2019 Elections: The Danger of Fake Results
Two decades into Nigeria’s democracy, election remains a fretful necessity, eliciting fear over possible violence, manipulation and widespread exclusion.
While the country appeared to have hit a milestone in 2015 with minimal incidents, subsequent polls conducted in states and constituencies, left the nation’s electoral system gasping for air of integrity as incidents of fraud, voter intimidation, ballot stuffing and snatching, among others, were common.
As the 2019 general election nears, a perception exists that candidates might win but their results could be falsified because the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will not be fair enough to capture the interest of all and sundry.
Based on the antecedents of the electoral system, opposition parties thread on the assumption of Joseph Stalin, Former General Secretary of the Communists Party of the Soviet Union that “the people who cast the votes decide nothing; but the people who count the votes decide everything.”
For a fact, this assumption generated the brouhaha over the appointment of a known kin of President Muhammadu Buhari, Amina Zakari, to head the collation unit of INEC in the 2019 general election.
Despite assurances from electoral authorities to ensure free, fair and credible polls, Nigeria’s reputation as a nation soiled in nepotism rubbishes the commission’s defence over the appointment.
While every Nigerian is entitled to occupy a position he is qualified for, on moral ground, it is heartwarming to note that Mrs. Zakari has been recused from the committee.
Before now, President Buhari failed to assent to the 2018 Electoral Act which stipulated, perhaps, secured channels of transmitting electoral results to INEC headquarters in Abuja and left the exercise with loopholes that can be exploited by fraudulent party men and electoral officials for possible manipulation.
Recently, with the multiplicity of channels of communication through the social and mass media, the opposition has also been caught in the act of brandishing unverifiable information, which adds to the worry that electoral results could be treated with such levity and self-seeking intent to mislead and cause public disaffection.
A false report by a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP stalwart, Chief Fani Kayode, that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, operatives besieged the Abuja residence of the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, which went viral on social media, is one example of the danger of spreading rumours and unverifiable results.
When individuals are false-fed with fabricated results, the tendency is to disbelief contrary information from sources which should be trusted to properly and accurately inform.
As a result, interest groups and individuals must carefully exercise their observer roles by ensuring receipt and availability of INEC result sheets by electoral officials as well as the accurate entry and computation of votes scored in both figures and words in the spaces provided. Such groups must also desist from declaring results that have not been declared by electoral officials.
While we commend INEC for the release of electoral guidelines, the electoral umpire must ensure strict adherence to the guidelines and international best practices in ensuring inclusive participation of all eligible citizens.
Since the guidelines anticipate the extension of the election into a second day on account of the non-availability of a required replacement Smart Card reader, INEC must avoid speculations and wild assumptions from interest groups and parties by ensuring that it maintains transparent communication with Nigerians to forestall possible breakdown of law and order.