To the caves we returned: The state of affairs of election results in Nigeria. And possible next step?

I have been left in a lurch all weekend, with no official or parallel consolidated view of the election results from the Nigerian general elections held this past Saturday.

Given all the sophistication of the people of Nigeria, it is her complexities that bothers the more than casual observer.

With millions of internet users (actual numbers are disputed) and possibly a million professionals in all walks of human endeavor doting the global landscape who are Nigerians and who stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers in delivering value to businesses and or communities they serve. It beats me that getting the official or a verified/verifiable parallel results of the 2019 presidential elections  nearly 48 hours after polls closed, has proven impossible.

Figure 1 –Image showing INEC’s election result web page, displays the countdown to a 2019 general election. The image was captured on Monday 25 February at 12:12am SAST. The author submitted the page to the Internet Archive’s WayBackMachine in order to create a permanent time stamped record of the web page which is accessible at this url: https://web.archive.org/web/20190225101352/https://www.inecnigeria.org/elections/election-results/

Social media is agog with a variance of the campaign antics of most supporters of the two main contending parties in the presidential race as well as the jokers that littered the land.

The antics changed slightly from ‘my man is better than yours’ or ‘my man will beat yours’ to: my man has beaten your man and here is proof – but most proofs are spoofs, figments of the imaginations or machinations of the bearer.

In my search for credible results, the official INEC election page between 8.00am SAST and a few minutes ago (12.00noon SAST) continues to display a countdown to the 2019 General elections – possibly the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections scheduled for next week. But isn’t there an apparent design problem here? But I digress.

Googling led me to a CNN article with the headline “Nigeria’s first real-time election database”. My joy was boundless.

The article showcased The Stears Election Centre website as the equivalent of the American socio-politico website FiveThirtyEight. The article is only accurate to the extent that both FiveThirtyEight and Stears’ main website carry socio-political news about their respective countries, but not as far as Stears Election website being a real-time result platform.

I have refreshed that website on all my internetfairing devices for news of outcome of the elections but nothing. The screenshot attached to this piece does indicate that the website was updated today, some time, perhaps to only add the disclaimer:

Only results announced by INEC will be published

A disclaimer that indicates to me that the proprietors of these website have no means of getting validated results except those published by INEC.

And INEC has published no results, but has rather announced that its SCOPE will reconvene today at 11.00am WAST.

INEC dashed my hopes by not publishing the results in any form. CNN and Stears’ raised my hope and continue to dash it as at writing.

Figure 2 – Promise deferred. Screenshot of Stears Nigeria’s election center punted by CNN as Nigeria’s real-time election result database. This database is empty a full 30 hours after polls have closed in the presidential and national assembly general elections. This screenshot was taken at 12:27 PM SAST, Monday 25 Feb., and a copy of the website was submitted by the author to the Internet Archive’s WayBack machine about the same time and that copy can be viewed here: https://web.archive.org/web/20190225102502/https://nigeriaelections.stearsng.com/

But in 2019, why this cloud of darkness over election results?

I have worked as an ad-hoc election staff many elections ago and a keen follower of the election process, being an active campaigner in the 2015 cycle, at a time when my thrust was to help citizens realise they have the power to select their leaders.

I have a firm idea of how election results collation works. A cursory scan of the landscape reveals not much has changed.

At a designated time, polls are expected to close and counting commenced. Ballots are counted before part agents and other stakeholders are still around, usually voters in the polling unit return to witness the counting. With counting done, a ton of forms are filled by the election officials, signed by representatives of the parties and copies distributed to those representatives who are present and who have signed witnessing the counting. The originals are sealed in the presence of everybody.

From here those forms are taken to the ward collation centres where the results from all polling units making up the ward are collated and a single result for that ward arrived at by rolling up the values presented by each polling unit. Again, this is attended by party representatives. A local government roll up commences, then a state-wide rollup (where elections are for Governors and State House of Assemblies) and then a national roll up (where elections are for the office of the Presidents and their deputies and Members of the two houses making up the National Assembly).

Each leg of the roll up is logistic heavy. As officials have to move from one location to another. Risky – as officials could be waylaid and official results destroyed (the copies with the party officials do not add up to much without the originals) and prone to human errors – officials often report for duty the night before, my have slept in the open air or possibly worked through the night and 24 hours later whilst collating results at the ward/local government/state government collation centres, anxiety, frayed nerves, exhaustion and other opportunistic human challenges may have set in.

This may come as shock to friends and colleagues reading this piece and who may be living in developed economies. But this is Nigeria.

And we still haven’t found it right to automate election results collation. I will not even go into the details of how such a system can be built, secured and deployed – I will be merely stating the obvious.

A second challenge is why hasn’t there been a citizen led parallel result announcement scheme that will ONLY rely on verified copies of results provided at each polling unit – results which have been counted in the presence of the people and signed by attendant party representatives and where doubts arise, either label  such results as unverified or dispatch a people led systems based process for verifying such results.

These type of initiatives MUST be encouraged in the coming dispensation as I have argued repeatedly that none of the two front runners in this election is good enough for Nigeria and I remain adamant in that position – I only hope, a lot more people see the light and come to the party.

It is for this reason that any sane effort at rescuing the soul of Nigeria MUST be one that is entrenched in citizen participation and I dare dream of a citizen led government opposition that will publicly and transparently hold the government of the day accountable.

It may be too late for this election cycle, but such a citizen led opposition may coordinate itself and run a parallel but transparent citizen led result collation system for the next elections in 2023, but first it must constitute itself and get started with the work required for a successful opposition politics – the current political parties are not dissimilar and are incapable of running any credible opposition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *