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EDITORIAL – Technology as the third force in Edo State 2020 governorship election

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INEC Smart Card Readers

There have been concerns over election processes in Nigeria; many have argued that the country isn’t prepared to give technology a chance during elections, especially for voting, counting of votes and the general monitoring of the processes.

Fans of electronic ballots, for instance, say the technology produces faster and more accurate results than other types of voting equipment.

However, critics say the machines are not sufficiently secure and can appear to work correctly but record votes inaccurately.

Be it as it may, we noticed a paradigm shift during the just concluded Edo State 2020 Governorship Election. Technology played the role of a third force, undoubtedly.

The results

Governor ​​Godwin Obaseki  of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will continue another tenure after defeating his closest political rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate at the Edo State 2020 Gubernatorial Election. 

Edo State

List of parties and contestants during Edo Governorship elections 2020 – Source: INEC

According to the results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Obaseki polled 307,955 while Ize-Iyamu recorded 223,619 votes.

ALSO READ: Inaccurate data, infrastructure to blame for lack of e-voting in Nigeria – Ayoola

It would be recalled that in 2016, Governor Obaseki won the governorship election as a candidate of the APC, with strong support from his predecessor Adams Oshiomhole, former National Chairman of the APC. In 2020 they became the worst of political enemies after they both fell out.

Edo State

Edo Governorship 2020 result – Source: Channels TV

The squabble between Obaseki and Oshiomhole generated divisions in Edo State and further heightened the political feud between APC and PDP.

Obaseki was denied the flag bearer ticket at his time in APC on the grounds of divided interests with party leaders. But eventually decamped to PDP where he was given the ticket to represent the party. 

The political saga was becoming alarming that an average Nigerian could easily deduce that Edo election seemed like a political battle between Governor Obaseki and the APC leaders led by Adams Oshiomhole and Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

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The battle got intensified to the extent that Governor Obaseki appeared to have been silenced despite being the Governor of the state. 

Role of technology

Going into the election, the confidence level of Nigerians was abysmally low due to irregularities that have usually crippled electioneering results in the country.

Flip to Sunday, September 20, 2020 – the results were declared. Well, it is very easy for Nigerians to attribute the victory of Governor Obaseki to President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued reassurance and commitment towards a free and fair election and the warning letters by the US and UK to the Nigerian government ahead of the Edo Election which may have lowered politicians to manipulate the election. However, one major factor that stands out is the technology that was deployed in the electioneering process. 

PDP election Situation Room shows they were monitoring the poll real-time

It once again shows that technology has continued to prove beyond every doubt that it’s capable of making a significant impact. Almost all the sectors of the economy have been hugely affected by technology and Nigeria is beginning to feel that same result on elections. 

Edo State 2020 Governorship election would be regarded as one of the most successful elections when compared to Kogi election in 2019 where many lives were reportedly lost, coupled with electoral manipulations.

Elections without the deployment of technology has a potency of making aggrieved parties file a suit in court.

However, with President Muhammadu Buhari already commending the INEC for conducting free and fair elections, the likelihood of going to seek redresss in court is undermined. 

INEC transmission of election electronically 

Some Nigerians who were not able to view the polling units result on television logged on to INEX portal (inecelectionresults.com) to monitor and view the results in real-time. With this electronic transmission of results, it becomes difficult for election results to be manipulated.

frontend of INEC electronic results

On Saturday evening, Nigerians were already seeing the results and the announcement on Sunday.

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The timeliness of the results via electronic transmission is something that is quite different from what has been obtainable in the past. 

Regardless, INEC has been at the forefront of deploying technological solutions during elections in Nigeria.

The Commission deployed the Z-pad Technology to upload polling unit results to the Result Viewing Portal for the Edo State election.

A week before the election, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education, Information and Publicity, Festus Okoye had promised they would deploy technological solutions already tested with bye-elections and was confident of their performance in larger elections. ”A responsible Commission will not gamble with a big end of tenure election conducted in the shadow of a pandemic,” he said.

Also, INEC deployed the Smart Card Reader, a veritable tool for verification and authentication in the accreditation process.

As a matter of fact, Smart Card Reader has brought credibility to the electoral process to a large extent and the INEC has continued to deploy it. However, the Commission have a responsibility to make it smarter and more robust and we will continue to improve on it.

PDP Vs APC strategy 

Regardless of PDP electioneering campaigns for Governor Obaseki, the party believes that if Edo election was to have a credible election without unnecessary interference that it would win.

PDP

PDP’s team at the situation room

Going into Edo State governorship elections, PDP appears to have better understanding that technology is the way to put some excesses into check.

The likes of former vice president Atiku Abubakar and PDP Chieftain, Osita Udoka, have been on the front burner. 

Even on the aftermath of the 2019 Presidential Election, one of Chidoka’s assertions against INEC’s dealings was the absence of promised online computing of votes, to which it was reported that INEC said ‘it has no server’. 

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Particularly, Chidoka has been pushing a technology-driven agenda for the Nigerian electoral processes and politics in general.

Prior to the Edo 2020 elections, Chidoka said he wrote to INEC asking about online computing of results online, to which they agreed and promised to provide.

PDP

PDP election Situation Room – a display of the party’s hit-map

Meanwhile, the APC had a different strategic direction. They resorted to media and publicity games against Obaseki.

One of the notable media publicity was the sponsored television broadcast by Tinubu. The APC National Leader had urged the people of Edo State not to vote for Obaseki.

“He is not a democrat, ” Tinubu said. Oshiomhole on the other hand was vigorously campaigning for Ize-Iyamu in every nook and cranny of Edo State. 

Obaseki appeared to almost becoming helpless due to the wide publicity pushed by the APC.

The intensity was so much that over 35 aides working with Obaseki resigned and endorsed Ize-Iyamu. All hope was high that the APC Governorship candidate would have won.

Some people believe that the threat by the United States’ Government to place visa ban on electoral offenders – riggers – played major role in the elections which was almost rancour-free.

However, we share the view that technology played key roles too as the third force that offered accountability to a large extent.

People were recording the electoral processes – voting and counting of votes – using their smartphones. Others streamed real-time.

This shows how technology can play big role by influencing and entrenching the culture of free and fair elections.

Suffice to say that these even became possible because internet connectivity is getting better in Nigeria. 

Mahmood Yakubu

Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

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The INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu and the team deserve commendation for the outcome of the Edo State 2020 Governorship election and we believe that the Commission should build on this technological advancement as the country looks forward to year 2023 general elections.

Welcome to Nigeria in-road to electronic voting. 

@TechEconomyNG connects past-present-emerging technological impacts on Businesses, People and Cities. All Correspondence to: [email protected]

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