Between the card reader and Option A4 By Robert Obioha

jegaI have not seen the card reader, the newly acclaimed anti-rigging technology in the country. At least, that is the position of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega. Nobody is so sure whether Jega is proceeding on a terminal leave preparatory to leaving the plum job or he would be allowed to finish the job he has started. The only thing I know is that Jega has been on fire since the February 14 poll was shifted to March 28. The shift enabled many Nigerians to savour their favourite Saint Valentine Day celebration, which has crept into our primary and secondary school extra-curricular activities.

I have said it before that I hate the job of an electoral umpire in Nigeria. It is a thankless job though the occupant may not be poor after it. It is one job that is full of trouble, no matter where the pendulum swings. Those who lost the lection would like to crucify the umpire while those that won will canonize him. Have you looked at our past electoral umpires? They have been silenced whether the job is well done or badly done. The electoral umpire has no friend among politicians. He, like Nigeria, is an orphan. He has no father and no mother. Those that lost elections will curse his village and generations unborn as if they were responsible for his failure. He is called unprintable names and vilified unnecessarily.

Even among the winners, he is not the best of friends. Whether the election is free or not, he will not be spared accusations of rigging by the losing side. If you doubt me, ask those that have done that job before. That is why I do not wish my friend such troublesome job as the electoral umpire. The umpire’s job is closer to that of the central referee in a football match.

Left for me, I would not like Jega to go as some people are suggesting and I have my reasons. Jega did this job in 2011 and he was hailed by majority of Nigerians. And he has been doing it. For goodness sake, he should be allowed to finish it. Stopping him in the middle will be misinterpreted in some quarters. I do not think it is in the best interest of the country to sack Jega now or shift the lection dates again. The accusation of ill-preparation for the poll, one of the reasons for shifting the poll in the first place, is no longer enough to dispense Jega.

Moreover, there is no election in Nigeria that its results have not been disputed from independence to the present. Nigeria has a history of bad election losers. That is why all elections will end up in courts. We hardly accept defeat. We always see ourselves as the best and the champion and our opponent the fall guy who must be defeated. That is the dilemma of Nigerian elections. Before the shift of poll date, over 30 percent of registered voters have not collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) but now, it has reached over 80 percent collection or thereabout.

We are indeed making progress even if slowly towards the 2015 general elections. I think that it fair enough. After all, even if every registered voter in the country collected the PVC, now used mainly as an identity card, all of them will not vote during the election in view of the charged atmosphere and hate campaigns. Many Nigerians will not near the polling booths if there is no adequate security for the polls. That is why I have advocated for full deployment of all security agencies including the military for the polls to reduce voter apathy.

I remember that Prof. Humphrey Nwosu of Option A4 fame can be regarded as the only person in living memory that has conducted an election adjudged to be truly free and fair in the country. I am talking of the June 12, 1993 poll believed to have been won by the late business mogul, Chief MKO Abiola.

If you ask me why that election was free and fair, I can safely say that it was largely because of the formula adopted by the electoral umpire. Nwosu’s Option A4, an indigenous electoral formula. That Nigeria’s major contribution to world democracy may still save us the day now that the 2015 poll appears to be even more contentious without even balloting.

It will save us the accusations of rigging occasioned by the introduction of the card reader, a new technology that attests to the authenticity of a voter card. The outcome of the recent mock test of the new instrument shows that it failed and passed at the same time depending on whom among the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) teachers, sorry politicians, is marking the script. While the PDP teacher scored the card reader zero, APC teacher gave it 100 percent. Indeed, neither the zero score nor the 100 percent will be acceptable.

As an impartial observer, I score the card reader 60 percent success and 40 percent failure. Since, this is the first time that this technology is being deployment for elections in Nigeria; I suggest that it should be subjected to further testing with larger population than the first mock test. And in view of reported Internet failure and battery weakness, I suggest too that this technology be either modified or be put on hold until its use for elections is generally agreed by all Nigerians. Its deployment for the polls or otherwise is never a contest between PDP and APC alone.

Not even Jega and his commissioners will impose the card reader on Nigerians. The most serious accusation against the device is that it wastes lots of time in its accreditation process. It is possible of giving wrong reading as well. Some have argued that the card reader can actually be deployed to disenfranchise some voters in some areas, a sort of scientific rigging.

In view of the confusion trailing the card reader, it is better that the instrument be suspended for now. In its place, Option A4 can be used to conduct the 2015 polls. What is important is for us to realize our set objective, to conduct a credible poll. I strongly believe that Option A4 will just do that for us. Jega may wish to consult Nwosu for a free lesson on that tested electoral formula.




  1. Let me start by saying that I know the camp to which the writer belongs, or has simpathy for. Politically today in Nigeria, there exist only two(2) camps, namely PDP and APC. One does not need to flog an issue before listeners, or readers in this case, know from which camp he/she comes.

    How can anyone suggest embracing Option A4, in place of the better, and anti-rigging option presented by the use of card-reader for accreditation. We must not lose sight of the fact that rigging is perpetrated mostly from inadequate accreditation of voters.

    As good as Option A4 is, its inability to ensure that all eligible voters participate in the elections is a great minus for it. Having to queue up behind the candidate, or his/her representative, makes the exercise unattractive to elites, as well as those who after receiving bribes would still want to vote according to their conscience.

    On the contrary, the use of card-readers for accreditation will not only bring credibility to the process, it will also retain the required secrecy of balloting, which is the hallmark of elections.

    Whoever is against the use of card-readers should be seen as an enemy of our progress as a people. Whatever the challenges posed by use of card-readers, we must start with it now, and grow to perfect those challenges as our democracy develops.

    I wonder aloud at why PDP, under the current administration, is so vociferous in its anti- use of card readers position. If they, the party and the government, are sure of victory, why will they be afraid of ensuring that only those that participate in the elections get their votes counted. This exactly is what the use of card readers will guarantee.

    Without the use of card readers for accreditation, the upcoming general elections will still go the way of the previous ones, which had made PDP a party difficult to beat at any election.

  2. They keep saying we should use the card reader for other future elections but not for this one as if future elections would be less important. The truth is that those that have manipulated the present system to their undue advantage. We need to start somewhere by deploying this machine now. Any imperfection noted during its use can be addressed before the next general elections. I don’t know why some Nigerians are so wasteful by asking for the use of these card readers to be discarded without even thinking of the so much financial and human resources already sunk into procuring them and ensuring their functionality.

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