Success of Ekiti-Osun polls and role of technology

Success of Ekiti-Osun polls and role of technology

The just concluded Ekiti and Osun governorship elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in June and July has continued to enjoy rave reviews and described as marked improvement from preceding elections. This is largely in terms of timeliness in deployment of electoral materials and personnel, accountability in terms of the process and transparency in terms of result collation process. Even though the elections were blighted by the criminal menace of vote merchandising, these are great signs that the power of the ballot truly belongs to the people.

Thus election observer groups commended INEC, Nigeria Police, other election stakeholders and, of course, the residents of the states for their resilience and commitment to credible and non-violent election. Going into the all-important 2023 general elections without the baggage of perennial logistics elections is no doubt a major morale booster. As a matter of fact, Yiaga Africa; an election observer group, reported that 77% of polling units are open and 99% of polling units have commenced accreditation and voting by 9.30am. This is no doubt a major improvement from the 2021 governorship election in Anambra and the Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections in February 2022.

The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is the latest technological device introduced into the electoral terrain which verifies fingerprints and authenticates facial features to ensure only eligible voters are allowed to vote and prevents voting by proxy. This is steadily making electoral malpractice difficult or impossible while boosting citizens’ confidence in the electoral process. With the deployment and optimal functionality of the BVAS across all 3,763 polling units, 332 registration area centers and 30 local government areas in Osun state, this is a major statement of how important the role of technological innovations will be especially going into the 2023 general elections.

While the BVAS is a profound technological innovation that improves electoral integrity, the INEC Results Viewing (IREV) Portal and electronic transmission of election results has become masterstroke that promotes transparency in result collation process while preventing malpractice during physical transmission of results from polling units to collation centers. This to a very large extent enables ordinary citizens to access election results from the comfort of their homes thereby encouraging accountability in the process. Thus it was no surprise to see Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) fighting tooth and nail to ensure the passage of the Electoral Act 2022 and specifically ensuring legal backing for the deployment of technology and electronic transmission of election results.

There is no doubt that technological innovations impacted positively on the election day deployment but the impact of technology was right from the pre-elections preparatory activities. Eyebrows were raised when INEC rightly chose not to deposit sensitive materials at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) due to the openly partisan tendencies of its governor Godwin Emefiele. However, the commission successfully deployed its sensitive materials to all local government areas and all 332 registration area centers with trackers to ensure materials are deployed to appropriate locations.

Similarly, unlike in previous years, submission of the details of party agents and list of observers for the elections are now done via online portal. This has further standardised preparations for elections while evading all forms of backdoor activities and by extension ensured the religious implementation of the activities on the commission’s timeline going into the election.

Also, it is also important to state that, the only group that deployed a Parallel Vote Tabulation to verify accuracy of elections results, Yiaga Africa had said, INEC’s official announcement on the votes cast for the 2022 Osun state gubernatorial election is overall consistent with its election observation findings. There is also a high tendency that, if official results were changed at the ward, local government area or state collation centres, the electronically transmitted results and results from the IREV would have tracked any inconsistencies.

While technology may not be a silver bullet that can solve all our electoral problems, it is indeed proving to be a masterstroke in promoting electoral transparency and integrity. It is however not yet uhuru as low voter turnout remains a proof that more needs to be done to boost citizens confidence while vote merchandising must be curtailed to eradicate the transactional relationship between the government and the governed.

In this vein, intentional steps like grassroot engagements, town halls and community organizing must be taken to mobilise eligible voters to participate in the electoral process from an informed perspective. Citizens must understand the implication of abdicating their civic responsibility and how this is directly connected to standard and cost of living. Similarly, election stakeholders especially security and other law enforcement agencies must devise proactive and strategic ways to fight vote trading as it continues to delegitimise political mandates and devalues the Nigerian citizenship.

Abideen is a good governance, youth investment and public policy enthusiast. Abideen serves as the Kwara state coordinator of the NotTooYoungToRun movement and the executive director, Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative.

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