Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nigerian Elections 2015 - Would Our Votes Really Count?

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By Onyinye Orabuike

I got registered for the INEC voters’ card today, finally. I feel very good because they told us that today is to be the last day of registration at the districts and any one that failed to register there would have to do so at the local government INEC office.

I had an important appointment for today but had to postpone it so that I could leave early. My husband was at the venue as early as six o’clock to put down our names. I couldn’t go that early because I had to drop the children in school. Just as I left the school, my husband called and said I should come to the venue immediately as there was a new development.

When I got there it was nothing really. The INEC officers were yet to arrive. A middle aged man who I found out was a party agent kept assuring us that they are on the way and would soon arrive.  Argument was raging on over which of lists should be used. A woman insisted that all the lists were fictitious because she came as early as 5.30 am and met 47 names already on the list despite that there were only a handful of people around.

Finally they arrived, a young man in NYSC uniform and another dressed in black, with thick moustache like an Alfa. The party agent I noticed earlier came over and announced that women should form one line while men should form another by the side.

I was somewhere at the front when this announcement was made, I didn’t know how it happened but I managed to find myself way behind on the queue a few minutes later. The sun had risen and the heat was unbearable, even to remain on the queue was a tug of war as many people were still struggling to squeeze in.

The bearded young man in jeans and black shirt came to address us. He began by saying that if we liked we should listen, and if we choose to keep on making noise we would only be making things difficult for ourselves and not for him. The voices gradually died down as he continued to talk. He explained that he would begin registering people on the queue but that would be when he was done registering the remaining names on yesterday’s list.

Several voices rose in protest but he quickly added that he closed yesterdays registration very late but because people were still remaining so he asked them to put down their names so he  would begin with them the next day. Thinking back, he wasn’t abusive but his attitude managed to convey the felling that he may as well be addressing a bunch of secondary school students.

Finally, it was my turn, and I was surprised that the man with beard wasn’t even the one doing the registration. With that much crowd you would have expected at least five people but I saw only one laptop on the table, with a youth copper seated behind. He was the only one registering people, while the bearded man was busy collecting new list of names from the party agent and another lady seated beside them.

Once or twice the NYSC official made some half-hearted protest, telling him that he will not collect any new names from him. I saw the anger and frustration on the faces of men and women under the scorching sun as they watched from a distance. They knew they were being played but couldn’t do anything about it. Most of them have been queuing up under the sun for the past two or three days.

Another man sat opposite the bearded man on the table, and as I watched he brought a piece of paper and began to hurriedly copy out names and phone numbers from his cell phone and I wondered what kind of list it was.

I saw a lot of ‘James bond’ moves happening before my eyes and each time any of the people further down on the queue complain about the irregularities , the beaded man in black would insist with righteous indignation that he was still calling out only those from his list of yesterday. I asked myself, if ordinary voters’ registration is like this, what will happen on the Election Day. Would our votes really count?

The NYSC fellow was still taking the biometrics of the man in front of me when his computer went off. What happened?  They said the place was too stuffy and the heat was much because of the number of people hanging around the equipments, and that was why the system went off. They stooped everything and began to force the people backwards. It sounded like a joke.

I am not a computer expert but I have never heard of a computer going off as result of crowd standing near it. I once had an old laptop that my husband nicknamed Methuselah. It was a very old model and I used it for years, but not even once did it go off as a result of heat.

The computer came up again a couple of minutes later and I was able to get registered. My details, biometrics and picture were taken but I was told we would not get the card that day because their ink has finished.

They had told us earlier that today is the last day of registration on our district and I wondered where and how we would get the voters card when it is printed, perhaps we would have to go to the local government INEC office to pick it up. I didn’t want to let that bother me now.

The question on my mind as I made my way home was, is it really worth anything, does our votes really count. I really wish that our votes will count in the 2015 election.

Photo Credit - developmentdiaries.com

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