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Against electronic transmission of election results

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(Photo by CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP)

If I were a senator in the 9th Assembly, I would have voted against the proposal to ensure electronic transmission of election results by INEC. It would have been a great disappointment if the Senate had approved the proposal against the established will of the people it represents. Apparently, the politicians promoting electronic transmission of election results are not motivated by love for the country. It also has nothing to do with the readiness of INEC. We were once there with them some two years ago. We need to be careful when trying to leapfrog, especially when it comes to politics of technology. We cannot migrate a primitive politics to the 21st century election platforms overnight simply because other countries are already time travelling into the future. My opposing stance on electronic transmission of election results rests on few, straightforward reasons, which, I am convinced, will appeal to every right thinking Nigerian.

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Foremost, electronic transmission of election results is going to make rigging unnecessarily difficult and for that our demoncrazy will lose a great deal of its appeals. Though illegal, rigging is a legitimate part of our election and it should be passionately protected. If we do not protect the right to rig, we will lose out on a number of things. Arguably, Nigeria’s is one of the most observed elections in the world. Scores of local and foreign organisations as well as countries are always on ground to observe our elections. Did you ever ask why the popular interest in observing Nigerian elections when they are not once-in-a-lifetime astronomical events? Rigging makes our elections popular. The day we get rid of rigging, our elections will stop being a global spectacle, of little or no worth to the gaze of the likes of CNN and BBC, and other capitalist cum imperialist media.

It is even worse that it is quite an expensive proposal to transmit election results electronically. Not quite for the country anyway, for Nigeria has everything but the will it takes to actualise it. It is expensive for parties and individual politicians and they will feel the pains deep down their pockets. It will only enrich some tech guys who know the in-and-out of back-end servers. As if that is not bad enough, our election rigging spending will be flowing offshore. Imagine desperate political parties having to hire some Kenyan tech guys each time it is an election season. You know we have a taste for everything exotic, even in corruption. That is why our looted funds are mostly stashed away in foreign countries. For that same reason, patronizing the quite competent guys in Lagos tech hubs is not an option. We will be making a big mistake if we underestimate the contributions of the economy of election rigging to national economy. The electronic transmission of election results will disrupt the economy of election rigging, emptying hundreds of thousands of local pockets to fill few foreign ones. For this reason alone, it must be resisted at all cost.

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Worst of all is that electronic transmission of election results will exclude a large section of party loyalists: the ballot box snatching hoodlums, the figure altering professors, and the many giant riggers on whose shoulders many aspire to stand.

For demoncrazy to work for everyone, it has to be inclusive. Even though some of these hoodlums have leveraged the wealth and the connection which flow from the rigging business to attain citizenship of great countries for themselves and their families, they have remained ever committed to preserving this ideal of our demoncrazy. Do we now want to pay them back with an outright exclusion? And that only one figure altering professor was unfortunate enough to be jailed for the act does not rob others of the earned pricey notoriety. Likewise if the giant election riggers are removed from the scene, many aspiring delinquents, like the UNIBEN young lady of ‘aggressive malpractice’ fame, will have to jostle for the role models that exist in the obscurity of the other spheres of our embattled country. I am not sure we are ready to upset a now stable practice for a proposal which failed to deliver when it was brought in through the back door in the last presidential election.

The rejection of the proposal is a win for our demoncrazy. When you remove the craze from the demon, it loses its vibes. Reigning politicians can now rest assured that their territories are secured. Election results will not be transmitted electronically. What parties and individual politicians should now concern themselves with is how to outdo one another in mobilizing as many underage voters as possible; nurturing as many ballot box snatching hoodlums as possible; and buying over as many figure altering professors as possible. Opposition parties too can try their own version of trader money few days to election days. They cannot complain they lack the resources to match the current government on this. Even the world best prodigal could not have emptied in six years the wealth amassed over a 16-year-period of active looting in a time of boom. By the way, there are more than enough mutually tested and trusted winning strategies. Why try to change the rule in the middle of the game?

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Those behind the proposal to transmit election results electronically only want to take a short cut to election victories. The Supreme Court option no longer looks attractive. They are now behaving like that proverbial cat that has lost its meows. The rule of the game should not be changed simply because some teams are out of shape. Let them file into glistening the blunt and rusty edges of their rigging implements. But if they are too beaten to do that, the saying “if you cannot beat them, you join them” remains as instructive as ever. The winning team holds no grudge against former enemies who move from being secret admirers to open members. It has always been a story of six and half a dozen. We will adopt electronic transmission of election results only when all parties are confident that their server teams are ready for the challenge. Until then, let all parties go out there to prove their pigginess by how well they can swim in the muddy puddles of a typical Nigerian election. There will be no short cut out of our collective ugliness for anyone.

Oladapo wrote from the University of Ibadan.

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