Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet.
Segun Sanni, a retired banker and investments specialist, is a chieftain of the Pan-Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria
The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) under Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, has become the national umpire institution which plays a wicked trick on Nigerians at the last minute of the game. This is particularly when the damage is most atrociously awful and devastating. Deception, at the most sudden and most destructive, has been Professor Mahmoud’s trump card against Nigeria and Nigerians since he came into office but we failed to pay close attention to the enormity of his dangerous games up until now.
The seed of the current crisis was indeed sown in the 2019 presidential election but Nigerians did not complain about it. They thus allowed Mahmoud to repackage the exact same trick to deal us a much bigger blow in 2023. In 2019, INEC told Nigerians copiously and repeatedly that it was going to transmit the election results of that year from the various states of the federation into its central server in Abuja.
INEC indeed received and expended the sum of N1.47bn from the Federal Government for the procured of the computer servers and announced to Nigerians that the servers were going to be used to transmit the results from the various states. INEC staff were trained and instructed on the process of uploading the results from the various polling units into INEC’s central server. One of its commissioners, Mike Igini, repeated it on national television right at the eve of the election.
Now, Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) in that election, went to court claiming to have clear and unassailable evidence that INEC staff were instructed to alter the election results in the server when it became clear he had won the election. Some unhappy INEC IT staff had reportedly played the whistleblower and provided him with damning evidence of the manipulations done on the central server. And as technology goes, every little activity you perform on a server leaves clear audit trail and full details of the activity, what you did, who did it, at what time, on what day, etc, and that audit trail cannot be erased or removed or obliterated. Now, when Atiku pleaded with the court to permit access to the INEC server to establish the fraud committed on the server to the court, Mahmoud’s INEC suddenly announced to a bemused public that INEC did not use any server in the election afterall! They had purportedly thrown away the server rather than allow it to be examined and its dark secrets revealed.
Now it had been that when Atiku made the allegation of the server tampering, Adams Oshiomhole, then APC chairman, had responded that Atiku and his PDP had hacked the INEC server and done the tampering by themselves. But the audit trail would reveal the particulars of the exact user who did what on the system! The major implication of the Oshiomhole response was that the two major actors (ruling party and main opposition party) had gone into the election very much aware of the INEC server and what it was meant to do in that election. And the unmistakable corollary of that was that the two major parties thought, nay knew, a server was used at the election. This was before the INEC chairman surprised the two sides that a server was not used afterall. Mahmoud also said the information was only made available not just long after the fact but in court, right in the process of the judicial proceedings! They didn’t know prior, and neither did we as Nigerians!
If after the announcement of servers for the election and the procurement of servers and training of staff to use the servers, if the server would no longer be used, shouldn’t both APC, PDP and the other parties have been made aware of that crucial information before the election?? But Mike Igini affirmed the use of the server right on the eve of the election. Nigerians did not complain much about this scandalous fraud for the apparent reasons that Atiku himself was not particularly the darling of the Nigerian/Southern intelligentsia while to the average Northerner, it was an argument between one Northern brother and another, and it didn’t quite cause any big tension in the polity.
That was how Mahmoud got away with that duplicity with little national commentary or attention in 2019. The ease with which he got away with that fraud has given him the supreme confidence to pull off exactly the same trick on us with BVAS upload in 2023. Similarly as in 2019, Mahmoud had told the whole world that the election results of this year would be transmitted straight from each polling station across the country and into the INEC server in Abuja. That is what the electoral act suggested and that was the expectation of all Nigerians only for us to find out INEC staff’s refusal or inability to upload the Presidential election results as INEC had promised. Across a significant segment of the country, the excuse had been the same, that the system was slow and would not accept the uploading of presidential election results.
But the same server and the same network, effortlessly facilitated the verification of PVC cards and biometric recognition of individual voters across the country. The same server and network, allowed the uploading of Senate and House of Representatives election results, but suddenly would not accept for Presidential election results to be transmitted! And Nigerian voters and party officials were screaming all through Saturday that their election results be uploaded, all to no avail. And by the time party collation officials would be confronted on Sunday and Monday with the election result sheets signed by their polling agents on Saturday, a lot of Tippexing and alterations had been reportedly imposed on the papers. It had thus become apparent that the illicit, illegal and criminal job had been done overnight in INEC offices.
Now, Prof Mahmoud has expressed regret that INEC failed to upload the results as promised and as expected because it had network challenges. This is the second time in a row that Professor Mahmoud has used technology, specifically election data upload, to take Nigerians on a ride. And it’s even most staggering that he would choose to use exactly the same tactic second time around and so soon after the first incident! Is this how lowly this INEC esteems the intelligence and consciousness of all Nigerians??
Professor Mahmoud should answer the following questions:
Did INEC not do load testing and other preparatory tests before deploying its electronic facilities during the election on Saturday? If and when the network challenges were noticed, were the political parties called into a meeting to be notified and to agree on acceptable remedial actions with proper safeguard measures? This remedial plan and safeguard measures should have actually been agreed and put in place before the election. And why do we have so much Tippexing of result sheets as has been reported by political parties and their agents across the country? Lastly, INEC has admitted it failed to follow the dictates of the electoral act and its promises in its conduct of the election, and that failure has dug a long dagger in the heart of the trust of most Nigerians in the fairness and transparency of this election. What does INEC expect us to do next as Nigerians?
Professor Mahmoud, this second slap is louder, and we have no other cheek to take it anymore.