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INEC and its ‘empty’ server

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[FILE PHOTO] INEC chairman Prof Mahmoud Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is in the throes of a dilemma. It does not seem to know how to extricate itself from the server mess in which it is currently embroiled. The chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu had, prior to the election, told the world that results of the presidential election and other elections for that matter would be transmitted electronically to the commission’s server. This, he said, would be done to complement the manual collation and transmission of results. Even though president Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the electoral amendment bill which sought to make electronic transmission of votes part of our electoral laws, Yakubu’s INEC assured that there was nothing to worry about. He told Nigerians and the international community that the servers have been configured to receive results electronically, assuring that Nigerians should expect a seamless, technology-driven electoral process.

Yakubu’s assurances did not stop there. He also said that the commission was fully ready with the card reader machines which have been configured in such a way that accreditation of voters would be smooth and without the kind of hitches we experienced in 2015. Having said all this, Yakubu dropped the ultimate clincher, to wit, that only voters with permanent voter cards whose finger prints are read and authenticated by the smart card reader machine will be allowed to vote. In saying all this, Yakubu looked serious. His visage spelt commitment. It was thought and taken almost for granted that the man meant business. Nigerians gave him benefit of the doubt. They believed him and went about their normal businesses, waiting for the elections to come. Then the elections came and the people filed out to exercise their franchise.

But they got a rude shock. The smart card readers did not work in a number of places. Strangely however, people were allowed to cast their votes without having their cards verified and thumb prints read by the card readers. With this development, INEC was caught in a lurch. How does it make good its promise to Nigerians? Then again, how does it fit itself into the design of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which wanted the results to be manipulated to its advantage? This  development, naturally, threw INEC into confusion. It could not reconcile itself with the opposing tendencies. In the face of this confusion, many things went wrong. There were cases of over voting. In a number of cases, the number of accredited voters contradicted what was available in the voters register. Even in the process of announcing some of the results, we had cases of figures that did not add up. The poor job that was hurriedly put together for purposes of arriving at a predetermined outcome went burst. The result was that the outcome of the election became hopelessly flawed.

When the results of the presidential elections were announced, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was favoured to win the election given the mood of the people and the projections from opinion polls, was seen trailing behind the APC. A good many Nigerians cried foul. They knew that majority of them could not have voted for Buhari, the man whose presidency has unleashed a blight of violence, death, poverty and general suffering on them.

In the face of the malfeasance that took place, the PDP is contesting the outcome of the election. It has approached the courts for this purpose.

To make its case watertight, the party has to rely on some exhibits. One of them is the server of the commission where the results of the elections must have been transmitted to in line with Yakubu’s assurances. From PDP’s findings, the authentic results of the 2019 presidential elections are captured by INEC’s server. And from the main opposition party has put out, it (the PDP) scored the highest number of votes to beat the APC to a second position. The PDP is relying on this as one of the planks of its disputation over the 2019 presidential polls.

But there is a snag here. INEC is engaging in a huge summersault. It claiming that there are no results in its server. In fact, it is saying that its server is empty. But the PDP is insisting that the server is not empty. It is employing all possible means, including procuring the services of the manufacturers of the server who have unfettered access to its ID and its content to prove its case. This development has unsettled the electoral commission. Its latter-day denial is not helped by the fact that one of its national commissioners, Mike Igini, recently affirmed that the commission, indeed, transmitted results to its server. In the bid to bury the facts of this matter, INEC appears to be shooting from all fronts. There were even reports that operatives of the Department of State Service arrested some INEC staff in its Information Technology department, accusing them of leaking information on what is supposed to be a classified matter.

The fireworks is on and the APC has joined the fray. It is demanding that Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 election, and his party be sanctioned  for hacking into INEC’s server. APC is also faulting PDP’s reliance on results from INEC’s server, arguing that there is no law to rely upon in making the transmission of results to the server mandatory.

These are interesting developments. But the question that must be asked is this: if INEC’s server is truly empty as some elements in INEC and APC would have us believe, why the jitters over the verification of its content? Again, we need to know why INEC is speaking from both sides of the mouth in this matter. In one breath, the commission assures that results were transmitted electronically to its server. In another breath, it denies all that, insisting that results were only transmitted manually. But there is really no need for this back and forth movement. The matter should be simple enough. Let the content of the server be made public even if it is empty. That way, it will put paid to all the arguments about its content. But we need to remind APC that its argument about the absence of relevant laws to back electronic transmission of votes does not hold water here. We do not need any law to establish whether INEC has results in its server or not. No one is saying that there is a law that makes that electronic transmission mandatory. The issue at stake is: Are there results in INEC’s server or not? This is what we need to ascertain. There is no point beating about the bush.

•Oseghale,  a freelance journalist wrote from Benin City.


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