By Edidiong Udobia
We’re in 2019, when technology has become a freaking monster; arguably, a piece of lifeless omniscience with an infinite knowledge of the past, the present and the future, if I may. Technology carries the mind of archeology, yet, it is the very fulcrum of futurology. In this age of technology, some lies are cancerous to the collective human intelligence.
My initial interest in the ongoing legal tussle between the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on the outcome of the last presidential election, has been overtaken by event. I have lived long enough in this country to know that post-election legal fireworks are an extension of the usual political muscle flexing by parties with very little or no value added to governance. The same people win, and same people lose. The best the citizens can do is pray and hope the political parties handed their tickets to competent and efficient people, in the first place. My interest in this post-election brawl is now on the controversial ‘INEC server’.
According to details of INEC’s budget for the 2019 elections, the electoral body collected N1.47 billion from the federal government for servers, as against N2.27 billion the Commission requested. This clearly showed that a monetary provision was made for servers, which INEC has not denied. In fact, to reinforce the ‘no server’claim by INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, the commission’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye confirmed to newsmen that the budget for servers was made in anticipation that President Buhari would sign the amended Electoral Act to allow electronic transfer of voting results.
Whether the servers were used during the polls or not, it’s a matter of technicality. What I’m interested in, is fact, which is, that INEC collected a whooping N1.47 billion for servers. First of, it amounts to a clear case of criminality and institutional fraud for the INEC chairman to claim that the commission has no server. What happened to the money?
Let’s give the commission the benefit of the doubt. That in a time when countries and corporate bodies go extra miles to secure and safeguard useful information, INEC made no provisions for safekeeping of the country’s presidential election results aside broadsheets. God forbid, but let’s assume the INEC headquarters is gutted by fire and the broadsheets are burnt, there is no way the country would recover the results of her presidential election conducted in February. Imagine that there was a nationwide political disruption during the collation of results, the country would have been taken aback to 1993 when a presidential election was conducted with an acclaimed winner, yet no official results 26 years after. These are the basic implications of INEC’s no server claim.
This is 2019, when countries are deploying cutting-edge technologies in performing the simplest tasks, but Nigeria’s apex electoral body claims it was waiting for a slow-motion president to sign a bill into law, before making use of a pedestrian technology like electronic server in a presidential election. This is a testament to the fact that Nigeria’s utter backwardness is premeditated. We’re not where we are by surprise or in error. But that’s a topic for another day. Back to the issue of INEC server.
INEC received a total of N143.5 billion for the 2019 polls. I’d like to believe that with that budget, everything INEC required to conduct the 2019 general elections was provided. It is therefore not out of place for Nigerians to demand that INEC provides the servers (used or not) for which a significant percentage of the election budget was specifically allocated. This citizen’s right to know is a fundamental right which is clearly different from PDP’s request to inspect the server. In an instance where the commission fails to provide a server and does not refund the N1.47 billion, then the electoral body is allegedly involved in financial misappropriation.
As Nigerians, we have exercised more than enough endurance and even overstretched our long-suffering coping with myriad of institutional failures in the country, but having the same failed institutions become conduit pipes for embezzlement of our collective resources, will be asking for too much. We can forgive INEC for all the inconveniences they caused us during the general elections, but definitely not defrauding us in addition. Whatever politics the Court, INEC and the contending political parties, wish to play, should not stand in our way to holding the electoral body to account. We no longer want to know if results were electronically transmitted to the servers or not. We just want INEC to show us the damn N1.47 billion servers.
‘N1.47 billion’, and you say there is no server? Something that should be one server per polling unit. Yakubu, please, where is the server for my polling unit?
Edidiong Udobia writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.