Our features desk felt the pulse of the nation in the last 72 hours and reports a possible tale of the unexpected. GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT SNR reports with additional report from JOY EKEKE.
Tension, apprehension, insecurity and anxiety, key factors that necessitated the shifting of the presidential and National Assembly polls from February 11 to March 28 still hung over the polity nationwide before, during and 24 hours after the protracted elections that dragged from Saturday 28 to Sunday 29 March, 2015.
Perhaps, because of the resolve by ‘unconnected’ Nigerians frustrated and worn out by 16 years of retrogression, poverty and hopelessness compounded by insecurity, especially in parts of the North, everyone tried to play down the tension within and without. The determination and disappointment can be deduced from this lamentation of 86-year-old Pa Adio Mosanya of Agege:
“The change has been long overdue; everyone wanted it so badly that Nigerians struggled against all hitches in the system to make sure we vote: registration- for-registration, PVC-for-PVC, but the system managed to disenfranchise us. For the first time since our democracy, I could not vote because INEC denied me my PVC with every trick under the sun.”
The old fellow was not alone in the PVC debacle. According to statistics, more people were disenfranchised through the mishandling of the PVC distribution. The past three days also showed how the mechanisms employed by INEC technically or deliberately disenfranchised those who succeeded in obtaining their PVCs.
But nothing in Nigerian is easy sailing. Among the electorate longing for and pushing for the change was an overwhelming multitude working against the change. For a crumb of free bread they were ready to forget the sorrows of the last 16 years. This was attested to by the many things that went wrong and many more that went unreported during Saturday and Sunday elections nationwide. “It was obvious the election was not going to be smooth sailing,” said another disenfranchised senior citizen, David Odedokun.
“INEC had all the time for preparation but Jega did not put square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes within his workforce and administration. It was not impossible to have managed the PVC distribution accurately, but cracks in INEC’s walls were one too many.” One analyst mentioned the presence of fifth columnists in Jega’s administration, noting that after all, Jega is not omnipresent. It would be recalled that months before the elections, Immigration and Customs officials had apprehended about 20 Togolese at the border with PVCs bearing Nigerian names. This happened at a period when crashed INEC laptops containing registered voters disenfranchised millions of eligible voters, including journalists and senior citizens across the country.
So how did Togolese get hold of PVC carrying names and photographs of Nigerians? What were they going to do with the cards in their country?
The election malady Also, signs that the results of the presidential election would not be conclusive started with reports of INEC’s card reading machines malfunctioning at the point of use. INEC had made no provision for IT men to be drafted to each Local Government Area. Mr. Salami Ibrahim who arrived at the polling unitat six in the morning told Daily Times how it felt to be disappointed.
“I have been here since 6a.m.I waited four hours before they came only to find that their card readers are not working. I am really disappointed in INEC because they had all the time to be prepared for this election.” Sixty-four-year-old Madam Bukola Abiola, who spoke to Daily Times in Yoruba said, “If it’s not that this vote is important, I won’t have come out, but I just have to because it’s my right to vote.”
An ad-hoc staff of INEC described the situation as a general one, adding that INEC is working hard to resolve the problem. “This card reader is a general problem and we are working hard to resolve it. We may have to use the manual system if we can’t resolve the problem.” Mrs. Ngozie Okoli’s concern is the disenfranchisement of willing voters.“The problem now is that there is a massive voter turnout here but the card readers are not working.
“Am not even angry about the lateness of the INEC officials but my main concern now is for the card readers to work and we should conduct the election in a peaceful manner. How can you turn up late in a serious matter like this and then your equipment are not working?” She lamented. At Udu Council in Warri, Delta State, voters waited all Saturday in vain with no sign of INEC officials.
Report reached the community late evening that thugs had waylaid and forcibly taken away voting materials. Daily Times gathered that fights broke out again on Sunday when INEC showed up at the same centre as people fought to take possession of voting materials and card reader, so most people fled to the safety of their homes.
One of the reports from Obiaruku, the Local Government Headquarters of Ukwani LGA in Ndokwa East in Delta State says:
“The crowd was too much in the morning, so I went back and returned late afternoon,” a senior citizen of the town, Mr. Sunday Ozim, told Daily Times in a telephone chat. “But I met some people carrying bottles and fighting here and there, the cause of it was not known. I don’t want to go (die) with election problems so I returned to my house.” That was the story in many centres in that council. The report that 136 youths found with valid and cloned PVCs in the state governor’s foundation in Imo State was played down because the youths are the governor’s ‘boys’.