By Kingsley Amatanweze and Chukwuemeka Ajah
Engineering students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka recorded a landmark achievement recently, with the use of an electronic voting system in their union’s general election. The e-voting system checkmated rigging, double voting and facilitated quick release of the poll result.
Excited students of the Nigerian University Engineering Students Association (NUESA) chapter of the school, celebrated the innovation which was designed, programmed and deployed by fellow students.
The result of the poll, which was adjudged credible, led to the emergence of Nzubechukwu Odenigbo as Secretary General; Laura Amajuoyi (Vice President), while Joshua Dike, 500-level Mechanical Engineering, defeated two other contestants, Kingsley Ugwu and Johnson Ochiaka, to become the President of NUESA.
Campus Sun learnt that the e-voting system was championed by Godwin Nwangele, 400-level Electrical Engineering and Augustine Obele, 200-level, Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering. While Godwin was the Electoral Committee Chairman, Augustine was the computer programmer, who wrote the programmes, designed and managed the voting site.
The entire voting process was done online, making it possible for legitimate students of the faculty to vote even from the comfort of their hostels, classrooms, and from anywhere, within the stipulated time for the election, without queuing for physical accreditation and voting. There was no case of intimidation of voters because the electorates could vote in their rooms or other isolated locations.
The students also explained that the e-voting system curbed electoral irregularities and ballot stuffing. To ensure that only accredited students of the faculty voted, the electoral committee asked that every class representative in the faculty should provide class members’ information, which the e-voting engineer used to generate peculiar voting password for every student.
Students received their voting passwords via text messages on their mobile phones. While other departments complied with the directive, it was gathered, that the Civil engineering department supplied the committee with fake students’ information. It was alleged that they did so to sabotage the electronic voting, as they had strongly opposed the new system.
As a result, the students of the department of Civil Engineering were disqualified from voting in the election. This sanction, however, received the approval of the Head of department of Civil Engineering and that of the Dean of Faculty of Engineering too.
The website was designed in such a way that when a student votes, his registration number would indicate on the site for public view but the candidate he voted for could only be accessed by the site administrators. At the end of the voting, the results were presented to the Dean of the Faculty for confirmation, before they were announced.
One of the contestants, Miracle Nebo, 200-level Civil Engineering, explained that the electronic voting was a huge success, despite the initial opposition from some quarters. She however believed that the absolute disenfranchisement of her departmental students marred her chances at the polls.
The e-voting programmer, Augustine Obele, explained further:
“The whole e-voting idea was initiated to make the electoral process hitch- free and transparent. Students of Civil Engineering department were disenfranchised because they seriously tried to sabotage the electronic voting method. They actually wanted it to fail so they could gloat over the committee’s failure. So they supplied the electoral committee wrong information of their students.”
On the major challenges observed during the election, he said, was the skeptical attitude of some students, coupled with poor internet connectivity.
“People thought the process would fail, but it came out a success. Internet connectivity was another major challenge, more people could have voted, ” he said.
He explained that the election recorded the highest number of voters in the faculty’s elections in recent time.
One of the class representatives of the Civil Engineering department, Malachi Ugwoke, 400-level, adjudged the electronic voting as a welcome development and a big success. He blamed an unidentified student for attempting to truncate the process.
He said, “The student, who was one of the presidential candidates, was handed the department’s list to submit to the electoral committee by the departmental president, but he went and doctored the list. He tried to make it possible for his supporters to vote so many times, by repeatedly putting particular phone numbers against other students name on the class lists”.
The Chairman of the electoral body, Godwin Nwangele, expressed fulfillment with the innovation and also disclosed the readiness of the university to adopt the e-voting system in the forthcoming SUG general elections.
A student, Anthony Asadu, 400-level Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, described the electronic voting process as simple, fair and successful.