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Jegamatics (Part I)

During the second world war in the 1940s, the British army realised that it needed to have a specialised unit whose job was to provide a scientific (factual and quantifiable) basis for allocating military resources (guns, bullets, food, shoes, uniform, etc) to the different commandants in different battle fields. This was essential to avoid waste, misallocation and under-supply of resources to the fighting soldiers.

During the second world war in the 1940s, the British army realised that it needed to have a specialised unit whose job was to provide a scientific (factual and quantifiable) basis for allocating military resources (guns, bullets, food, shoes, uniform, etc) to the different commandants in different battle fields. This was essential to avoid waste, misallocation and under-supply of resources to the fighting soldiers.

Historians generally agree that this decision to have a scientific basis for decision-making; was critical to the success of the British and Allied forces when hostilities with the Nazis reached its peak. This process of strategic allocation of resources later became known as operations research (OR) and is taught in many universities, and is applied in many sectors in virtually every serious country, with the exception of places like Nigeria.

This is why we in Nigeria plan to register 70 million voters within 2 weeks before we realise that we need an additional 4 weeks. That was why we plan for elections and then postpone them once, and then postpone them again; with excuses such as ‘ballot papers did not arrive on time’ – or that 'the political parties are not ready'. This is also why despite the history of violence in specific states of Nigeria, no one planned for the deployment of extra security for INEC staff, vulnerable youth corpers and other innocent citizens, who were murdered in their hundreds. INEC simply asked for billions of Naira, with which it procured vehicles, laptops, printers, ballot papers and ballot boxes - and then used the change to compensate youth corpers. Excuse me, but this is not the ideal way of getting things done, (with all due respect to Jega and INEC).

Now, INEC did its best, but it cannot dissociate itself completely from the failures and calamities that occurred in certain operational aspects and in certain theatres of politicking. If INEC was a Japanese entity, resignations would be flying left, right and centre. If INEC was a British entity, a Commission of Enquiry would be established, and for the next 10 years, Theses and research papers would be churned on with titles such as ‘Elections 2011 – A security and operational assessment of INEC’. But what am I saying? This is Nigeria; where we prefer fire brigade approach to everything. We think research is only done at the tail end of a degree programme. We fail to see the relevance of facts and figures; and of data and its analysis. We refuse to discriminate between incompetence and capacity; we tend to accept mediocrity at the expense of expertise.

Just as Oga Jonathan cannot change Nigeria all by himself, Jega, with all his integrity and intelligence cannot run INEC alone. It ought to be clear now that the smoothness of both pre-election and post-election matters is not guaranteed by pumping billions into INEC which is spent on procurement only. It is a systemic issue where finance, material resources, people and established processes, are deployed efficiently and effectively. INEC was largely efficient but hardly effective. Efficiency is to do things right while effectiveness is to do the right things. Let me put it this way: a student who attends all his lectures is efficient, but the student who attends all his lectures on time, takes notes, listens, asks relevant questions and does his assignments is effective. Prof. Jega knows where I am coming from.

Let us now evolve from the thinking that elections are about printing ballot papers, buying vehicles and equipment and hiring clerical staff; led by resident electoral commissioners, (RECs) who in all likelihood; have no requisite skills or training in strategic planning, not to mention operations research. In other words, INEC  requires improved expertise and capacity to oil the machinery of smooth elections.

So whereas this is not Japan, we do not want resignations for many reasons. Firstly, because everyone agrees that Jega is a man of integrity, and in Nigeria of today, people like him are as rare as three-legged cocks. His appointment is probably the most inspiring in Nigeria, second only to the appointment of Samson Siasia, because well, football is a national food and he is the one man who can make our Super Eagles soar. Secondly resignations are unthinkable (at the Jega level) because compared to Professors Humphrey Nwosu and Maurice Iwu, Prof. Attahiru Jega is a genius, as elucidated by Dr. Wumi Akintide. Thirdly, resignations are not a solution because now is not the time to make wholesome changes. Now is the time to consolidate. What INEC requires is a framework for improvement in both capacity and modus operandi. The RECs may survive the impending hurricane, but the operational framework of INEC needs to be upgraded with requisite expertise of various kinds.

Now, this essay is not about the freeness or fairness of the 2011 elections, as I am not qualified to pontificate on that matter. But when it comes to putting X and Y to get Z, then I have a few things to say in this regard.

To begin with, I am not sure if there will ever be a forensic team of investigators whose job is to dissect the elections and tell INEC how it can do better in 2015; which is a shame. By investigation, I am not asking for one of those committees full of ex-this and former-that; whose terms of reference is to compile a list of dos and don'ts. I am asking for a team of experts who will go out there and conduct real case studies in every theatre of election, especially where things went wrong. We need to improve and aspire for total quality, because development cannot take place in stagnation. A good place to start is learning to value data in either quantitative or qualitative forms so that we can use it to develop Nigeria. This is the 21st century. Today, we can take a stone which weights 0.2 kg; throw in the air with a speed of 5m/s; and we can calculate exactly how long it will take the stone to reach a certain height before it falls down due to the force of gravity (9.8m/s2). We can even calculate the impact that such a stone would have if it falls on water, on pavement or on someone’s head.

In fact, today a courier company can take your parcel from Calabar at 11:00am on Monday and assure you that it can deliver it by 04:00pm in California, USA, after 4 working days. They can do this because they have the length of route, mode of transport, cost of fuel, customs clearance and even NEPA blackout all figured out in their operational model. Yet INEC in Nigeria failed to deliver ballot boxes on time or plan for security in Kaduna of all places; a place which has a history of bloodshed. Haba, INEC!

As far as smooth elections are concerned, INEC must learn to standardise and have full control of its operations. INEC must learn to capture all the factors which will produce smooth and safe conduct of elections in Nigeria and represent them (i.e. model them) so that we can work with these variables to arrive at desired results. A model is a representation of a process or a system. It can be conceptual or mathematical or both. Most people recognise mathematical models as 'equations', which is okay, but is a layman’s language. As an example, let us consider a model for Smooth Elections, abbreviated as ‘Se’. In this model, if we want to capture all the variables or factors (both good and bad) that would affect the peaceful and orderly conduct of elections in Nigeria, then these variables could include the following:

Trustworthy Head of INEC (Twh)
Billions of Naira (Bn)
Strategic Planning (Sp)
Reliable Voter Register (Rv)
Logistics and Resources (Lr)
Risk Management (Rm)
Security Lapses (SL)
Ballot box snatching (Bs)
Thuggery and Intimidation (Tx)

By now, especially after the first and second postponements of elections, I expect that Prof. Jega has learnt that Smooth election is NOT equal to: Trustworthy Head of INEC + Billions of Naira.

See Equation 1 below.


However, (especially after its trial and error method of doing things), INEC ought to realise that Smooth election is a function of: Trustworthy Head of INEC + Billions of Naira + Strategic Planning + Reliable Voter Register + Logistics and Resources + Risk Management; all divided by (or all depending on): Security Lapses + Ballot box snatching + Thuggery and Intimidation.

See Equation 2 below.


In short what our simplified model is saying is that smooth elections (Se) in Nigeria is directly proportional to the sum of ‘good variables’ which are: Twh, Bn, Sp, Rv, Lr and Rm. These variables are the numerators (on top) of Equation 2; and as these variables increase, the value of Se in Equation 2 will also increase. A high value of Se, is always desirable if we want to maximise chances of having smooth elections.

But there are some ‘bad variables’ which will negate (i.e. reduce) this value of Se. That is why our model in Equation 2 is also saying that Se is inversely proportional to the sum of bad 'variables' which are: SL, Bs and Tx. These 'bad variables' are the denominators (at the bottom) of Equation 2. Inverse proportion here means that as these ‘bad variables’ increase, the value of Se will be lowered. Or as these 'bad variables' decrease, Se would increase.

So clearly, we would want to minimise (or reduce) the denominators or 'bad variables', so that we can have higher values of numerator; as doing this would result in a maximum value of Se. Or in plain English, if we minimise Security Lapses, Ballot Snatching and Thuggery and Intimidation, then we stand a chance of having smooth equations.

This is a very simplified version of the kind of model INEC is supposed to have, but they do not have, and are probably oblivious to this technique or process. What they achieved with trial and error and by following the 'usual' practice of conducting elections; and what they are now biting their fingers over; could have been easily computed by some mathematical gurus and operations research experts, in the confines of an air-conditioned office, while sipping zobo and watching Nollywood.

By now, plenty of you (readers) are probably wishing you paid more attention to Mr. Boniface, your O-Level mathematics teacher. Mathematics is indeed very sweet and beneficial IF you know its secrets and purpose. At this stage, the simplified model we have is non-dimensional. Later on, one can apply units to the variables. At the end, we would have something like a 'Smooth elections Index' or SEI; which would indicate how smooth elections would be in any state of Nigeria. As such troublesome states like Bauchi would have an SEI of say 0.3, while peaceful states like Kwara would have an SEI of 0.8. A perfect SEI could be equal to 1.0, which may not be practically possible. These are just examples please, so I hope the point is clear.

For all practical purposes, such a model (like Equation 2) can be applied in every location/region of Nigeria. Different states will have different input values for these variables. So for example, whereas in Delta State the emphasis may be on minimising the variable ‘Bs’ (i.e. Ballot snatching); in Kaduna and Bauchi, the most important variable to minimise would be SL (i.e. Security lapses). Similarly, in places like my village where you need a 7-wheel drive, and swallow one mudu of Panadol in advance before you start the journey; variables like Lr (Logistic resources) are clearly of prime importance. With modelling, this is how problems are solved in the real world; and why mistakes are hardly repeated in countries that are serious about development and progress. Our so called leaders travel to these places and marvel that everything works. Why won’t they work when everything is ‘under control’?

In fact, modelling is such a beautiful and flexible tool that if a new circumstance or factor such as Earthquake (God forbid) suddenly appears in Nigeria, then we simply call this variable ‘Ek’ and slot it into the existing model. This means INEC can plan for earthquakes during elections. Life goes on.

So for those of you who have kids, now is the time to make sure they take their maths seriously. It has real world applications. In fact, look around you: EVERYTHING is numbers.

Earlier, I mentioned qualitative data, which unlike quantitative data, cannot be expressed easily with numbers. Such qualitative data usually represent intangible phenomenon like human emotions (disappointment, hope, belief, etc); which are modelled using words and phrases. Afterwards the words and phrases can be interpreted using scales and in this regard, qualitative data are equally important in research and problem-solving. So, as far as INEC and elections are concerned, qualitative data must be captured all over Nigeria. For example, if INEC can carry out surveys on those areas where anger and vexations were rife, they can better understand, the need to educate people on how elections are won. Clearly, some people think because Mr. Wazobia had most votes in their backyard, then that makes him the winner; and so they get upset and resort to all sorts of regressive actions. Qualitative data is also obtained through interviews of stakeholders, focus group meetings, workshops, etc; all of which are valuable feedback mechanisms. INEC should have a team of sociologists whose job is to study people; their perceptions and expectations from elections and tell us how to deal with effects. For every action (e.g. win or lose election) there is an equal and opposite reaction (happiness or disappointment). Issac Newton proved this in the 18th Century.

Qualitatively then, it is not enough for INEC to ask people to register, regulate the campaigns of political parties and finally organise the voting process. INEC also has a duty to understand the behaviour of participants in order to prevent things from getting out of hand. INEC cannot conduct elections and then wash their hands off the fallouts. It must learn to manage expectations by projecting consequences and with adequate enlightenment. INEC has its work cut out and needs to start doing things scientifically. It needs to start making evidence-based decisions as far as utilisation of resources and social engineering are concerned. INEC needs to learn and adopt 'Systems Thinking' in its processes because preparing for, elections, conducting elections; validating results and the fallouts are complex and inter-related undertakings. Operations Research, which by the way is also called Management Science, is the way to go about it.

Our president, I believe is ever ready to support INEC, and in Jega, the organisation has a person of intelligence cum integrity. Now can we join the rest of the world in the 21st Century and move away from the analogue ways of getting things done?

(To be continued).

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