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30 Mar 2018

2015 Poll: How U.S. data firm organised anti-election rallies to stop Buhari

More revelations emerged yesterday on the extent Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data firm hired by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for two million Pounds to sway the 2015 elections in its favour, went to stop then candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, the SCL Group, boasted that it had influenced voters across the world – including organising “anti-election rallies” in Nigeria to discourage people from turning out at the polling unit.

The SCL Group documents submitted by whistleblower Christopher Wylie and released by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee yesterday revealed the company speaking of its “international experience” in political research citing work on multiple foreign elections.

The political consultancy used its analysis of Nigerian voters to “advise that rather than trying to motivate swing voters to vote for our clients, a more effective strategy might be to persuade opposition voters not to vote at all – an action that could be easily monitored”.

“This was achieved by organising anti-election rallies on the day of polling in opposition strongholds,” the text said.

SCL said that it had identified ahead of Latvian elections that “unspoken ethnic tensions between the indigenous Latvians and the Russian immigrant population” were “at the heart of the election”.

“The locals secretly blamed the Russians for stealing their jobs, for the crime and for the other social problems vocally attributed to the economy,” the document said.

“Armed with this knowledge, SCL was able to reflect these real issues in its client’s messaging,” it said.

In another example, SCL said that “covertly organised” rallies at universities in Indonesia were used as a method to help prevent civil war in the late 1990s.

Last week, British  newspaper The Guardian, in a report, said an Israeli firm hacked into President Muhmmadu Buhari’s private email and gave the maerials it took from there to Cambridge Analytica for use against the then opposition candidate.

The report said some of the information obtained included materials on Buhari’s health status.

The firm organised “a ferocious anti Buhari campaign,” it added.

“Initially, the government was nervous of large rallies, fearing that the strategy might encourage widespread disobedience. But the rallies were peacefully conducted and the students became confident that their message was being heard,” the case study said.

“Almost immediately the civil unrest that had been escalating dissipated and no serious civil disobedience was reported throughout the election process which saw the invitation of the Muslim cleric, Abdurrahman Wahid, to the Presidency.”

The document also features claims about its work on elections in Kenya, Colombia, Italy, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago and St Kitts and Nevis, as well as a series of polls in India.

On its website, SCL Group says it has “conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries” over the course of more than 25 years.

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