2015 Nigerian election: How it will be rigged

I listened to INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, question and answer section with the Nigerian Senate. The chairman answered some questions to his ability while he said, ironically, that the executive arm of the government has the answer to some of the questions like when asked if he is sure the election will hold on 28th March 2015. Basically, in my opinion, he means funding and security issues, which is the part the executive has to play in the electoral process.

Reasonable questions were asked that gave an insight to the electoral process. It was made clear that the voting process will not be by electronic voting but by the use of simple ballot papers that has been used in the past during which election rigging was common and easy. The Nigerian politicians, using the Nigerian constitution as an excuse, are against electronic voting.

How then does the chairman hope to prevent rigging in the 2015 Nigerian election?

Primarily, the chairman hopes to prevent rigging by introducing the permanent voters card (PVC) and an INEC machine, which validates the PVC. With the help of the PVC, INEC has the total number of registered voters in her data base. Therefore, INEC knows the maximum number of votes to expect not just based on the total number of registered voters but most importantly the number of collected PVC. The chairman also talked about a validating process, before the election, using the INEC machine. This is because INEC wants to ensure that any PVC presented is issued by INEC. This helped to ease the question on cloning INEC Cards. Moreover, each polling booth is expected to validate a maximum number of PVC that depends on the total number of registered voters in each polling booth.

The chairman also said that when there is a discrepancy between the total number of validated PVC for a polling booth and the total number of votes-when the later exceeds the former-then the election at the polling booth is null and void. The reason is easy to understand. For instance, a polling station cannot validate 500 PVC’s and report 800 votes even if the total number of registered voters at the polling station is 800.

How then will the 2015 election be rigged considering the measures INEC have put in place to prevent rigging?

One of the issues that was raised was the rumour of politicians buying PVC. That reminded me that even before April 2014 some members of a political party who tried to mobilize students and others to register and obtain their PVC also mentioned their interest in the old voter’s card. We know that with the old voter’s card one can collect the new PVC.

Then again, in NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) Aba News on 2nd March 2015, some people claimed that they went to Aba south, were they registered, to collect their PVC but they were directed to Aba north. They went to Aba north but were again directed to Aba south. They alleged to have been going for more than 2 days for their PVC. The worst is that those who are supposed to attend to them are not even concern as they were idle in office while people who came for their PVC were stranded. It is also alleged that Abia state has distributed the largest number of PVC.

Considering the rumour and the plight of those who cannot find their PVC, is it not possible that some political party are in possession of the PVC either with the help of INEC staffs who are supposed to distribute the cards or through other means. After all, someone said “your vote will count whether you collect your PVC or not.”

The INEC chairman did not state if the INEC machine is polling unit specific. That is each polling unit can only validate PVC of voters who registered in that polling unit. If yes, then it is good thinking that can help reduce the rigging. But if no, then it means bought or stolen PVC can be validated at any polling station and it will count. This will be easier when the validating period has not elapsed and total number of registered voters for the polling unit is still higher than the number of already validated PCV. Then the sycophants of politicians can use the opportunity to validate the cards to close the gap. May be that is the reason the INEC chairman decided to have a time frame for validation after which no other PCV will be validated.

Therefore, the rigging of the 2015 Nigerian election will depend on the ability of political parties to obtain PCV, validate it and then thumb print the ballot papers to tally with the number of cards they have. Certainly, at a point the political parties will need the help of an INEC official to succeed in rigging the election.

The grassroots is an important place to watch because that is the place that will be easily used for the manipulation.

Finally, the INEC chairman cannot guarantee the integrity of all the INEC officials who will be used in the election and we know that in this situation an INEC official has a greater role to play in an effort to prevent rigging the 2015 Nigerian election.

Therefore, it is important that INEC officials accept full responsibility and punishment for election irregularities especially when an allegation of election rigging is confirmed to be true and it is discovered that an INEC official played a role in it.

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