On 18 March, following a one-week delay by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enable it to comply with a Court of Appeal judgement, Nigerians returned to the polls to cast their ballots in governorship and state house of assembly elections. Voters in 28 states had the chance to elect new, or re-elect existing, governors in the March 18th 2023 vote, with the remaining eight states operating off-cycle processes, three of which are scheduled to take place later this year. This is a summary of the report of the Election Analysis Centre of the Centre for Democracy and Development on the elections.
Browsing: Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim
My big story this week is that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reversed itself, saying that there is no winner in the February 25 National Assembly elections in Doguwa and Tudun Wada federal constituency of Kano State. It would be recalled that INEC had earlier announced Hon. Alhassan Doguwa, incumbent Member representing the federal constituency and Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, who contested on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform, as winner of the election. After reviewing the facts of the matter, INEC on Tuesday, removed Doguwa’s name from the list of Reps-elect, attributing the development to irregularities in the electoral exercise. The commission had said he was declared winner of the election by the Returning Officer under duress.
The third truth about the February 23 election is that the leadership of INEC is guilty as charged for eroding the credibility of the election by proposing an integrity test for the elections – INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) and failing to deliver on it. The main technology innovation, BVAS, would ensure that only those eligible to vote participate and additional “votes” cannot be added subsequently. Recalling the 2019 debates, there cannot be fabricated votes subtracted or added by any INEC server. At the end of voting in each polling unit, the results would be counted in the presence of voters and written into the poster EC 60E which will be posted on the wall. It is this result that was to be captured through a scan and sent through BVAS directly to the INEC viewing portal that all citizens and voters can see live. This transparency means everyone will be seeing the results as they come in and citizens, candidates and parties can cross check that the results on the portal reflect what was compiled at the polling unit. Citizens would have therefore all participated in confirming that the portal results replicate what was counted at the polling units. The IReV component of the integrity test failed and therefore the credibility of the election was lost using the definition of the integrity test crafted by INEC itself. This failure for me is really catastrophic because it created the basis for loss of confidence of citizens in INEC and its processes.
Tomorrow is the big day when for the seventh election since the return to democracy, more than 93 million Nigerians are registered to vote. It is likely to be a closely contested race with four candidates – Ahmed Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) being the front runners.
The Centre for Democracy and Development has just published a major study on social media and the 2023 election campaigns, which I summarise here (click here for the full report). Currently, the number of active social media users in Nigeria has risen from 27 million in 2019 to 36 million ahead of the 2023 elections. Given the challenge of prevailing misinformation and disinformation on social media platforms, and the way such disinformation can permeate into the media more generally, greater access to online information does not necessarily create more informed citizens. In fact, in Nigeria, it has confused the citizenry while entrenching pre-existing divides based on ethnicity and religion, especially as malinformation, the deliberate sharing of genuine information with an intent to cause harm, thrives in this election season.
The National Council of State is meeting today to address a series of crises affecting the country. Commerce is dying and the economy is likely to go into recession because of a cash crunch the government decided to create. By ensuring people with cash in their bank accounts cannot get their money, the intention of the policy is to raise the level of anger and frustration in society. Government timed the policy move to coincide with an existing fuel shortage that is also annoying citizens. Thirdly, all this is fabricated at a time of unprecedented cost of living crisis. My reading of the multiplication of vexatious policy interventions at the same time is conceived as an experiment to see how far Nigerians can be pushed before they explode.
As the general election campaigns intensify, the first problem today is how will the elections hold without money both in politicians’ pockets as well as in people’s pocket. As a parting gift to most Nigerians, President Buhari in his wisdom has decided that the current generation of Nigerians must also suffer the trauma of emergency currency change which our generation suffered in 1984. His idea then, as it is today, is that it is a method to catch looters of the national treasury who will be forced to reveal their stolen monies. The problem then, as it is today, is that whatever the merits of the approach are, there is massive collateral damage among the masses.
Yesterday, I participated in the Annual Trust Dialogue on the theme of interrogating the 2023 Presidential Agenda. In his opening remarks, the Chair of the occasion, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, expressed the strong view that we must be optimistic that positive change is possible and that indeed the time has come to do things differently, with millions of young Nigerians ready to perform their civic duty. INEC and the State must ensure they do the needful to ensure that riggers are kept out of the ring and the choices of citizens are respected.
Finally, the campaign is getting intense and exciting. Surprisingly, the current round is taking place in faraway Chattam House in London as key candidates and the INEC Chairman conduct political pilgrimages to a British Government policy centre in London to talk to Nigerians at home. Many Nigerians have correctly asked the question whether there is no policy think tank in Nigeria to receive politicians to air their campaign issues. The National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies has been mentioned by many as being the leading public think tank to handle such a task. I absolutely agree that the National Institute could play that role creditably. Unfortunately, it would not succeed because of the character of our political class that has disdain for our institutions. In fact, for the past decade, the National Institute has established a whole department for training and engagement with political parties where I have often participated as a resource person. In most of the meetings there I have participated in; the leadership of the so-called big political parties have either sent low level officials to represent them or sent no one in many cases. They suffer from colonial mentality and believe that Nigerian institutions are of no consequence and are therefore not deserving of their time. When they seek publicity, they pay tens of millions of Naira to key television stations to carry their programmes live.
Nigerian policymakers and implementors love fiction and we as citizens play along. I just remembered that our next census is…