By Joel Popoola
The Independent National Electoral Commission has apparently turned its nose up at electronic voting, claiming Nigerians don’t trust our democracy enough for it to work.
They are quite right that Nigerians simply do not trust our political leaders or institutions.
But this is a classic example of “what came first, the chicken or the egg”. And I think INEC is wrong. It is not the case that a lack of trust makes digital democracy impossible. In fact, digital democracy like electronic voting is exactly what Nigeria needs to build trust in our democracy.
Speaking at an event in Ondo State, INEC director Nick Dazang argued:
“The main issue in our election is that of trust. Once we continue to do things transparently and stakeholders, including politicians, media, political parties, observers and civil societies trust INEC, you don’t even need to use sophisticated technology for election”
Dazang claimed that electronic voting is too easily hacked to be trusted by voters.
This of course implies that putting bits of paper in a box and trusting the person watching the box to deliver it to the right place and then trusting the person counting it to count it correctly – or at all – is a foolproof and incorruptible system! If that was true, perhaps Nigerians would trust our democratic processes!
On his main point, Dazang is quite right. What Nigerian democracy needs most is urgent practical steps to address our trust crisis.
72% of Nigerians believe the statement “most politicians are corrupt” describes our country well – and six-in-ten say it describes Nigeria “very well”.
Only 39% of Nigerians are satisfied with the way democracy is working in our country, while 60% say they are not satisfied.
And – probably as a result – our voter turnout is the worst in West Africa, 34.8% at the last presidential election compared to 68.6% in Ghana.
Electronic voting can guarantee confidentiality, ensure that only eligible – and living! – voters vote and that the votes they cast actually reflect their choices, and are counted.
And as a year of remote working as a result of COVID-19 has demonstrated, software solutions allowing the secure digital transfer of confidential information are widely available and easy to use, with a year’s worth of relentless international testing to prove it!
A central element of the trust crisis in Nigeria, and across Africa in general, is an absence of credible elections.
Using new technology to address the practical problems which detract from the credibility of our democracy is an opportunity we need to seize.
Other advantages of an electronic system include the faster delivery of election results, increased trust in elections through minimisation of human error and even long-term cost savings.
This is just one of the ways we can take advantage of technology to improve the transparency of and trust in our political process – while making our democracy work faster and more efficiently.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we are also working to bring electors and elected closer together.
We’ve developed a free smartphone app – Rate Your Leader – to use smartphone technology to allow elected officials to interact directly with confirmed voters in the divisions they serve – and to do so in a way which makes insulting communication difficult, and dishonest communication undesirable.
This way politicians and people can use Rate Your Leader to engage person-to-person, and understanding each other’s needs and positions. This way, leaders can find out rapidly what matters most to the people who elect them, and collaborate to address those issues. And voters can even rate their politicians for their transparency and accessibility.
And that in turn builds transparency and trust, which are such scarce commodities in our political process.
For INEC to be publicly spurning electronic voting is particularly disappointing following its announcement that in May 2020 that it intended to “pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time, (and) work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.”
Universal electronic voting is clearly not viable in a country where many still lack access to reliable and secure internet. But there is nothing stopping us from starting down the path towards becoming Africa’s first truly digital democracy.
Because in 2021, democracy is digital.
More Nigerians own a smartphone than Permanent Voters Card (PVC). And as our experience of Rate Your Leader proves, it isn’t just the most effective and efficient way of conducting political activities, it’s the way that the electorate wants to carry out those activities.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app. You can follow Joel on Twitter @JOPopoola
Yobe Governor, Buni Marries Abacha’s Divorced Daughter, Gumsu
Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni on Wednesday married Gumsu Sani Abacha in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The marriage was held at the Abuja residence of the new wife’s brother, Mohammed Abacha.
Buni is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker National Chairman; Gumsu is a daughter of former Head of State, Sani Abacha.
Notable personalities and government officials, including the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali attended.
In 2019, shortly after he assumed office, Buni tied the knot with Ummy, a daughter of his predecessor and incumbent Yobe East Senator Ibrahim Gaidam.
Gumsu, 45, is the governor’s fourth wife. Her marriage to Cameroonian multi-billionaire, Bayero Mohamadou crashed in 2020.
Wike Locks Down Rivers for LGA Elections
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has ordered restriction of movement ahead of the local government election in the state.
The election is slated for Saturday, April 17 across 4,442 polling units, 319 wards and 23 local government areas.
In a broadcast on Thursday, Wike said the restriction from Friday night to Saturday is needed to ensure the smooth conduct of the election by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RVSIEC).
The governor assured residents that security agencies will provide adequate protection at all the polling units and collation centres.
“Consequently, vehicular and human movements, within and out of the state and the local government areas is hereby totally restricted from the midnight of Friday, 16th April, 2021, until the end of polling at 5pm on Saturday, 17th April, 2021, except for persons and vehicles strictly on essential duties with genuine and valid identifications,” Wike said.
“The security agencies have been directed to strictly enforce the restriction on human and vehicular movements and arrest and prosecute any person who dares to violate this ban. I have been briefed and received assurances from the RVSIEC that it is fully prepared and ready not only to conduct, but also to ensure that polling is hitch-free, fair and credible.
“Furthermore, the security agencies have clear directives to arrest and deal decisively with any person or group of persons, no matter how highly placed, who attempts to prevent the peaceful and orderly conduct of the election or compromise its integrity in any way.
“We call on community leaders and the general public to be vigilant and promptly report every suspicious movement and or illegal activity around polling units and collation centres in their localities to the security agencies for immediate action.”
Wike added that his administration will always ensure the promotion of democratic principles, including the election of officials at local government levels across the state.
“As a government that believes in the practice and consolidation of democracy, and in fulfilment of our constitutional duty to ensure the sustenance of democratically-elected local government councils in the state, we have since decided never to run our local government system with caretaker committees, except in inevitably justifiable circumstances,” he said.
“It is against this background that this election has been fixed to once again give our people the opportunity to effectively participate in the process of electing and constituting the next set of chairmen and councillors to administer the 23 local government councils.”
The governor urged voters to conduct themselves peacefully and refrain from any act of violence, adding that the election is not a do-or-die affair.
EFCC Frees Okorocha after Two Days Detention
Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo state, has been released from the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), two days after he was invited for questioning.
Okorocha, who is currently representing Imo west at the senate, was grilled at the EFCC office in Abuja on Tuesday, over issues bothering on alleged corruption.
The former governor, who was in charge of Imo from 2011 to 2019, had been accused by the state government of various corrupt practices including diversion of public funds — although Okorocha has denied any wrongdoing.
Documents obtained by TheCable showed how the former governor awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion in violation of the public procurement act.
TheCable had also reported how a government committee uncovered N112.8 billion “dubious debts”, which various banks owed the state during Okorocha’s tenure.
Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha’s media adviser, confirmed that Okorocha left the custody of the anti-graft agency on Thursday.
“With gratitude to God Almighty, we are delighted to inform the general public that the former governor of lmo state, and by the grace of God, the Senator representing lmo west senatorial district, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is out of the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and he is now in his house,” the statement reads.
“He left the Commission’s office on the afternoon of Thursday, April 15, 2021.”
Onwuemeodo, who described Okorocha’s invitation to the EFCC’s office as a “trip” said the former governor had earlier given the assurance that he will cooperate fully with the agency.
“We didn’t bother about whether he spent 24 hours or 48 hours at the Commission’s office. We were only keen in his having the needed opportunity to address the allegations contained in the avalanche of petitions written by the lmo State Government, against the former governor,” the spokesman said.
“Remember also that we had alluded that EFCC was not a slaughter house, but a responsible institution, established for the good of the nation and her people. And Okorocha being in his house today, only confirmed our hypothesis that, indeed, the Commission’s office is not an abattoir.”