Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Daily Amebo - Voters To Vote On Voting

(Good day. You join me, Atala Wala Wala as I am about to peer into the world of Pangolo Junction, where our three philosophers are crowded around a newspaper that Nat has just brought in. So without further ado, let us observe the drama...)



Zack (with contempt): So what rumours does your scurrilous ragazine have to broadcast this time?

Max: That's no way to talk about the Daily Amebo – the newspaper that enlightens the parts that other publications simply can't reach. Was it not them that broke the story about the EFCC investigating the EFCC on behalf of the EFCC? Or what about that groundbreaking story on the launch of Kampeism?

Nat: Anyway, this time, they're reporting on the voting system to be used in the 2007 elections. I'll read:



Voters to Vote on Voting

By Basketmouth Jagbajantis, Senior Reporter

Following the declaration by the Chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu that the electorate will vote on which voting system they will be using in the forthcoming 2007 elections, campaigning is already underway by various movements, groups and associations to sway the public to vote for their preferred voting method.

Prof. Iwu had previously announced at a press conference his decision to throw open the decision on choosing a voting system to the electorate. He explained his decision thus: "Honestly, I could not make head or tail of all the options available to me. Some people were saying we should use the 'Open Secret Ballot' system and others were saying we should use the 'Modified Secret Open Ballot' system. One fellow was even talking about A4. I wondered whether he was saying that the ballot papers should be A4 size. Anyway, I decided that 140 million heads are better than one, and it would be better to let Nigerians themselves pick out the option that they want."

It appears that the announcement by Prof. Iwu has given birth to a staggering array of voting systems being advocated by the various groups. At the last count, the Daily Amebo had counted no less than 637 different voting systems being proposed. Prominent amongst the groups is the Open-Open-Open ballot group, who are campaigning for total openness in the voting system. The spokesman for this group, Mr. Jerry Edoseghe said "For too long, things have been done in secret. This is why politicians have been allowed to get away with rigging on a massive scale. As our name implies, we are advocating that everything be laid bare during voting. And we mean everything!"

According to Mr. Edoseghe, the Open-Open-Open system would involve setting up a massive operation to monitor everyone involved in the election – voters, candidates, officials – using video cameras. The monitoring would take place for 24 hours a day continuously for up to four weeks before the election and four weeks after, and the video feed would be broadcast on the internet to completely eliminate all possibility of fraud being perpetrated in dark corners. "We will shine the light of surveillance everywhere to expose them!" he exclaimed. On the day of the election, there would be speakers set up at polling booths hooked up to internet-linked computers so that people all over the world watching on the internet could loudly condemn any attempt at rigging. Needless to say, all voters would declare publicly who they were voting for, and the total votes would be cumulatively added up as voting progressed so that everyone around the world would be able to watch the result of the election unfold in real time.

When asked by the Daily Amebo about the sheer logistical nightmare of carrying out this exercise due to the number of video cameras and camera operators needed and the possibility of people being upset by being videoed when taking a bath, Mr. Edoseghe replied "Eternal vigilance is the price of democracy. Fraud has been known to be perpetrated in showers, toilets and bedrooms. I even know of a case where an entire rigging operation took place from conception to completion inside a locked wardrobe, so no place can be safe from our cameras. As for the number of camera operators, we will install CCTV in every building and on every street corner in every village, town and city in Nigeria. Each CCTV camera will be remotely controlled by volunteers throughout the world. I am positive that we will have many people willing to do this, as we can see by the number of people who watch Big Brother throughout the world. Of course, we have 200 billion dollars in our foreign reserves, so that should be enough to pay for everything."

The Daily Amebo also sought the views of Ms. Janet Ekpenyong, the spokesperson of the Secret-Secret-Secret ballot group, another group campaigning for its own voting system to be used. "I am aware that there is a group which is campaigning for total openness in the system", she said. "It saddens me that there are people who want to take us back to the dark days of dictatorship when our every nose-pick and bum-scratch was shadowed by men in dark glasses. What we are advocating is a system that enshrines our freedom to choose who we want without having our landord, employer, parents, pastor or imam castigating us for our choice."

"What we propose", she went on "is to have a system that completely safeguards the privacy of the voter. First of all, it is only on the day before the election that he will be informed of where he is going to vote. This is to prevent prying eyes from tracking him down and possibly finding out who he might vote for. Then on the day of the election, he will be conducted by heavily armed secret agents to an underground soundproof bombproof bunker. When he enters, he will find a shuttle that will take him through a tunnel to an undisclosed underground location. He will emerge to find a heavily locked 20 inch thick door that can only be opened by him using a 128 digit secret code that he will have been given the day before. Once he opens the door, he will find himself in the polling booth where he may cast his vote in total secrecy using a digital ballot, which will completely electronically anonymise the origin of the ballot.

"When the voter has cast his vote, he will exit through another door which he will need another 128 digit key to unlock. After he has left, an automatic process will scrub the polling booth completely clean of all traces of fingerprints and DNA of the voter. The voter will return to the surface through a completely different route at a completely different location. Once he has reached the surface, he will meet a team of expert surgeons who will whisk him away for an operation to reconfigure his brain so that he has no recollection of who he voted for. This way, nobody will be able to coerce this information out of him."

The Daily Amebo questioned Ms. Ekpenyong on how costly it would be to implement this voting system, and she replied "This is not a question of naira and kobo. This is a question of life and death. Do we want to live in a country where there is the risk – no matter how small - of being persecuted simply because of our beliefs? This is how Nazi Germany started out... and see what that turned into! Besides, we have 500 billion dollars in our foreign reserves, so that should be enough to pay for everything."

Another voting system that has been gaining in popularity amongst Nigerians is the Open Bullet group. The spokesperson for the group supporting it, Mallam Haruna Dakwol said: "People always talk of voting for Alhaji A or Doctor B as though those persons are the best people available. Personally, I believe that is more appropriate to unvote for the worst people since all politicians are worthless scum."

Explaining in more detail, Mallam Dakwol said: "Each voter will be given a gun with blanks on arrival at the polling booth. Once entering the booth, the voter will see a small board with pictures of the candidates contesting for a post. The candidate will be required to point the gun at the picture of any candidate he feels is unsuitable for the post and shoot at that picture at point blank range. This process is what I refer to as unvoting for the candidate, and it is what gives the voting system its name. Any candidate whose picture is left untouched will be credited with a vote. When all the votes are added up, the person with the most votes wins the election."

When asked by the Daily Amebo why it was necessary to shoot at the pictures of the candidates instead of simply marking them with an 'X', Mallam Dakwol said "Come on, my friend! If you have a politician who has been messing you around for four years and you want to punish him by voting him out, will it not give you more satisfaction to pull the trigger and shoot his picture? Besides, it's good practice for when the revolution finally comes – it will be easier to identify the thieving wretches so that they can all be exterminated as quickly as possible! Of course, since we have 900 billion dollars in our foreign reserves, the total cost of all the guns and bullets should be chicken change."

Another group that has assumed a high profile is the Quality Voting group. This group, whose spokesman is Air-Commodore (Apostle) (Chief (Dr.)) Kanganka O. Kanganka (Rtd.) Esq., believes that suffrage should be restricted to those who are wealthy enough to obtain the education needed to vote.

"The problem with Nigeria", said Major-General (Barrister) Kanganka "is that the wrong people get into power because too many people are making ill-informed choices. And they are making these choices because they are illiterate, stupid and ignorant. And they are illiterate, stupid and ignorant because they are too poor to buy education, wisdom and knowledge. The Quality Voting group believes that until such time as these people have amassed enough wealth to obtain the necessary wisdom and knowledge to make the right choice, they should not be allowed within a hundred metres of a polling booth."

"Instead", he went on "only those people whose fortunes are in excess of 500 million naira should be included in the group of Quality Voters who should be allowed to vote. And instead of the low-rent voting affairs that involve the inconvenience of standing in line for a considerable period of time in the hot sun to vote in a rickety polling booth, each Quality Voter would have an entire high class hotel rented for him for the evening for the purpose. He and his family and friends would be entertained by dancers, singers and comedians for about an hour to put him in a relaxed mood. Good food and good wine would flow; the subtle lighting and sophisticated furnishing would create the perfect ambience for casting a vote. And when the moment of decision came, there would be a professional MC announcing the climactic moment of the evening – the Casting of the Quality Vote, where the Quality Voter uses a gold plated fountain pen to mark a richly embossed ballot paper with his choice."

Air Vice-Marshal (Alhaji (Otunba)) Kanganka explained further: "There will be those narrow-minded short-sighted people who will complain and say things like 'Why should so much money be spent on entertaining these big men?' Such people are incapable of understanding that the choices that the Quality Voters make can have major repercussions for the direction that Nigeria takes over the next decades. So it is vitally important that no expense be spared in putting these Very Important People in the Right Frame of Mind to cast their vote. And anyway, the money issue is academic – after all, it is well known that we have 1.5 trillion dollars in our foreign reserves."

But some have expressed doubts about the entire venture. A source (who did not wish to be named) said that Prof. Iwu may only have compounded his work. "It's all well and good passing the responsibility for voting on to Nigerians", he said in between gulps from a bottle of kunu "but what method are Nigerians going to use to vote for the voting system they will use to vote for candidates? Are we going to need another vote to determine this too?"

Another dissenting voice is Senator Ahmadu Ali, chairman of the PDP. "All this talk of voting systems is just creating unnecessary confusion", he said. "Everyone should stop worrying their heads about how to use their votes and just give them to the PDP. We have a proven track record in handling large quantities of votes, so any person who gives us their votes can be sure that they will be properly allocated."



Zack: If it were possible, I would definitely choose the Open Bullet method – except that I would employ real bullets and use the real candidate instead of just a picture!

Max: I was thinking that it would be better to have a 'Money for Vote' system. You make a financial contribution towards the person who you want to be elected, and the person who has the largest amount of cash at the end of the day wins the election. All the money would go towards fulfilling electoral promises, so it would double as a kind of tax collection system.

Nat: That's crazy! Nobody would vote!

Max: Oh? Did I forget to mention that only the people that voted for the elected candidate would get priority in fulfilling the electoral promises, and in proportion to what contribution they made?

Zack: As usual, your system is weighted against the common man. Sometimes, I think you won't be happy until all poor people are dead in Nigeria.

Max: Come on Zack, you know that's not true. We still need poor people to wash our clothes, cook our food and drive our cars...

Nat: Watch out, Zack – he's about to yank your chain.



And so we leave our three protagonists squabbling over that most wonderful aspect of democracy, the right to elect and be elected. Join me again some other time.

Atala Wala Wala

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