we need to consider a five year ‘special education’ to wipe out illiteracy from our country. Otherwise, I want to present the features of the proposed biometric system as one requiring that: –

(1) Every Nigerian of school-going age should have a National Identity Card with a registered thumbmark or registered fingermark

(2) A National Identity Card must be confirmed by being attached to a polling unit after the age of 18

(3) To accredit yourself as a voter, you slot your confirmed National Identity Card into a Polling Machine which automatically displays the polling unit of the thumb or finger placed on it

(4) To choose a party, you tap a green button on the Polling Machine which displays the election(s) of the day and the logo of the political parties

(5) To vote, you press a registered thumb or registered finger upon the logo of the chosen political party. It is for a single vote no matter how many times you press.

(6) To complete voting, you tap a red button on the machine which informs INEC and designated monitors and observers.

(7) Every 20 minutes, the Polling Machine displays the number of voters already processed but without displaying any results.

(8)At the end of the day’s voting, when INEC shuts down, the machine displays the full results and notifies INEC.

The advantage of this proposed biometric system is that, as in the case of using an ATM Card in banks, a polling machine operates in the same way in every part of the country. You don’t have to travel to where you registered or where you got your identity card before you can vote. Since a thumb or registered finger is accredited for only one vote per election, there is no fear of over-voting. Once accredited, a thumb is added to the list of voters in the polling unit to which it belongs. The eighteenth year confirmation of the National Identity Card takes care of underage voters. Those confirmed who, for whatever reasons, are not able to vote at the polling machine of their choice, can move to another one in any other location within or outside the village town or city. There is no need for collation officers, or returning officers or armed personnel, and there are no election materials beside the Polling machine. No use discolouring fingers to prove that you have voted because no matter how many times you press your registered thumb or finger against a party logo, and no matter how many machines you go to, only the first mark can be valid. Party agents may mind the polling stations in order to be sure that the maintenance officers for the polling machines are alive to their duties. The short of this is that once a vote is cast, it cannot be rescinded or transferred, burnt or stolen. The usual mathemagics that went by the name of election results in the past will be consigned to history.

Most relevant to our discussion, in this regard is that the alternative voting machines will generally do away with the raft of electoral malpractices based on contrived logistical problems which ritually compromised past elections. Ballot stuffing will simply be impossible. The use of thugs to dragoon polling stations as willed by political warlords will be meaningless as a dangerous constituency can simply be avoided. Voting can take place in any of the safe havens outside it. All across the country. Besides, once installed, the Polling Machines, which must be built rugged to last, will also reduce, very considerably, the cost of running INEC which has had a humungous budget of 250 billion Naira in its kitty for the 2019 elections.

On the firm assumption that the Polling Machines will be manufactured in Nigeria, the first order of appraisal is to make it possible, as with ATMs in the banking system, to monitor the technical proficiency of the machines. Recall that in the Second Republic, it took the weight of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s opposition to prevent the imposition of electronic voting machines that were pre-programmed to give votes disproportionately to different political parties. It has since been haggled at election petitions in the fourth Republic that electronic machines were used to derail the vote for some candidates. Such genuine fears or lack of faith in technology can be properly stemmed through demonstrations. Just as no one in the age of ATM machines would touch banks that are known to be programmed to mis-allocate funds, it should matter that a format exists which enables polling machines to be constantly tested; without needing to be taken to babalawos, dibias and marabouts instead of electronic engineers and computer scientists. It so happens that there are already many home-grown technologies across Nigeria being tested to override negative possibilities. The Nigerian circumstance of Executive and Legislative brinkmanship simply needs to be tackled and factored into a transparent mode; that is, away from the kind of fiasco that has bedevilled the production of a National Identity Card system after so many decades of trying. A government that is unable to pull it off must be deemed too antediluvian to run a modern economy.

•Ofeimun, a renowned poet and an award winning columnist, is a former President of Association of Nigerian Authors and former private secretary to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo

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