The Polling Units of Nigeria: The Danger of Working from the Answer to the Question

Posted on: September 15th, 2014

There’s a reason good elementary maths teachers frown on working from the answer to the question. And really, one shouldn’t multiply when one ought to be dividing.

You may have heard of the uproar following INEC’s announcement that it would create new polling units (PUs) across Nigeria.

You may have seen some arguments making the rounds on Facebook, calling for Jega’s resignation on the basis of calculations purporting to show how INEC has favoured Northern Nigeria in creating new PUs.

What INEC has tried to do is establish decongestion of polling units as the basis for creating new ones.

In that light, let us compare the SE zone to FCT. It is true the SE gets 1,167 new PUs, less than the FCT which gets 1,200 new PUs.

But, there really is a reason why one ought not to work from answer to question, nor should one be multiplying where one ought to be dividing.

With a combined total of about 7,178,185 total registered voters in Abia Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states (after deletion of multiple registrations) and with old PUs totaling 15,549 the SE zone would have, on average, 462 voters to each PU.

With the number of 892,628 total registered voters (after deletion of multiple registrations) and with old PUs totaling 562 the FCT would have, on average, 1,588 voters to each PU.

Let’s break it down even further.

Abia was going to have, on average, 519 voters to each PU, but under the new arrangements, the state will have about 460 voters to each PU.

Anambra was going to have, on average, 387 voters to each PU, but under the new arrangements, the state will have about 377 voters to each PU.

Ebonyi was going to have, on average, 571 voters to each PU, but under the new arrangements, the state will have about 461 voters to each PU.

Enugu was going to have, on average, 444 voters to each PU, but under the new arrangements, the state will have 426 voters to each PU.

Imo was going to have, on average, 475 voters to each PU, but under the new arrangements, the state will have 455 voters to each PU.

As I said earlier, the FCT was going to have, on average, 1,588 voters to each PU, but under the new arrangements, the FCT will have 507 voters to each PU.

We see then that even with the new, additional PUs, congestion per polling unit in the FCT is still higher than anywhere in the SE.

Anambra, the most populous state in SE, with 1,784,536 total registered voters will now have, at the most and on average, 377 voters queuing outside each PU, the lowest in the SE!

That’s much lower than the 507 voters in the FCT, which has but 50% of Anambra’s population of registered voters. Anambra has more voters than the FCT but the congestion in Anambra is going to be far, far less than in FCT!

I think Jega’s job is hard enough but the people who, welded to some kind of allocation logic, criminally misuse maths only make an already difficult job nigh impossible.

Let’s leave aside allocation mathematics for a while and give nomads and indigenous people the due regard, and let’s do that based on what Jega actually said, not based on voodoo mathematics which attempt to conjure hysteria out of AIT summaries.

All figures used in the calculations are as published in the table at the end of the ThisDay report .

I also fact checked INEC’s figures against what’s in the WANGONeT archives.

The only discrepancy is that INEC gives the number of old PUs in Imo state as 3,523 while the archives show 3,521.

For those who are willing to use a pencil, paper and simple calculator or the powerful tools on their smart devices to go over all the numbers and come to their own conclusions, kindly share your results so that anyone who’s made a mistake, as I might, can correct.

For independent fact checking of the numbers provided by INEC, you could use some of WANGONeT’s numbers through this tool.

Use the dropdown menu in the box next to ‘State’ and scroll till you find the state you want. Alternatively, use the map to navigate.

If you’ve never heard about WANGONeT’s use of IT tools in its electoral watchdog role, see this story in Reuters, published in the lead up to the 2011 elections.

Actually, if anything at all, with the new drive, INEC has seized an opportunity to clean up its data and logistics, moving Nigeria closer to credible elections.

Those who call for Jega’s job are the same ones who bemoan our history of flawed elections. Tribalism, parochialism, irredentism can take good intentions and a perfectly sound, well-educated mind and turn that to the ends of self-destruction and socio-political instability.

Wallahi! For want of numeracy, some people are going to try to burn down the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. O ye self-identified, arrogant southerners, Boko Haram doesn’t have to detonate one bomb in the South if mental slothfulness, a belief in ‘the’ monolithic North accompanied by knee-jerk distrust have already blown our brains to smithereens.

by: Adebiyi Olusolape

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