Interview with Ahura Wesley on the Role of Technology in the Elections


The  elections in Nigeria has come and gone. The dust has settled. As usual, the exercise has left a sour taste of defeat in the mouths of many candidates,  but a sweet taste of victory in the mouths of a few.

All in all, it is the citizens that have won in a democracy.

It was nothing else but a miracle that prevented Nigeria from being engulfed in crises as some predicted it would after the elections. We owe our gratitude to God who rules in the affairs of men for such a peace.

This post is not about WordPress as usual or the web. Its neither about politics. It is about the role of technology in the 2015 elections in Nigeria. However, instead of writing my thoughts on the topic, I’ve decided to do some thing even better. 

Which is?

Conduct an interview to spice up things around here. I decided to bring in a guest to talk about the role technology played in the success of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria.

My guest is no other person but Ahura, Tese Wesley.

Why Wesley?

The answer is simple. He knows his stuff. There is no other person who is most willing and available  to share his worth of experience with you on this topic than him.

Here is the excerpt of our discussion. Please, leave a comment below after reading.

Sefa: For the benefit of the readers of  my blog who may not know you, can you make a brief introduction of who you are, and state the roles you played in the success of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria.

Wesley: My name is Ahura, Tese Wesley. During the just concluded INEC 2015 general elections, I served as Assistant Presiding Officer I (APO I) in Gboko South, Gboko LGA and my duties included:

  1. Collection and return of electoral materials from/to the Supervisory Presiding Officer,
  2. Authentication and verification of voters using card reader,
  3. Dis-aggregating statistics using proper forms, and
  4. Ensuring that voters deposited thumb-printed ballot papers into the right boxes.
Wesley Ahura
Ahura, Tese Wesley

Sefa: You will agree with me that technology has played a huge role in the last elections, and adjudged by many as free and fair…. What key areas can you name in the process where technology helped to do things differently and more efficiently?

Wesley: In my opinion as it was most people’s opinion, technology played a huge role in ensuring the success of the elections and the election was free and fair. Technology was employed in the area of voter verification and electronically communicating the total number of accredited voters to the INEC database.

In the past verification was done manually by way of examining a voter’s temporary voters’ card; by looking at it to ascertain if truly it belonged to the voter or not, thereafter ticking his name in the voters’ register to indicate he or she has been verified.

Sefa: Can you describe how the card reader worked? This will help a lot of people. From my little survey, I observed that some who were campaigning on social media never even had a Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) that could allow them to vote. Some never came close to the device to see it. How does the device work?

Wesley: The card reader has a complimentary relationship with the permanent voters’ card. With the permanent voters’ card which has an embedded chip which stores every voter’s unique details, the card reader automatically verifies a voter upon scanning the card and after the verification process is done, the total number of verified voters is communicated electronically to the INEC database. This meant that, the number of votes cast could not be more than the verified number of voters already registered in the INEC database.

INEC Card Reader
INEC Card Reader

Sefa: Why was it a “nightmare” to many politicians? You know, there was so much noise about it.

Wesley: I cannot say for sure why there was so much of an outburst from politicians about the use of the card reader. In my capacity as a Computer scientist, an ICT technician and having served as an INEC Adhoc staff I believe that the use of the card reader was a brilliant idea. I think INEC scored a homerun with that.

I believe that the use of the card reader was a brilliant idea. I think INEC scored a homerun with that.

Sefa: You voted and worked as an Adhoc staff, if I am correct, what was your experience doing both jobs?

Wesley: I would have to correct you on the first part of the question; I did not vote during the just concluded elections as much as I would have loved to. As a patriotic citizen of this great country of ours, I would have loved to perform my civic duty but unfortunately one could only vote at the unit he or she was registered. I registered in Makurdi but I was deployed at Gboko as such proximity played against me.

My experience as an Adhoc staff however was very challenging. The stress both mental and physical was more than I had imagined. We had to put up a great amount of professionalism and discipline and in the end I am glad that the election was free and fair as such our efforts were justified.

Sefa: In your own opinion, to what extent did social media contributed to the success of the elections?

Wesley: Before and during the election, unlike in previous years I noticed a lot of political activity on social media especially Facebook and Twitter. I heard a lot of people say the campaigners on social media had no PVC as such did not count but I feel the social media created a sense of awareness, a consciousness that was not there before especially in the Nigerian youth both home and abroad.

Even though a number of the youths did not vote they stayed connected to what was happening via social media and that must have created a certain sense of belonging. To me social media contributed immensely and I see it as a major tool in forthcoming elections as well.

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Sefa: Do you agree with the argument that  social media like Facebook and Twitter, contributed in no small measure in heating up the polity because of too many unverified news? Some of the news feeds were speculations and not facts.

Wesley: The political circle is always a heated arena with or without social media. Propaganda is synonymous with politics and many social interactions. Social media is just a medium, I think the problem lies solely with the people propagating the fake news and not with social media.

Speculations has always been there. It just spread a bit faster this time because of a more efficient and more people got involved. But I think the people speculating are to blame.

Sefa: There were challenges when this card reader was introduced for the elections, namely, network connection, delays in capturing bio-metric data,etc what was the cause of these, and what solutions do you suggest to avoid a repeat of what we saw last time?

Wesley: The network connection was not too much of an issue since the data was stored locally and not remotely. The network was only needed upon successful completion of verification. But in a case where there was no network coverage the data was communicated to the INEC database at the coalition centers which it was mandatory that they be situated in places with network coverage.

The major problem was the delay or failure in validation of voters. Even in this case INEC recommended a counter measure which was the manual verification. It was the finger print scanning that was the issue which I presume might not have been properly captured during registration.

In such a case, the voters’ card was scanned and the VIM number successfully communicated to the INEC database then the Presiding Officer manually confirmed that the face of the bearer of the card corresponds with the picture on the card. As a solution to this, I would recommend that there should be a recapture of those who encountered issues during the election when the next registration phase kicks off.

Sefa: Now that elections are over, and the new government has been sworn in, how can the Nigerian citizen continue to use technology to keep the government on track?

Wesley: Most of the political parties like the APC have a very active Facebook page which they update often and active followers as well.

I recently heard of a PDP website which has been launched to keep track and intimate the public of the activities of the current Government. The public can use these mediums to consistently remind the Government of their promises should they go off track.

Sefa: Are you in favor of electronic voting in Nigeria for feature elections?

Wesley: Yes, I am very much in support of electronic voting in Nigeria for future elections. There is a lot of work to be done in this regard, a lot of improvements to be made but I believe we are on the right track with this.

It seems everyone has recognized the contributions of technology in the just concluded elections and it is a tool that can be employed to maximal efficiency.The general public can communicate their opinions and issues to the various platforms hosted by political and Government agencies and have responses delivered.

It seems everyone has recognized the contributions of technology in the just concluded elections and it is a tool that can be employed to maximal efficiency.

Recently President Barrack Obama was allocated a Twitter handle @POTUS; Governance has recognized the need to keep in touch with the people and vice versa and I feel technology is one such medium that can make that possible.

Sefa: One last word for the new government and the readers of this blog?

Wesley: To everyone reading this blog; thank you for your time. On the National front; be heard! Never stay silent if you have something worth hearing, SAY IT. There are many platforms you can communicate your opinions to those who make decisions on our behalf.

You have one country; Nigeria and she needs you. Stand up for her. The Government is here to serve you, and you deserve to be served right. So demand good governance from your country today by speaking up.

TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT: Listen to your people. The people are here so those in power can serve them, do just that and it would be a wonderful four years, maybe eight!

Sefa: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me on this blog.

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Lead at Fruitfulujah Project. I consult, teach and help people build fruitful Internet projects. Every post I write, site I build, and podcast I make has 1# simple rule: "make it simple for everyday users". Also, a regular guest on Radio Benue FM95 ICT WORLD Show.

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