Controversy and Politics of Card Readers

One of the major talking points that has gener­ated heated discussions and arguments surrounding the Nigeria’s 2015 general election has been the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the elections, and one that has resulted in the shifting of the polls by six weeks from February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015.

While INEC has declared its readiness for February 14th date, different sides have also presented their arguments, depending on which divide they belong. It was first the National Security Adviser (NSA) that said the elections could not go on due to security concerns. The All Progressives Congress (APC) insinuated that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), orches­trated the shift because the party was afraid of defeat.

Needless to say that the intro­duction of the PVC card readers by INEC is a novel idea, and it would go a long way to make the election free of rigging. However, it is also important to critically analyse issues surrounding the use of the technology, especially taking into consideration the Nigerian environment.

This is not the forum to discuss the technology behind card readers, or how they work, but this is to raise the question of “If” it would work as INEC suggests.

If the general elections go ahead with the use of the card readers, the 2015 elections would be the pilot run for their use in Nigeria. As a technologist, who has grown through the ranks, and has experienced working in fields ranging from support to system design, to system inte­gration, it is my belief that we should have used them either in the 2014 Ekiti State election, or the Osun State election as test drive—preferably both.

Failure of the card reader tech­nology on the election date would be a disaster with a long ripple effect on subsequent elections, not minding the cost incurred on the 2015 general election.

INEC swore that it was ready, but five weeks to the February 14th date, they were still bat­tling with the distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). I was surprised when INEC declared the 7th of March, 2015 as a mock test date for the PVC and Card Readers, with varying degrees of successes, if we could even call it that.

What I expect from Nigerians, especially those in the opposi­tion, and those who have de­cided to politicise the issue, is to sit down and critically think through the issues surrounding the deployment of such technol­ogy.

On the Permanent Voters Card, this should be a year round exercise that would only be suspended few weeks to the elections. We have had reports of people who registered in pre-2011 elections but could not locate their PVCs; simply because their data could not be located, or was affected by virus.

I have advocated on several platforms to establish National Civic Centres(NCC) in all local governments where a national database will be domiciled, and things like civic registrations (voters card, birth registration certificates, death registrations/certificates), national ID cards, drivers licensing and the likes) will be issued. The National Civic Centre would have elimi­nated most of the issues we face today with PVC card readers.

We need to be forward think­ing, stop all these kneejerk reactions, and stop politicising all issues to the detriment of the Nigerian public. Nigerians are always losers in the end.

As a professional, I strongly recommend that INEC jettison the introduction of the card reader for the forthcoming elec­tions. They had four years to prepare for this, prepare user manuals, distribute PVCs to the public, and carry out voters’ education around them. Why is INEC stampeding Nigeria into a mistake that will carry more grievous consequences than sim­ply fumbling the 2015 elections?

About the author

Ihesiulo Grace

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