The real issue in the 2015, presidential election bore down to the use of the card reader machine, as a novel to the electoral System in Nigeria. The card reader was a critical component that distinguished the 2015 presidential election from other presidential elections so far conducted in Nigeria. It was the first time in the history of Nigeria that card reader was used in the electoral process and it remains one of the greatest technological device setup to authenticate and verify electorates. The permanent voter card (PVC) issued by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was verified with the aforementioned machine to ensure credibility and authenticity, transparency, and free and fair election in order to deepen democracy in Nigeria. Meanwhile, one of the unsolved puzzles in the last general election was the failure of card readers in some pulling units to capture the biometric data of some electorates. The objective of the study: to examine the effect of card readers on the election credibility; ascertain the reliability of card readers during the electoral process; look at the debate on the legality or illegality of card readers and identify the challenges inherent in the use of card readers. The method adopted was constant undertaking of trips to relevant offices for data collection and through internet. The design was ex-post facto design and data collected were analyzed through expository mechanism using data reduction, display and conclusion. The study use Decision Making Theory as the Theoretical Framework to establish the relationship existing among the variables. Findings: the essence of card reader was to enhance hitch free election; minimize electoral malpractice and improve Nigeria electoral system. Base on our findings, we recommend for massive enlightenment and sensitization of the public; extensive and intensive training of man power personnel and dealing with the irregularities identified during the last general election such as rejection of finger tips and fast battery drainage among others.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
For every democratic state there is a need to elect leaders that would guide and control the affairs of every state. Every democratic state must possess some distinctive yardsticks that differentiates them from other undemocratic states. Each democratic state elect their leaders through free and fair elections, the concepts of democracy and elections are interwoven together.
According to Osabiya (2014) he listed the preconditions of democracy which are;
(1) Universal adult suffrage,
(2) Periodic, free, competitive and fair elections,
(3) Existence of more than one party,
(4) Existence of alternative and accessible sources of information,
(5) Existence of the means of adjudication.
The definition of democracy has continued to defy all attempted propositions of common understanding. In Idike (2013) he conceived democracy as a political system in which the people in a country rule through any form of government they choose to establish. In modern democracies, supreme authority is exercised for the most part, by representatives elected by popular suffrage (Osakwe, 2011:1). Hence, democracy is rule by the people. Although the conception people have about democracy is the rule by those who are elected into office but it is essentially the rule by the people because the elected representatives bear the wishes and wills of the people.
For Awotokun (2004) he conceived democracy as a set of institutions (among them especially general elections, i.e., the right of the people to dismiss their government) which permits public control of rulers and their dismissal by the ruled, and which make it possible for the ruled to obtain reforms without using violence, even against the will of the rulers (Awotokun, 2004:131). He does not see democracy as the rule of the people or the rule of the majority.
Nigeria as a state satisfies these features of democracy, periodic elections are conducted every four years by an Independent National Electoral Commission which qualifies Nigeria to be a democratic state. Elections conducted in Nigeria have often been associated with different forms of electoral vices which has marred the electoral integrity of the Nigerian state and the electoral body; the Independent National Electoral Commission, in charge of conducting elections.
Prequel to the 2015 general elections, elections conducted from the 1999 post-independence have been associated with electoral vices such as ballot box snatching, multiplicity of ballot thumb-printing, electoral rigging, voters intimidation, vote buying, underage voting, falsification of results and some malfeasances perpetrated by the electoral officials. Election is a constitutional activity that gives opportunity for people to elect those who will represent their interests when their physical presence is avertible. It is a legitimate means through which the citizens of a country choose their representatives in conformity with the dictates of modern democracy. Elections is fundamental to political life.
Elections are ways in which citizens of a particular society measure the performance of their leaders, leaders who performs poorly during governance are voted out of power through elections.
Mackenzie (1964) opines that elections are rituals of choice and that their binding character are derived from the participation of the individual. Allan Ball (1997) describes elections as the means by which the people choose and exercise some degree of control over their representatives. R. Dowse and J. Hughes (1972) defined elections as one of the type of social mechanism, amongst others, for aggregating preferences of a particular kind.
An election is a procedure recognized by the rules of an organization, state or club where all members choose a smaller number of persons to hold an office or offices of authority within an organization. Elections could also be defined as the means by which representatives are chosen to perform specialized tasks by and on behalf of wider persons.
The 2015 general elections especially the presidential elections was assumed to be different from the previous elections conducted thus far in Nigeria.
Between 2011 and 2015, Nigeria had gone through tough times; the escalation of Boko Harm insurgency in the North, high rate of unemployment, widespread corruption, fragmentation within the major parties and the misconduct of frontline politicians through hate campaigns which put the most populous black nation on the spot light both locally and internationally. There were grave concerns over the conduct and possible outcome of the elections by concerned citizens and the international community.
The 2015 election was a competitive election which witnessed a lot of reformations surrounding it. The 2015 presidential elections which was scheduled for February 14th, 2015 was however postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission by 6 weeks to March 28, 2015 due to the challenges of inadequate circulation of the Permanent Voters Card and the disruptive menace of the ongoing Boko-Haram insurgency in certain states in the North eastern part of Nigeria.
The presidential election was contested by 14 candidates from different political parties but the candidates of the PDP and APC were the major contenders. It witnessed the merging of four political parties to form the APC. They are; ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA. The election was won by the presidential aspirant from APC; Muhammadu Buhari, who won Dr Goodluck Jonathan with 2.5 million votes. A major difference between the 2015 presidential elections and the previous elections conducted in Nigeria was the application of technology; the use of card reader machines and the introduction of Permanent Voters’ Card which adjudged the 2015 elections as the fairest election held in Nigeria.
The Independent National Electoral Commission is the institutionalized governmental body established through the instrumentality of the law to manage the nation’s electoral process.
According to Paragraph 15 of part 1 of the 3rd schedule to the 1999 constitution (as amended); INEC is mandated to organize, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria, conduct the registration of persons qualified to vote, prepare, maintain and revise the registration of votes for the purpose of any election (Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre 2015). It is also expected to carry out the functions conferred upon it by the virtue of the Electoral Act; 2010 (as amended).
The 21st century has been generally characterized as the Jet Age in order to underscore the imperativeness of computer technology in different spheres of human existence. It is sufficient to justify the application of technology to our societal development. The political sector has also been aligned as a user of technology in the practice of politics with the use of electronic mass media, mobile telephony and high speed digital computers.
Due to cases of electoral fraud, INEC under the chairmanship of Prof Attahiru Jega decided to launch the use of card reader machines to conduct the 2015 presidential elections in order to salvage the integrity of the voting process and also reduce electoral anomalies.
Central to every electoral activity is voting; voting is the essential underlying factor for an effective electoral activity. It is the initiation to democratic governance. The usage of the card reader machine for electoral activities was assumed to have taken the status of e-voting; a misconceived assumption.
E-voting by Iwu (2008:5) means an automated voting method which employs computer technology devices to improve several aspects of the electoral process. In most cases, it allows for the conduct of elections without the use of traditional ballot paper and box for making a choice at an election. It incorporates largely paperless voting methods prominent among which are electronic voting machines (EVM), internet voting, telephone IVR voting, digital TV voting, electronic kiosk voting, etc.
The INEC card reader is a form of e-voting, a portable electronic voter authentication device configured to only read the Permanent Voters’ Card issued by INEC. The card reader was designed specifically for the accreditation process and authentication of eligible voters before voting. The machine is used specifically to read only the Permanent Voters’ Card of a particular polling units and can only work on Election Day. The device uses a cryptographic technology with an ultra-low power consumption and one core frequency of 1.2 GHz and uses android 4.2.2. It is positioned by its operator usually a trained INEC official to read the embedded chip on the Permanent Voters’ Card. Its procedure displays the voters’ details and finger prints. It usually takes about 10 to 20 seconds to validate a voter.
On completion of accreditation process, a close V key is used to complete the accreditation process and the total number of voters accredited can be previewed using a Query key. Afterwards, the result may be forwarded to INEC using the communication key. INEC described the card reader as an anti-electoral fraud device which was launched in other to ensure the integrity of the voting process and mitigate against electoral anomalies. INEC under the chairmanship of Attahiru Jega also came up with some adjustments to the electoral process such as; the use of biometric registration for voters and advanced finger prints identification system.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Prior to the 2015 presidential elections, elections conducted from the 1999 post-independence have been assumed to be replete of electoral maladies and anomalies such as; ballot box snatching, multiplicity of ballot thumb printing, electoral rigging and irregularities in data computation which have dealt a big blow on the integrity of the electoral body.
Since the 2015 presidential elections was believed to have been shelved from electoral anomalies as a result of the use of the card readers machine by INEC, this study seeks to examine and reflect on the impact of the card readers’ machine on the presidential elections and its efforts in mitigating against such electoral vices.
This study also attempts to examine the challenges bedeviled with the use of the card reader machine during the 2015 presidential election. For instance the then incumbent president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan could not complete the accreditation process by the card reader machine, the card reader machine failed to acknowledge his permanent voters card which delayed him for close to 3 hours. Eventually, he had to be accredited manually.
It would be out of essence to have assumed that the card reader machine used during the presidential elections was absolved of all challenges. Despite the accolades accorded to the use of the card reader machine by INEC, there were some challenges associated with the widely adjudged successful presidential election such as; malfunctioning of the card readers at several polling units, delay in the accreditation process, rejection of Permanent Voters’ Card, inability to capture their biometrics from the finger tips, irregular capturing and fast battery damage which gave erratic power to the device.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
How effective was the card reader in the administration of the 2015 presidential elections?
What were the challenges faced in the use of the card readers?
What can be done to ensure the effectiveness of the card reader in future elections?
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
To examine the effectiveness of the card reader in its administration during the 2015 Presidential Election,
To examine the challenges faced with the use of the card reader,
To proffer what ought to be done to ensure the effectiveness of the card reader for future elections.
1.5 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Methodology is of utmost imperativeness in any research, it is the fulcrum of research. It involves the systematic and scientific procedure that shapes the course of actions employed in a research. Methodology in this research would mean the method employed in garnering data. This study exclusively made use of secondary data.
Secondary data collection was applied here. It was predominantly based on data obtained from secondary sources. Data was collected through the review of relevant texts, journals, magazines, newspapers, official documents, publications, and media commentaries, structured interviews of political analysts and from scholarly writings. These would assist in gaining insights into the impact of the card reader machine on the presidential elections.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Elections associated with electoral vices is a wrong reflection of the peoples consent therefore it assumes that leadership which emerges through such platforms are considered illegitimate since they lack the consent of their electorates.
In Nigeria, right from the onset, leaders have emerged through various forms of electoral malpractice ranging from election rigging to political thuggery to assassination of political opponents and physically terrorizing the electorates. Such mechanisms employed by Nigerian politicians have made the electorates to lose confidence in their votes.
This study attempts to exclusively examine the impact of the card reader during the 2015 presidential elections in other to educate the public on the effectiveness of the use of the card reader during electioneering activities.
This study would also assess the challenges faced in the use of the card reader machine including ways in which the card reader was able to curtail issues associated with electoral fraud.
This study would also help to project into the future by unveiling the negative belief which has clouded the public against the use of card reader machine as a tool for facilitating a successful and credible election.
This study would also posit ways in other to improve the effectiveness of the card reader in the future elections.
It would also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field.
This study attempts to proffer a way forward in the upcoming elections in Nigeria
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is designed to assess the impact of the card reader on the 2015 presidential elections and assessment would be observed within the confines of the 2015 presidential elections. It would be epochal to also consider issues that have sufficed in the previous presidential elections from 1999- 2015 that warranted the need for the adoption of the card reader in the 2015 presidential elections.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Election, Electoral Administration and Electoral process.
Elections: are means through which people participate in governance because leadership is seen as a reflector of the people’s choice. It is through elections that the people’s opinion are felt as regards leadership. It is a very critical component of any democratic society.
Obakhedo (2011) defined election is a major instrument for the recruitment of political leadership in democratic societies, the key to participation in a democracy and the way of giving consent to government.
Nwolise (2007; 155) viewed election as the process of selecting the officers or representatives of an organization or group by the vote of its qualified members.
Electoral Administration: Administration is the execution of activities by a group of people to pursue and contribute to the attainment of a common goal.
Electoral Administration is the execution of electoral activities by a collection of electoral officials who pursue and contribute to the attainment of the electoral goals designed by the Electoral commission.
Jinadu (1979) opined that Electoral Administration is the organization and conduct of elections to elective political office by an electoral body.
Ajayi (2007) described Electoral Administration as the management and organization of all stages of the electoral process by an electoral body.
Electoral Process: can be described as a group of electoral activities carried out consequentially from the initiation of the voting proper till the announcement of the results and the declaration of the winner. It starts with announcement of intention to conduct elections, till the elections have been won and invariably lost. Electoral process is a complex process that encompasses the good intentions and undesirable outcomes of election administration. Of course the good intention of election is to effect a peaceful change of government reflective of the peoples wishes and wills through voting but it does not rule out the fact that the end result would always be positive and negative. Outcomes such as loss of life due to political thuggery and falsification of results on the part of dishonest electoral officers are undesirable outcomes despite the good intention behind electoral process.
According to Elekwa (2008:30) election process (electoral process) relates to the entire cycle ranging from the provision of voter education to the dissolution of the National Assembly. Furthermore, INEC (2006), in Elekwa (2008:30) deposes that the different phases of the electoral process include the following:
(1) Delimitation of electoral boundaries.
(2) Registration of voters.
(3) Notice of elections.
(4) Nomination of candidates.
(5) Election campaigns.
(6) Elections, announcement of results and completion of tribunal sittings.
(7) Participation of other organizations.
(8) Resolution of electoral conflicts resulting from the participation of other organizations, people, groups, etc.