As the 2023 presidential election approaches, a United Kingdom (UK) newspaper, The Guardian, has published a report detailing how a defunct British consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica and a foreign hacker attempted to sabotage the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, which produced President Muhammadu Buhari.
The report was published on Thursday, February 16, with the headline “Dark arts of politics: how ‘Team Jorge’ and Cambridge Analytica meddled in Nigerian election.
The report explained how a team of hackers spearheaded by one “Jorge” alongside Cambridge Analytica masterminded an attempt to manipulate and propel Goodluck Jonathan into power after he had lost the election.
In a confidential email, Cambridge Analytica was tasked with securing coverage of what would benefit Jonathan’s election campaign and discredit the challenger, All Progressives Congress candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the report, Team Jorge was responsible for “opposition research” or finding the material that could be leveraged to undermine Buhari.
The report added that an Israeli hacker, Jorge Tal Hanan, known to specialise in hacking and disinformation, worked secretly on more than 33 “presidential-level” election campaigns on behalf of clients.
"A reply to Hanan’s email asking who to meet in Nigeria was sent by Brittany Kaiser, a young Cambridge Analytica employee.
“Kaiser copied in the firm’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, and several other internal and external partners coordinating with one another on the covert campaign to re-elect Jonathan and discredit his rival, the then-opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari", the report said.
“If you are on the ground, please meet with SCL [Cambridge Analytica] Nigeria team,” she told Hanan.
“But the emails reveal the covert methods that were used to boost his electoral fortunes and how two teams specialising in the dark arts of political persuasion liaised with one another, with meetings in London, the Swiss resort of Davos and the Nigerian capital, Abuja...” the UK Guardian report added.
However, according to the report, there is no indication that Jonathan knew of either Cambridge Analytica or Team Jorge’s ultimately failed attempts to get him re-elected.
“Communications appear to have occurred on encrypted Hushmail accounts or special devices used for secure phone calls.
“Perhaps most significantly, they answer a mystery that had endured since 2018, when the Guardian and Observer first reported how an 'Israeli contractor' had supplied Cambridge Analytica staff working on the Nigerian election with confidential material apparently stolen from the Buhari campaign.”
The report also alleged a case of cyber-attack on the mobile phones of APC members on the day of the election, with the present Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said to be “the target”.
Tal Hanan also referred to “a big scandal”, which contributed to the decision to postpone the 2015 election.
In a slideshow called “What we do”, he showed a slide with the heading: “Wreaking havoc during African election day”, followed by a screengrab from a newspaper article that appeared in Vanguard, a reputable media outlet, which reported how on election day, leaders in Buhari’s APC discovered their phones were rendered useless because they were bombarded with calls.”
Hanan also said the Jorge Team planned the extension of the presidential election announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over alleged security concerns due to the Boko Haram Insurgency.
“They extended the election, which was our objective,” Hanan disclosed.
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