By Tam Alex Kemabonta
I have always been of the opinion that the reason Nigeria finds it difficult to clamp down on crime especially minor ones, is because we prefer to live by the rule of men instead of the rule of law. We like arbitrariness and the despotism we call democracy. We like the fact that we can just pay a little more money – a bribe of course – and be attended to first, even though a thousand people came before us. We like that, it does not matter how horrible our scores were during a job aptitude test, we would still get the job because our relative is the HR executive in that company.
For example Act 33 of 1999 constitution stipulates cancellation of results, heavy fine as much as N100, 000.00, to a jail term up to 21 years for the exam malpractice. Till date, nobody has been convicted. It is still common practice for teachers to write answers on school boards during exams.
But with the February elections coming up, it is important that Nigerians see the big picture here. The February election would be an epicentre for the violence. Once the results are announced and some people think they have been cheated, all hell may break loose. So in essence to mitigate the inevitable violence the election must be free, fair and SAFE. Without this Nigeria might just become a failed state before April for any ambitious, patient, warlord from the army bidding it’s time or any unscrupulous demagogue waiting to cash in on the ruins, to swoop in and take power, establish a despotic regime that would at once relegate the “Giant of Africa” to the backwaters of civilization.
To prevent this, here are a few proposals that if implemented would go a long way to maintain democracy – albeit shaky – and preserve the sovereignty of Nigeria and the liberty of Nigerians.
1 Elections must hold in the North-East and they must be well secured: the legitimacy of any president-elect would be called to question if a whole geopolitical zone of the country was not involved in the polling process. The chairman of the Independent national electoral commission (INEC) on the 16th of December 2013 said that elections might not hold in the North-East of the country because of the Boko Haram insurgency and the growing insecurity. Truth be told INEC will have a difficult time getting polling officials to go the North-East to administer the elections. People might not come out to vote even if polling stations are available because of the widespread fear from attacks by Boko Haram. INEC needs to set up a special taskforce; the taskforce would include members of the Army, the police, intelligence agencies and INEC officials. For polling officials to agree to work in the North-East, they would require incentives, financial and security wise. Liaising with the military through the special task-force, INEC would have a whole division of 10000 soldiers deployed to the North-East with a whole package meant for a war – ready to bring down the wrath of God on any insurgent.
2 Establishment of a rapid response emergency call centers: there is no time for Nigeria to begin to build its own infrastructures that would make possible nationwide distress call centers before the elections. But it can force all the telecom companies to provide their infrastructure for this through the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC). It is time for these Telcos to show that they are good corporate citizens. Losing a day’s business revenue should not be a problem to them because if Nigeria becomes a failed state, they would lose their legitimacy and their infrastructures would easily be destroyed. The Telcos will use their call centers as the distress call centers for the duration of the election. Once an individual in trouble or notices trouble dials assigned distress number, he gets a call center worker online. He states the nature of the distress he experiencing and his location and one would expect prompt response from relevant quarters.
3 independent election observers: this has been a common practice since our past elections. But this time around they must be allowed to do observe without impairment from Nigerian officials. They must follow the election process from the polling to the counting until the results are made public. These individuals should come from well-known international non-governmental agencies and think tanks. In the INEC guidelines for election observation, election observing and election monitoring are defined as differently.
An election monitor according to the document is an integral part of the election management structure and has a role in the administration of the election. In Nigeria, the document goes on only the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) and its duly authorised personnel are empowered to monitor elections. An observer on the other hand does not have any role in the administration of the election nor any control or oversight functions.
We should take note of this and act accordingly.
4 IP surveillance and sophisticated polling machines: in all the polling stations IP surveillance cameras must be installed. These cameras would store their video feeds on remote servers that can be accessed by those with the right clearance anywhere in the world. With the current Permanent Voters Card (PVC) rigging might be difficult, since card readers would be used to conduct the election. A spokesman for INEC, Kayode Idowu said it will be difficult for the election to be manipulated, saying, measures have been put in place to make rigging nearly impossible. The major issue with this is that though rigging might be difficult, it can still be done and when done would be difficult to notice. All it takes is to tamper with the software. To mitigate this, a team of foreign computer forensic experts should be involved in the polling and counting process.
They would have no power to make decisions as to the administration of the election but they would ensure the integrity of the software and hardware used during the election. And since this election would involve the use of information technology, the results at every polling center should be made public, that at the end of the polls for the day, the results are known by everyone before they leave the centers. Nobody would be able to tamper with the results since the results from all polls would be public knowledge
These measures may seem radical but in drastic times like this drastic measure have to be taken if not everything will fall apart. If these four measures can be implemented and expanded upon it would definitely prevent an outright bloodbath after the elections because the winners would become obvious. The reason why there was little to no violence in Osun and Ekiti states’ gubernatorial elections was because the polls were shown to be fair. If this should happen for the 2015 presidential elections the loser would see no reason – hopefully – to incite violence, because it would become obvious that the people do not want him.