The mysterious server of unending controversies
The latest and hottest topic of discussions in town is that which centres on INEC` server and its unending controversies. Debates and arguments in this regard are easily heard in every nook and cranny of the polity. Interestingly, discussants and participants cut across the different categories of the citizenry; and, as such, it is not surprising that the social media and other platforms are very busy accordingly. Expectedly, various meanings have been attributed to the issue as it concerns the recently concluded elections in the country. This is so because the figures purportedly extracted from the server is in variance to the manually collated, recognized and declared ones. This issue was also compounded by the claim that the server was not used for the elections under reference; or that it does not exist. As a result, there are various postulations in this regards and I do not any problem with them because the proponents are entitled to their relative opinions. However, I am constrained to join in the debate by advancing my humble submissions as follows:
`Server` in this context can be defined (according to Google) as “a computer or computer programme, which manages access to a centralized resource or service in a network”. It could also be said to be “a program that provides services to other programs or devices, either in the same computer or over a computer network”. From the two definitions, it is obvious that a server is a `device` that works in `conjunction` with other `devices`. So, if the functions of INEC include the conducting of voters registration (for eligible voters) and keeping the records; carrying out verification exercises to confirm accuracy of the registration; and, issuance of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) accordingly; it means that the commission maintains voters register and card reader for the purpose of conducting elections. Therefore, the voters register (as the name implies) is the hard and soft records of data, which contain the names, and other particulars of registered voters in the country. The register is subject to periodic updates to expunge the particulars of the dead and also include that of newly eligible voters. Without these documents/records, the INEC can never conduct successful elections. The permanent voters card (PVC) on the other hand is the card that enables an electorate to present self for accreditation and to vote in a general election. It contains all the information that are stored in the voters register about the owner; while, the Card Reader is an electronic sensor that reads a magnetic strip or bar code on an E-card. It also transfers data from various portable storage devices.
Consequently, during the elections; the register is checked to confirm that an electorate actually registered and he/she is in the right polling unit to cast vote. The card is then inserted into the card reader to authenticate the information vis-à-vis the tenderer as the rightful owner. The voter is then accredited and given the ballot papers to vote accordingly. This card reader is very necessary because aside from other information that could be seen and verified manually, it is the only means of verifying the thumbprint. In this circumstance, it is obvious that the card reader cannot work in isolation but, in conjunction with other stored data; and, this is where the issue of `server` comes in. Therefore, it becomes absurd or unthinkable for the commission`s data and process flow not to have a relative server accordingly. So, it will be unacceptable for anyone to say, there was (is) no server during and after the elections. Though, it is true that the subsisting laws have not recognized the electronic transmission of results; there are evidences of key functionaries of the commission positing that results would be transmitted from the polling units to the Central Collation Centre (saver) via the card readers; and, this was also corroborated by statements obtained from some Returning Officers. From the foregoing, technically, it is clear that there was a server during the conduct of the recently conducted elections. The question of whether the server is still in existence or not as at present is a different ball game. In this circumstance, one would have expected the relevant authorities to provide explanations for the `purported fake server results’ in circulation and adduce reasons why they should not be disregarded (if truly they are not reflection of the authentic figures) rather than waiving off same as inconsequential without convincing and substantial evidence(s) to the contrary. At this juncture, the answers to the following questions will be very crucial to unknotting the controversies.
• Does INEC have electronic data (soft copy) of all registered voters on their lists/records?
• Does the PVC (Permanent Voters Card) used during the elections and the previous elections have central store or memory for verifying the authenticity of the card vis-à-vis the owner/carrier?
• Does the card reader verify the data on the card in tandem to the central stored records?
• Did INEC authorized the use of card readers for the verification and accreditation of electorates during the 2019 elections?
If answers to the above questions are in the affirmative, then, it means that there must have been a server; and, the electorates have the right to know the results so transmitted to that server. If on the other hand the answers are dissentaneous; then, there is a bigger problem because it means that there was (is) no soft data of the electorates in place and the actual number of registered persons cannot be electronically verified. Secondly, it means that the authentic data or information about the actual number of accredited voters (with the aid of card readers) cannot be verified. Thirdly, it means that the card reader verifies data in isolation without a link to another (which is most unlikely); and, as such, the input and output of the device cannot be relied upon. Finally, if the card reader does not have any bearing with any stored data; and, it is not permitted by the Electoral Act; it should not have been introduced and used in the first place and this could lead to the invalidation of the whole process and outcome of the elections.
From the aforementioned, it is very obvious that there is more to the issue of this `mysterious server` than meets the eye. As law abiding and patriotic citizens who have the interests of the country at heart; you will agree with me that this issue is not all about Buhari or Atiku or others; it is not all about APC or PDP or the others; it is all about doing everything possible for the sustenance of our democracy. We should have it at the back of our minds that this case is in the `open` and the whole world is watching and waiting to form decisive opinions and pass judgment on our judiciary and our level of intelligence and wisdom as a people. Therefore, we should rise above partisan sentiments and prove that we are reasonably reliable. Let us stop the childish propaganda and campaigns of calumny on social media and other platforms to prejudice the issues.
If truly the revisiting and recognizing of June 12th as democracy day after 26 years was/is informed by patriotic zeal and commitment to free, fair and credible elections; then, it will be irrational and foolhardy for us to treat this issue of `mysterious server` and other factors militating against better elections in our country with unpatriotic levity. We must rise above board to do the needful.
The latest admission by INEC that the server was earlier used to test run the transmission of results in some states (in the past) is enough reason to allow for professional and expert assessments of the device to unknot the mysteries relating to the just concluded elections.
Please note that the above postulations are without prejudice to all subsisting suits at the tribunal/courts, and or any person, group of people and institution(s). Let us keep watching and waiting…
Oise-Oghaede is Public Policy Analyst/Commentator, wrote from Surulere, Lagos.
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