By Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Two weeks after the announcement of a six-week postponement of General Elections, and a week after the first of two days originally fixed for them, Nigerians are relieved that no violence has occurred. This cannot be unconnected with the fact that the nineteen hours and two sessions of discussions leading to the final announcement by INEC’s Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega were played out in the semi-open. The two reasons for the postponement – security concerns in the North-East region claimed by military authorities to be sufficiently distracting to security elsewhere in the country as well as suspected un-readiness of INEC’s logistics – were also not incredible. However, many incredulous Nigerians have expressed a concern that the postponement was an undue interference by the Military to enable the ruling party to fine-tune its winning (or waning) strategies, and have also expressed the fear that it was really the first of many postponements a la Gbagbo. On the other hand, if properly harnessed, the Opposition party has six more weeks to maintain and even increase its “mo”mentum that it was allegedly taking into February 14.
In this essay, however, we eschew all skepticism and cynicism, and discuss five outstanding issues.
1. (1) Will Security Concerns Be Fully Addressed in Six Weeks?
2. (2) Will INEC Finally and Really Be Ready Internally?
3. (3) Will the Elections Actually Hold?
4. (4) Will the Elections be Free, Fair and Credible?
5. (5) Who Will Win the Presidential Elections?
Please come with us.
INEC is the only body constitutionally charged to organize the elections, but not to provide security. Security against internal subversion should be provided by the Police, and from external aggression by the Military. That Constitution provides that the ONLY basis for the postponement of an election in part or all of the country – which presumes that the election date has already been FIXED – is for extreme security reasons, namely a state of war, which it is in in some parts of the North-East of Nigeria.
As far as elections are concerned today, Nigeria is comprised of one country, thirty-six states plus the FCT, six geo-political zones, 774 local government, 8814 wards and 120,000 polling units – and 68.8 million registered voters out of 140,431,790 population (2006 census), or 170 million people (2015 estimate) living in hundreds of thousands of cities, towns, villages and hamlets. Now, the troubled North-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria comprising the six states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe features 112 local governments (14.5% of country total). 1210 wards (13.7%) and 16,455 polling units (13.7%) with 9,107,861 registered voters (13.2%) and a 2006 Census population of 18,984,299 (13.5%). Only 14 local governments (i.e. 12.5% of the total) are affected in this 13.7%-average region – meaning that less than 2% of the entire country is affected.
Consequently, concerns in this geopolitical region should not have been used whatsoever to hold up the rest of the country’s election, except in fact it was merely as cover for some other reasons. Knowing the set dates of February 14 and 28 a year ahead of time, there is nothing that the Military could not have done six weeks prior to those dates that can now be done six weeks to the new dates of March 28 and April 11. Consequently, one is truly convinced that the Military sacrificed its pride to “bail” INEC out, despite INEC’s insistence to the contrary. In any case, a non-state-actors’ insurgency that has not been adequately addressed since 2009 cannot be addressed fully in six weeks – unless of course one of the many Shekaus is really captured dead or alive for the fifth time during that period.
In concluding this section, I urge that in the future, where serious security concerns exist, the particular elections (eg presidential/national assembly elections) should be held ONE or TWO WEEKs before the main one so that security forces can be specially CONCENTRATED in the affected areas to ensure smooth elections.
In shepherding these particular elections in Nigeria, INEC’s roles are many – rather too many:
(1) Register new parties and revalidate old ones
(2) Monitor political party finances and campaign ethics
(3) Register and approve candidates of various parties for different positions
(4) Organize voter registration by accepting the registration requests of potential voters
(5) Print and Issue voters cards to registered voters
(6) Designate polling units and assign registered voters to them
(7) Organize the printing and distribution of ballot papers to various polling units
(8) Hire and train both permanent and ad-hoc staff for all the polling units
(9) Outline and Organize the voting, counting, collation and announcement of results
INEC’s readiness should therefore be judged on all of these factors, and not just on #4 – #9, which is of primary concern to us here.
Parenthetically, in the future, INEC should be relieved of Items #1, #2 and #5 – party membership and finance monitoring should be left to one or two other bodies entirely. Furthermore ANY government-issued identification card (with photo ID and biometric data) should be acceptable for verification at the point of voting, PROVIDED the potential voter has already registered. Thus, there should be no voters’ card separate from a driver’s license, or travel passport, or other acceptable and necessarily biometric National Identity Card – including the voters cards issued for these 2015 elections.
The question remains: was INEC ready for February 14 and 28? The fairer question is: was INEC sufficiently ready?
The March 28 presidential elections will be Nigeria’s eighth since Independence (see Table 1 below for election information, and Table 2 for related census and population figures), and fourth (1983 under Shagari, 2003 and 2007 under Obasanjo and 2011 under Jonathan) to be organized by civilians, with two others (in Obasanjo’s 1979 and Abdusalami’s 1999) under military rule being successful transfers of power to civilians, while one – on June 12, 1993 – was an aborted one under IBB’s military rule. After sixteen years of continuous civilian government since 1999, I NEC as an institution should be expected to demonstrate greater efficiency in its operations. One can therefore be forgiven for expressing serious disappointment in its two recent postponements – first in 2011 and now in 2015. In addition to that, its Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise – in order to capture those citizens since 2007/2011 who had not registered, both old and newly-born – was anything but continuous, being narrowly confined to certain weeks.
In all elections prior to 2007, voters cards were not issued, so the number of registered voters was taken primarily as the maximum number of voters to be expected on Election Day: names on the Register were merely checked against those who presented themselves to vote. In 2015, two additional but welcome “complications” feature over mere registration prior to 2007:
(i) Issuance of a Temporary Voters Card (these were used in 2007 and 2011)
(ii) Replacement of the TVC with an RFID-compatible Permanent Voters Card (PVC) with biometric information that are readable by a Voters Card Reader (VCR)
Thus, in 2015, even if you register but don’t have a TVC (either through apathy, loss, theft or some discovered fraudulence, or INEC inefficiency), then you cannot obtain a PVC. More importantly, if you don’t have your PVC with you on Election Day, INEC is insisting that you won’t vote.
It is this TVC-PVC-VCR combination that has led to INEC’s seeming “un-readiness” in its bid to greatly increase the anti-rigging credibility of these elections over the earlier ones. Fortunately, the national PVC collection rate is now inching towards 80% from its pre-February 14 value of 65.6% (see Table 3), but with still politically unacceptable state-wise variations (eg Ogun State 40.86% compared with Nassarawa State of 96.29%).
But was INEC sufficiently ready for February 14? In the aspect of voter card collections, I believe so: if all the 45 million voters (out of the 68.8 million registered) that had collected their PVCs went out to vote, then according to Tables 1 and 3 below, that would have represented the highest voter turnout in numbers ever recorded in Nigeria, and the second highest in terms of percentage turn-out. If the turnout was based on 45 million (rather than 68.8 million), then a post-1999 percentage average turnout of 58% would yield 26 million voters – which is higher than any of the pre-1999 elections that yielded three presidencies.
Where INEC would have struggled greatly was in configuring card readers and the training of staff to handle electoral matters, activities that it was getting ready to concentrate all its resources upon during the last week before February 14. With the postponement, one would never now know what February 14 would have brought, but mercifully, more time means more PVCs and card readers available, and more staff training available, all leading hopefully to a more perfect set of elections.
WILL THE ELECTIONS HOLD – OR WILL THE POSTPONED ELECTIONS BE RE-POSTPONED?
Since 1999, May 29 has been the handover date of new governments, first from General Abdusalami Abubakar in 1999 to Obasanjo, then Obasanjo to himself and to Yar’Adua in 2003 and 2007 respectively, and while acting as President after Yar’Adua’s death in 2009, Goodluck Jonathan to himself in 2011, who may yet hand over to himself again in 2015, or else to General Muhammadu Buhari (Retired).
If indeed May 29 is “sacrosanct”, as all law-abiding persons of goodwill including President Jonathan seem to aver over and over again, then April 11 and 25 are the last two Saturdays that INEC can schedule the two sets of elections without disobeying the at-most-120-days-at-least-30-days-before-handover INEC law. Consequently the new dates March 28 and April 5 are themselves now near-sacrosant, as they cannot be re-postponed by more than two weeks – to April 11 and April 25, which are then super-sacrosanct. This is because the Holy Week of Christendom ends on Easter Friday April 3/ Easter Sunday April 5, ruling out Saturday April 4 as an Election Day.
This last date of April 4 presents another problem: in the event that there is a run-off in the Presidential election of March 28, electoral law requires that it be held a week afterwards – which is April 4. In order not to offend Christian sensibilities, it is then very likely that the run-off will be “postponed” by two weeks to April 18 – a week after the Gubernatorial/State Assembly elections – or even till the last possible Saturday – April 25.
To strain nerves, former President Obasanjo has been pre-emptively “seeing” the Gbagbo postponement style in all these machinations, and was sufficiently alarmed to quit the PDP and tear up his party card. INEC’s Jega has not helped matters by claiming recently that he is not in a position to guarantee the sacrosanct nature of May 29, and that we should all ask the security personnel about that.
Nigerians should refuse these omens, and say “Enough already….We Must Vote in March”!
WILL THE ELECTIONS BE FREE, FAIR AND CREDIBLE?
Just as nations go to war to win, candidates go to elections to win. Winning freely and fairly is invariably preferred, because it invariably imbues credibility and legitimacy to the results. However politicians invariably hope that even if they win un-freely and un-fairly, perchance credibility can still be conferred, and legitimacy obtained maybe even forcibly.
In the Nigerian context, the existence of a free, fair and credible election is an amalgam of incumbent government commitment to it and INEC’s true “independence” from that government. Without those two ingredients, such an election will not happen, as the incumbent government, wishing to win by all means necessary, can require the security agencies to take sides, intimidating the opposition as well as INEC officials.
This interference happened “successfully” in Ekiti State’s gubernatorial elections on June 21, 2014, which was a dress rehearsal for the “un-successful” outcome in Osun State of August 2014. This disgraceful Ekiti-gate saga, revealed by a now-absconded Sergeant Sagir [see http://www.nigerianmuse.com/20150213194020zg/sections/general-articles/star-revelation-how-ekiti-was-won-and-lost-on-june-21-2014/ STAR REVELATION: How Ekiti Was Won and Lost on June 21, 2014] is exactly how not to inject the security forces into elections in Nigeria. For the sake of national stability in the country, this must be avoided in the upcoming elections. The intimidating presence of particularly the Military should be confined to Sambisa Forest and environs, where from all indications Boko Haram is currently being dealt severe military blows. More seriously, I would suggest no more than two armed soldiers (if any) stationed some respectable distance from each polling unit, and three un-armed police and civil-defence personnel stationed within the vicinity. With 120,000 PUs, there should be still be enough soldiers to combat Boko Haram in the North-East, and enough policemen elsewhere ensuring the civic peace.
Another aspect of not ensuring free and fair election is the allowance of illegal voters on Election Day, as well as the “inclusion” of illegal ballot papers (either pre-thumb-printed and/or photo-chromically alterable) – again as suspected on June 21 in Ekiti State “routing” of the incumbent governor Fayemi. INEC’s plan to use both the Permanent Voters Card (PVC, authenticated with RFID technology), with voter verified by a biometric (thumb-print) Voters Card Reader (VCR) within the context of a Modified Open-Closed Ballot System (MOBS) will significantly enhance the freenees, fairness and hence credibility of the elections. Attempts by various interested to get INEC to dump the exclusive use of PVCs (and to permit TVCs) as well as eliminate the use of VCRs entirely must be stoutly resisted.
I had elsewhere (in the essay “Now that Jega has Asked for More Time..”) proposed the permission of the use of TVCs (together with VCRs) in rare cases. However I have since learnt from reliable sources that this would lead to chaos at the polling units because there are indeed many people with TVCs who LEGITIMATELY do not – and cannot – have PVCs:
(1) Those who illegally or, in their enthusiasm to be registered by all means necessary, registered twice or more times, and were purged during the AFIS duplicate registration exercise. There are as many as four million of these individuals.
(2) Those who, having been once finger-printed for the PVC, had problems with that exercise, but never returned to correct those problems either because of lack of that information or apathy. The number of such people is unknown – and unknowable.
Consequently, so as not to complicate matters, I am now convinced that ONLY those with PVCs should be allowed to vote.
Going forward, however, INEC has been building greater confidence of the electorate in its operations by significantly improving its PVC distribution logistics, publicly demonstrating the un-impeachable efficacy of the VCRs, as well at outlining credible alternatives in accrediting voters in the event of the inevitable and episodic technology failure. INEC must make much wider use of its phone numbers 0817-164-6879 (send text: “State, Last Name 5-digit VIN”, without quotes) and SMS shortcode 20120 (send text: “INEC, State, Last Name, 5-digit VIN”, without quotes) either to confirm whether one has his or her PVC ready (in the event that it is only a TVC at hand) or a reminder of where to vote (if one already has a PVC). In addition, clearer instructions about where to collect a PVC must be decided once and for all. Those sites should be as close as possible to where the voter originally registered.
On the other hand, civil society too – from educational institutions to mosques and churches, etc. – must play its part in getting the word out to its patrons that they must go out and collect their PVCs.
PREDICTING THE WINNER OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
If the result of the elections were to be based on the sum total of the sizes of the crowds in the various campaign rallies held by the presidential candidates, or on the beauty of the “costumes” worn at each stop, particularly by the women, or on the show of vitriol hurled in print and on the campaign trail, who do you think would win?
Your guess is as good as mine.
But one person – the “Attack Lion of Aso Rock” Dr Doyin Okupe – and one online polling organization seem to know and/or are willing to share their informed guesses.
I am taking Okupe’s predictions seriously because he may be (in)advertently revealing the electoral calculations of the fortunes of his administration. In further analysis Okupe’s extensive state-by-state analysis (see Table 4 below) – he gives no basis, maybe just hunches – it turns out that it reveals that:
(1) GEJ will beat GMB by 25.4 million votes to 19.4 million votes – 56.7% to 43.3%, with a 6 million vote difference, down from 10.3 million difference of 2011.
(2) GEJ will win in the SW, SE, SS. NC and FCT, while GMB will win in the NE and NW.
(3) In the SW, GEJ will win 58.5% to 41.5%, clinching wins in five of the six states, but losing Osun State.
(4) In the SE, GEJ will 77.7% to 22.3%, clinching all five states.
(5) In the SS, GEJ will 74.5% to 25.5%, clinching all six states.
(6) In the NC, GEJ will win 55.8% to 44.2%, clinching three states (Benue, Kogi and Plateau), losing Niger, and a dead heat in Kwara and Nassarawa
(7) In the FCT, GEJ will win by 70% to 30%.
(8) In the NW, GEJ will lose by 42.5% to 57.5%, winning only in Jigawa, and losing in four states (Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara), and having a deadheat in two others (Kaduna and Zamfara) all the other five states except for
On the other hand, an online survey by Malcolm Fabiyi and Otunuga using a Survey Monkey platform has it differently. With a predicted voter turnout of 58.1% (average of the voter turnout percentages obtained in the last 4 elections held in the 4th republic – 53.7% in 2011, 57.5% in 2007, 69.1% in 2003 and 52.3% in 1999), they have Buhari winning in four geopolitical zones and Jonathan in only two (See Figure 1).
Finally, if the presidential elections had held on February 15, I would have made available a Friday essay on February 13, outlining my own prediction, with my take-off point being the 2011 elections. As it is, with the postponement, I am also postponing my prediction by six weeks.
The contest between PDP and APC, and in particular between GEJ and GMB, promises to be the most keen in recent Nigeria election history. The passion with which both parties have gone at each other, and the advertorial demonization of candidates, have not always been exemplary. One trusts however that passions will cool after free, fair and credible elections that I am now fully convinced will hold on March 28 and April 11 – or else such passions might heat up inexhorably.
We shall see.