In the last few years I have read many articles and opinion pieces on Nigeria and Nigerian politics. Many of these are non-partisan, many partisan, many well written, many not so well written. The medium piece by Ose Anenih ‘How to lose a Nigerian election’ falls in the ‘well written’ category. However, as expected of a partisan opinion piece, he has made sweeping assumptions, contradictions, deliberate omissions and biased conclusions.
THE SMART CARD READER CONTRADICTION
The article in one paragraph commends the introduction of the card reader to prevent election manipulation in the Nigerian 2015 elections stating that “it helped clean up the electoral register; and as a consequence, brought down voter turnout from 52% in 2011 to 43% in 2015, resulting in almost 10 million-less votes than were cast in 2011”. This is admitting that the card reader technology helped eliminate almost 10 million false votes during the 2015 elections. The interesting thing is that, in the same paragraph, just before the commendation, the article states that “in theory it (the card reader) was supposed to ensure that election results could not be written with the previous levels of impunity, and that only accredited voters i.e. voters verified by the card reader via their voters’ cards and their finger prints, could actually cast their votes”. Ose contradicted himself, stating in one breath that the card reader’s efficiency is only “in theory” and stating in the same paragraph, that the card reader ‘practically’ eliminated almost 10 million ‘ghost voters’. INEC had clearly stated that the manual validation option, in the event that the card reader fails to read a voter’s biometric details or has any other issues, was to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters. Therefore, there was no “flaw in INEC’s new verification process” as stated in the article, what was termed as a flaw was a provision to ensure voters can exercise their rights in the event that technology, as is normal globally, malfunctions.
INEC AND IRI SMART CARD READER REPORT
The International Republican Institute in its post-election report stated that “Despite a number of technical problems, and after some delay in polling officials becoming accustomed to the new systems, the Smart Card Reader and PVC were successfully used during the accreditation process and INEC is commended for introducing this important mechanism for reducing voter fraud and increasing voter confidence in the electoral process”.
INEC’s data from the Smart Card Reader Accreditation Backend Transmission system puts the total number of voters accredited with the Smart Card Reader at 80%. INEC’s data also points out that the occupations with the highest percentage of full accreditation were civil servants at 53.5%, while the lowest were farmers and housewives at 33.4% and 31.0% respectively, which may point to the fact that education and literacy had a lot to do with the accreditation process. INEC has learned from the 2015 elections and can only get better going forward which is the way systems work globally.
THE BUHARI EFFECT
The article goes on to analyze the numbers and concludes, based on data from Presidential election results in 2003, 2011 and 2015, that “the region that will determine the outcome of the 2019 elections is the North West”. This is a generous assumption, considering that from his own analysis, Ose recognizes that in 2003, 2007 and 2011, the winner of the Presidential election has won with only 30% of the votes from the North West, which is understandable as a presidential candidate will be duly elected after attaining both the highest number of votes cast, and having received at least 25% of the votes at each of at least two-thirds of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Interestingly, attaining 30% of the North West votes only became difficult once General Muhammadu Buhari became a candidate in the elections in 2003. His popularity and the cult like following of millions of Nigerians resident in the North has consistently granted him an assured win in the region.
In 2015, there was a paradigm shift in the game, the ‘General’ was courted by political leaders in the South West, a region in which he had not performed very well in previous elections, and coupled with the extremely poor performance of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, General Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 elections, winning states like Benue with over 70,000 votes, a state he had consistently lost in previous elections. And winning in Lagos, a state that was flooded with PDP dollars for vote buying, with over 160,000 votes. The General became President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29th, 2015.
The article did mention a “Mount Wike”, it however leaves out the fact that Rivers State got a total of 1,556,313 votes in the 2015 elections, and by INEC figures had 2,537,590 voters, that is a 61.3% voter turnout rate, and Delta state a turnout rate of 55.4% with a total turnout of 1,260,315 voters, Akwa Ibom had a 60.1% turn out rate with 1,011,715 voters, Bayelsa had a voter turnout of at least 60% with at least 366,403 voters, only Cross River State had a voter turnout of about 37%. I wonder then where he gets his 39% turn out rate for the South South, which he says is higher than the 46% voter turnout rate of the North West.
THE DECEPTIVE OMMISSION
The most surprising fact however, is that interestingly, in the same Deep Dive report referenced (https://medium.com/@deepdiveng/loopholes-in-nigerias-electoral-system-9fde82572321), we observe that if anyone took advantage of the failure of the card reader, it is the regions where there was a large of number of people that could not be authenticated at all by the card readers. This means these people could have presented fake card readers. From the Deep dive report, there was a total of 5.4million voters affected in the South, with Rivers State making up the highest numbers with 1.33million voters affected out of 1,556,313 voters, this means less than 250,000 voters in Rivers state used the card readers, a whopping 85.5% of votes cast in the state could only vote with incidence forms and could have presented stolen or fake permanent voter cards. Delta State comes in second with 782,141 voters affected, which is a 62% rate, Anambra comes in third with 616,870 such errors which was 90% of the total number of votes cast.
These numbers are incredibly high and smartly left out in Ose’s article. The numbers seen here probably explains why the South South and South East regions had unexplainably large votes for the PDP in the 2015 elections. And by the way, that massive blue mountain you see there? That is ‘Mount Wike’ in Rivers State and the second tallest mountain is ‘Mount Uduaghan’ in Delta State.
Finally, Ose masked his bias in the article, but gave himself away in the last paragraph as positioning for a certain North Central candidate, by advising the PDP not to pick a candidate from the North West to avoid alienating the South. Factually, the easiest way an opposition party can make Ose’s target of 30% of the votes in the North West is by fielding a strong North Western candidate in the 2019 elections, the other regions will likely vote based on various indices such as existing political structures which will be largely driven by the strength of individuals (political leaders) in the various parties, religion, ethnicity, party affiliation of State Governors, and how voters rate the incumbent government.
If anything is certain, it is that someone, probably same person that expunged the card reader from the latest amendment to the electoral laws, is afraid of the efficiency of the card reader at reducing voter fraud in the 2019 elections.
PLEASE NOTE THAT FIGURES USED TOOK INTO CONSIDERATION ONLY VOTES FOR PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI AND GOODLUCK JONATHAN, AS THE OTHER NUMBERS WERE MOSTLY NEGLIGIBLE