From the gubernatorial elections that took place on April 11, 2015, it was obvious there was a systemic ploy to ensure incredible results were achieved. With a massive win of 996,071 votes out of 1,122, 836 votes cast (representing a 90% win) one can only admire such phenomenal results. When such great strides are achieved, it is important to study the model used and adopt key lessons in the interest of national development.
Below are 10 key ways to achieve absolute election success:
1. Make sure people can’t vote: It’s so simple but it really is pure genius. Across the 31 local government areas there were records of missing election materials, especially the result sheets. As eager citizens arrive, you can either stop them from getting accredited by making sure no PVC card reader arrives at the polling unit or in some cases allow them to get accredited but make sure there is no stamp to thumb print the election sheet. Better still, you can have the ad hoc staff show that result sheets are missing to really discourage citizens. This will make people feel that waking up early to exercise their fundamental human right is a complete waste of time, as a lack of result sheet shows their votes will definitely NOT count.
2. Compromise the Resident Electoral Officer (REC): This falls in line with best practice of the top-down approach in a system where decision-making is highly centralised. This provides an overall and clear direction for all tiers of the electoral hierarchy, from the Electoral Officers to the Ad-hoc Staff, to ensure a seamless execution of the plan for a successful election.
3. Abduct over-zealous ad-hoc staff: This is for those who will insist on doing their duty or due to a gap in communication from the Supervising Presiding Officer (SPO) who may not have received the order of the day. So to avert any confusion, simply abduct the young ad-hoc staff before they arrive at their assigned polling units. It saves from the drama of snatching ballot boxes in front of crowds as you can intervene just in time, while you leave citizens waiting aimlessly at polling units. Also, it’s just for a few hours, as they will be released just in time to submit their election materials in tact at the collation centre while they wait to receive their appreciation envelope for the night. It is very important that both the top-down and bottom-up approach is deployed for optimal performance and best results delivered. Using the top-down approach provides focus, direction and performance conditions but if used in isolation, it can be ineffective. Such a system, with several moving parts, must provide some level of independent thinking to allow for qu!ck responses when things don’t go as planned. For instance, we observed a level of ingenuity, such as the few places where election results sheets where not missing, fake result sheets were made available. This shows the creativity some electoral officials displayed. This also creates a medley of problems, which makes election reportage of actual events overwhelming and implausible.
4. Use Violence where necessary: The use of violence in one area can have a ripple effect that will reverberate across the entire State, thanks to the use of mobile phones and social media. This is great, as one does not have to use a huge amount of force as seen in prior elections but just enough to remind people of how being democratic can land you in the gutter with dismembered body parts. In this election we saw a more organised approach using white buses with decent looking thugs who came to cart away ballot boxes. They shot in the air several times to disperse the crowd of eager citizens willing to vote. Unfortunately, the violence did result in a few people being killed but it is important to note it appeared it was used more as a deterrent than a direct use of force against the Akwa Ibom people. In a country ridden with insecurity from a terrorist group in the North, eight people getting killed and over 30 cases of severely injured people will definitely not get any media attention.
5. Control the media: To achieve absolute success, you cannot afford to allow the media to be let loose in the State as they tend to have a mind of their own, desirous of reporting real happenings in real time. Ensure this freelance approach to the media is not condoned. They must be told to stay away and those in the State must be controlled. In a case where the brown appreciative envelopes do not suffice, you have to use coercion by threatening to burn down their houses with their family in it. Of course, that should temper down any bright ideas on election reportage and ensure they are where the main actors of the State are to cover a seamless process of accreditation and voting in the 30% of the State that seemed to vote. This will, of course, be a stark difference from what international observers and some local observers will report but fortunately no one has a wide reach like the local media. Those observer reports are really just for academics aspiring to be resource people for election monitoring in developing countries.
6. Compromise some observers: Again maintaining balance is key. It would be a shame to have such a flawless plan of robbing people of their right to vote by leaving observers to wander around freely and reporting a very different reality from what you have worked so hard to create. In this case, invite them to your house for lunch, welcome them very warmly to the State House and ensure you have discussions of how greatly you have performed and how ecstatic the Akwa Ibom people are to vote 100% for continuity. Do let them know that you are a product of democracy and you will continue to ensure its dividends flow even after you’re gone as Governor. Again thank them for their good works and don’t forget the brown appreciative envelopes; this time, dollars must be the currency used, as some observers are sophisticated. This ensures they have a great time in Akwa Ibom, and for some male observers they can now afford to experience the ‘ladies of the night’ in their hotel rooms, as they return with a fist of full of dollars. As they report, you’ll be pleased to see them use the buzzwords such as ‘peaceful’ and ‘perfect’ to describe the successful election.
7. Strategic use of security forces: Ensure you have heavy security presence in your opponent’s strong areas. As much as 22 policemen were present in one polling unit in Eniong Offot and none were present in other “less” threatening areas where violence erupted. This anomaly will secure the plan in areas easily controlled. While on the other hand, keep any opposition and their thugs from running amuck as they witness their grand plans to vote or cause their own brand of trouble thwarted before their very eyes. Also you’ll need to ensure the security forces across all levels are on your side. This is for post-election purposes, when annoying citizens who actually get upset about their inability to vote, gather to peacefully protest the announced results. You must ensure that none of such revolutionary activities are tolerated. For the few bold citizens who are undeterred by the violence they heard of or witnessed during the election process, you must make sure that as soon they gather, you disperse them. Release fire trucks, helicopter and army tankers to display an unrelenting show of force for those who will try to prove a point about their right to vote.
8. Compromise heads of security forces: Again, it is not enough to use the top-down approach only with the electoral staff, it must be used with the security forces as well, in combination with the bottom-up approach. Remember that it is the combination of both that delivers effective results. You must positively influence the commissioner of police so that every time he gets on the news to discuss the election he uses buzz words such as ‘peaceful’ and ‘perfect’ to describe the election. When asked how about the pockets of violence being reported, he’ll react in a super confident way to play down such reports and make lackluster statements such as ‘there’s no violence but I’ll look into it’. He’ll st!ck to the narrative of a perfect election like white on rice. This will null informal news from miscreants on social media as the main security agent has spoken and his word is a bond.
9. Announce results as fast as you can: In this case, you have to seek balance again because it’s a bit tr!cky. You can’t afford to announce too early, as it will cause eyebrows to be raised; so make sure you are not the first or second State to announce results but ensure you are one of the first seven. At least a good 12 hours after elections is usually a good time to announce the pre-written results. Since you have achieved rule number one by stopping 70% of the citizens from voting, you can skip the arduous task of actually collating results from ward level to local government area level to State level. There is no need for the manual labour of counting and deciding how many votes will be rendered invalid to guarantee the pre-determined winner. The pre-generated computer results is what you’ll have the REC write on the results sheet to be announced by the Returning Officer, usually a Professor assigned from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who also plays his role of announcing results ‘as it is’ without any questions.
10. Media appearances: It is important to select key State actors from the government house, the House of Assembly, former and current National Assembly Members and NGOs (heavily linked to these State actors) as media emissaries. You’ll need to ensure all media emissaries sing the same song of how the State has always voted one way and will always vote that way forever and ever. You also need to make sure all emissaries use the same buzzwords ‘peaceful’ and ‘perfect’ elections. They cannot deviate from the script or attempt to sound realistic by admitting to any reports of slight violence or election fraud. They must not generalise or relate to the fact that Nigerian elections are far from perfect. They must keep their realism to themselves. Finally, these media emissaries need to dismiss any counter-narrative from the public, as being the work of the agents of opposition parties. It is befitting to label the opposition parties as sore losers who failed miserably in their collective bid to even garner 10% of the votes in the State. Remember to thank the Akwa Ibom people for their steadfastness in delivering incredible election results, giving the winner a landslide victory that is enviable by national and global standards. When pictures of protest emerge, tell the audience that those images are imaginary and the real march was a victory march around the State celebrating the glorious win.
The above steps are how to win an election Akwa Ibom Style – real democracy from the great doctrine of Akpabiosm. Hope this serves as a useful guide in winning elections and nation building.
*NOTE: Please ignore the fact that the discrepancy of accredited voters between the announced result sheet (1,158,624) and the INEC server per the card reader (437,128) was 721,496. Leave the fact to your enemies to argue amongst themselves about as you coast onto victory to be inaugurated as Governor on May 29th.