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Nigeria not ready for electronic voting

The many reactions that have trailed the 2019 general elections have shown the numerous lapses in the electoral system and the incapacity of the current Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct flawless elections that will beat the previous ones in the annals of Nigerian democracy.

Allegations of ballot box snatching, pre and post electoral violence, massive rigging, stuffing of ballot boxes with thumb-printed ballot papers, card reader failure and other irregularities marred the just-concluded elections.

As a result of these infractions that marred this year’s elections, many political commentators and analysts have called for electronic voting. But is Nigeria ready and ripe for it?

Electronic devices are being used in the current electoral system. One of them is the smart card reader (SCR). This device is deployed to stop over voting in the polling units and voting points across the country. The SCR, which  could whave gone a long way towards addressing some forms of electoral malpractices is not without flaws. Apart from the fact that it was bypassed in some units, it malfunctions a lot: fails to authenticate many fingers and read the voters’ permanent voter’s card (PVC).

The deployment of the device has not really justified its essence in the elections. If we cannot use this simple technology to develop our electoral processes, how can a more complex as electronic voting be used to overhaul the system? The proponents of the electronic voting should look into this.

The electronic voting looks like the most perfect voting pattern. The United States of America (USA) in its presidential election in 2016 recorded some issues it still handles now. There’s a suspicion, or an allegation, that the results of the election were influenced by Russia, an allegation Russia had denied vehemently though. Even the European Union is wary of external influence of its incoming EU parliamentary election scheduled for this year. These are countries, organisations with advanced technology.

The desperate Nigerian politicians will stop at nothing to further undermine the process to favour their unbridled ambitions. A country that has to carry a state’s election results to Abuja for collation isn’t ripe yet for electronic voting. It’s better to start from electronic collation of the results. For all the 36 states to transport results to the FCT shows the weak point from which the system can be developed.

There was a very low turnout of voters in this year’s general election. Political apathy is rife among Nigerians. Less than 40 percent of registered voters took part in electing the president. This is discouraging because the awareness and campaign launched by the electoral umpire, INEC, yielded little or nothing. The attitude of the voters towards elections is appalling, even though the process is manual. Can we expect more encouraging participation if we go electronic? There is that “God elects leaders” philosophy among the voters. They believe their votes hardly count and that it’s God who gives power. Making our voting electronic will be the last straw.

Timothy Faboade,

Ibadan.

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