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Interrogating 49: The election planning & monitoring story

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The book, 49: The Election Planning & Monitoring Story, a 240-page coffee-table document by the Election Planning & Monitoring Directorate of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, curated by Lukman Olanipekun (aka Lukesh) with contribution from such photographers as, Bayo Omoboriowo, Jesse Yakubu, Novo Isioro and edited by Terfa Tilley-Gyado highlights the challenging but richly rewarding campaign run by the Council that culminated in victory for the President at the 2019 Presidential polls.

It is not every time that you see a party so organised as to documenting its pre and post election journey as the APC has done. It’s not even every time that you get concrete visual diary of party events. Arching a compelling visual story of the February 23 election, the tightly packaged book evokes memories of the 2019 election. It is, indeed, a blueprint for how to win elections.

The book is a visual journey or diary of the Directorate of Election Planning and Monitoring (DEPM) election story. It offers insights into the election, future ones too, as it believed that with this documentation, the ruling party will be able to consolidate its hold on Nigerian politics. It also includes letters from the Presidency, speeches by Party Leaders, infographics, and electoral mappings. It displays the ambitious planning and highlights some of the backstories of the intense 49-day campaign that led to the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB).

Think of the best ways to tell the story of politics in Nigeria and your mind will not wander away when you open the book. Utilising photography as a means of, or an aid to storytelling, the book has added a lot of value to elections in Nigeria.

The power of visuals, both grand and subtle, is that it allows the reader to place himself or herself in the scene and feel the story on a more visceral level. The reader is able to gain a fairly intensive first hand account of the elections. You will be fascinated by the familiarities in the visual journey of the curator; the creativity and resilience of a political war situation, which is captured more succinctly in the images of the Situation room. The images are that of a people who had undergone tremendous stress in the 49 days.

The book starts with an establishing shot that showed the entirety of the scene, and close up shots to show important details. An example of this is from the images of the sea of heads in an APC campaign ground.

The insights from this book provide an opportunity to see beyond the damaging issue in African election — rigging. It showcases planning, strategy, hard work, teamwork, big data, technology and provides hope for an electoral process that although marred by a few hiccups, has great potential for the future.

But more importantly, the book provides a vista for opposition political parties to also be more effective in their documentation process, as well as the national electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its quest to conform to the global standards in election management, as the country transits from money-based campaigns and violent and rigging-prone elections to a more civilised country where campaigns are issues-based and the elections are largely transparent, credible, free and fair.

This book challenges and inspires Nigerians to re-imagine the country’s democracy as a system that needs to build institutional memory.
It opens with the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PPC), put together by Buhari, the then Presidential candidate in consultation with the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and other critical stakeholder groups across the country, sub-divided into various directorates to oversee specific aspects of the electioneering processes, and charged with just one goal – to ensure Buhari’s successful outing at the polls. Page 9 pictorially captures the inauguration.

It goes on to capture the technical part of running a directorate, including info-graphics on training, meetings held, 150 relentless staff, the call center volunteers, the analysts, the tech team, legal and research team’s asides the directorate, who dedicated their time to the election process.

The Directorate of Election Planning and Monitoring (DEPM) stands out in its attempt to document the process. Reaching over 80 million voters across the country could be daunting, but not to be compared to monitoring and collating results from the 119,973 polling units and 57,023 voting points nationwide in one day.

The book shows how effective collaboration and coordination amongst different groups could ease the delivery of a particular task. The Directorate of Election Planning and Monitoring, headed by Babatunde Fashola and assisted by Hadiza Bala-Usman, who was also the Director Contact and Mobilisation fostered partnerships with other directorates and leveraged the under-utilized assets of the party like the national party structure, state party Chairmen, state coordinators, gubernatorial candidates, national assembly candidates and the Director of Organisation, for teamwork and coordinated, coherent campaign strategy. That INEC could not deliver sensitive electoral materials to desired locations in time during the elections was largely because it failed to optimally utilize the wide range of stakeholders, like the military, that could assist it in getting the electoral materials to desired location in time.

The directorate’s approach to its duties was built on empirical research and verifiable evidence, which it brought to bear on its interventions. Little wonder Buhari scored 15,191,847 votes, beating the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by 3, 928.869 votes.

The National Situation Room collated and managed over 200,000 datasets from polling unit to state level using an exclusive online portal. It made over 81,000 calls from the national situation room to party agents and stakeholders across the 36 states and the FCT.

This type of novelty, reliance on empirical data, is, however, lacking in INEC, which in fact, led to the postponement of the 2019 Presidential elections few hours to the appointed time of takeoff. There is no gainsaying that this postponement caused a lot of disillusionment in the electorate that could have marred the success of the elections were it for the vigorous campaign run by the various stakeholders, rebuilding trust in INEC.

Take the collation of results, for example, the DEPM in the evening of the election, was able to collate 90 percent of data from the polling units and was able to know that its presidential candidate was well ahead of the main opposition candidate, and was on his way to victory.

This was more than 48 hours to the time INEC declared the results. The book on Page 211 says thus: “By the election day, data gathered had already reached 90%, this we leveraged on for result collation at the end of the voting process. Based on 90% availability, we were able to collate election results from the field to inform/assure our principal of the electoral outcome.”


In this article:
Lukman Olanipekun
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