The year 2019, as nascent as it is, is already bristling with all manner of emotions. From anticipation to hope; from fear to even despair. The chaos of emotions is not unfounded. It is an election year; and if the history of elections is anything to go by, Nigerians have every reason to let their emotions run chaotic.
These emotions, especially fear, heightened on Thursday when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Amina Zakari, supposed niece of President Muhammadu Buhari, as Head of Collation Centre for the 2019 elections. While some, led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have described the appointment of Zakari as a ploy to rig the 2019 elections, others see the brouhaha surrounding her appointment as making a mountain out of a molehill. But indeed, how powerful and influential is Zakari’s office.
What Is Collation?
Collation is the tabulation or summation of the votes cast during an election. It is a graphic reflection of the decision taken by the electorate who have exercised their franchise at the poll. There are various levels of collation depending on the type of elections. However, for the sake of credibility, at each level there is always an announcement of votes scored by each party participating in the election.
Levels of Collation
There are various levels. Results are collated and/or declared at a number of levels depending on the type of election. These include:
Registration Area (RA) Ward
Local Government Area (LGA)
State Assembly Constituency
Federal (House of Representatives) Constituency
Collation and declaration of presidential election result at national level
How Significant Is Collation?
For an election to be successful and credible, it demands proper planning and efficient conduct. The outcome of an election is a culmination of five processes: accreditation, voting, counting, collation and results declaration. Though the first three processes are important, the last two are the critical stages. They can make or mar the whole electoral exercise. If either of these two processes stalls the essence of the exercise might be jeopardized. It is during collation that the results of an election can be doctored to satisfy selfish end and defeat the purpose of election.
It will be recalled that it was at this stage that the military Junta led by General (rtd.) Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida scuttled the 1993 election, aborting what would have been the Third Republic. Fresh in recent memory is the drama enacted by Godsday Orubebe, a former minister and loyalist of former President Goodluck Jonathan, at the International Conference Centre (ICC), which served as the National Collation Centre for the 2015 presidential election. The purpose of Orubebe’s momentary disruption and outburst was to render the election inconclusive, having realised that the results were unfavourable to his master’s reelection ambition. That should tell us the significance of collation.
Functions of the Head of Collation Centre
While the fuss about the appointment of Amina Zakari as Head of Collation Centre may not be misplaced or unjustified, the office may not be as powerful as thought.
Findings by SaharaReporters showed that there are 12 members in the aad hoc committee for the National Collation Centre. The committee will ensure that facilities such as power, access to the internet, live transmission for national and international observers as well as security of the venue are put in place.
This is what Zakari, as the chair of the committee, will lead other members in doing. In other words, Zakari is not the Returning Officer at the national level; the INEC Chairman has that onus but inalienable responsibility. Zakari’s brief is to provide logistics and administrative support to the collation centre. The roles spelt out by the INEC make her incapable of influencing the results of the elections.
The Presidency explained on Friday that there is no blood relationship betweeen Buhari and Zakari, but even in that same press statement it admitted that “an inter-marriage occurred in their extended families”. That is implicating enough for the public to fault or question the ethical soundness of the appointment of Buhari’s supposed niece into that kind of office. Nepotism is one thing, the opportunity to use it to one’s advantage is another. Zakari’s presence in INEC will always draw suspicion, but can she single-handedly rig the election in Buhari’s favour? Absolutely not!