The unending controversy surrounding the Independent National Electoral Commission’s server is the current topic of discussion in town. Debates and arguments, in this regard, are easily heard in every nook and cranny of the polity. Interestingly, the discussants cut across different strata of the society. As a result, it is not surprising that the social media and other platforms are very busy at present.
Expectedly, the issue, as it concerns the recently concluded elections in the country, has been interpreted in various ways. This is so because the figures purportedly extracted from the server is at variance with the manually collated, recognised and declared ones. This issue was also compounded by the claim that the server was not used for the elections under reference or that it did not exist. ‘Server’ in this context can be defined (according to Google) as “a computer or computer programme, which manages access to a centralised resource or service in a network”. It can also be described as “a programme that provides services to other programmes or devices, either in the same computer or over a computer network”.
From the two definitions, it is obvious that a server is a ‘device’ that works in conjunction with other ‘devices’. So, if the functions of INEC include the conducting of voter registration (for eligible voters) and keeping the records, carrying out verification exercises to confirm accuracy of the registration and the issuance of the Permanent Voter Card, it means that the commission maintains a voter register and card reader for the purpose of conducting elections. Therefore, the voter register (as the name implies) is the hard and soft records of data, which contain the names and other particulars of registered voters in the country. The register is subject to periodic updates to expunge the particulars of the dead and also include that of newly eligible voters. Without these documents/records, INEC can never conduct successful elections. The PVC, on the other hand, enables a voter to present himself for accreditation and to vote in a general election. It contains all the information that is stored in the voter register about the owner, while the card reader is an electronic sensor that reads a magnetic strip or bar code on an E-card. It also transfers data from various portable storage devices.
Consequently, during the elections; the register is checked to confirm that a voter actually registered and he is in the right polling unit to cast his vote. The card is then inserted into the card reader to authenticate the information vis-à-vis the bearer as the rightful owner. The voter is then accredited and given the ballot papers to vote accordingly. This card reader is very necessary because, aside from other information that could be seen and verified manually, it is the only means of verifying the thumbprint. In this circumstance, it is obvious that the card reader cannot work in isolation but, in conjunction with other stored data and this is where the issue of ‘server’ comes in. Therefore, it is absurd or unthinkable for the commission’s data and process flow not to have a relative server accordingly. So it is unacceptable for anyone to say that there was no server during and after the elections.
Although it is true that the subsisting laws have not recognised the electronic transmission of election results, there is evidence that some key functionaries of the commission posited that results would be transmitted from the polling units to the Central Collation Centre via the card readers. This was corroborated by statements obtained from some Returning Officers.
From the foregoing, technically, it is clear that there was a server during the conduct of the 2019 general elections. The controversy over the status of the server, whether it is still in existence or not, is a different matter. In this circumstance, one would expect the relevant authorities to provide an explanation for the ‘purported fake server results’ in circulation and adduce reasons why they should not be disregarded (if truly they are not a reflection of the authentic figures) rather than waiving off same as inconsequential without a convincing and substantial evidence to the contrary.
At this juncture, the answers to the following questions will be very crucial to unknotting the controversies.
Does INEC have electronic data (soft copy) of all registered voters on their lists/records?
Do the PVCs used during the elections and the previous elections have a central store or memory for verifying the authenticity of the cards vis-à-vis the owners/carriers?
Does the card reader verify the data on the card in tandem with the stored records?
Did INEC authorise the use of card readers for the verification and accreditation of voters during the 2019 elections?
If answers to the above questions are in the affirmative, then, it means that there must have been a server and voters have the right to know the results so transmitted to that server. If the reverse is the case, then there is a bigger problem because it means that there was (is) no soft data of the voters in place and the actual number of registered persons cannot be electronically verified. Secondly, it means that the authentic data or information about the actual number of accredited voters (with the aid of card readers) cannot be verified. Also, it means that the card reader verifies data in isolation without a link to another (which is most unlikely) and, as such, the input and output of the device cannot be relied upon.
Finally, if the card reader does not have any bearing with any stored data and it is not permitted by the Electoral Act; it should not have been introduced and used in the first place and this could lead to the invalidation of the whole process and outcome of the elections.
From the aforementioned, it is very obvious that there is more to the issue of this ‘mysterious server’ than meets the eye. As law-abiding and patriotic citizens who have the interest of the country at heart, you will agree with me that this issue is not all about President Muhammadu Buhari or Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Also, it is not all about the All Progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party. On the contrary, it is about the need to do everything possible for the sustenance of our democracy.