A woman was first to arrive the polling station
Nigerians are really out for a change during this 2011 election. Men and women waited patiently at the polling station for the accreditation to commence and even waiting for the voting after everyone had been accredited. This is a sign that we are working toward a better future and are determined to have a credible, free and fair election.
I took about 15min walk to polling station I was assigned to observe the election with the mindset that no one may be there yet, but I was wrong. The school compound which was the polling station was already filled with people both men and women. The House of Representatives and Senate election which was scheduled for the day was supposed to start by 8.ooam but by 8.15am when I got there, the INEC officials had not arrived. My colleague was there before me because he lives much closer to the station. He said, ‘when I got here around 7.30am, I met a Hausa woman and the gate man, I was surprised. I said to her, madam so your husband allowed you to came out this early morning, she said, I just want vote quick and go back home.’
As we wait for the inec officials to arrive, electorates formed different groups, all discussing the topic of the day. I turned m attention to one of the groups and listened to their arguments and analysis of our leaders. There I learnt that the annual salary of one of Nigeria’s law makers is more that the salary of Obama, the president of the richest country in the world. ‘They have fat salary yet, they find it so hard to approve the minimum wage of only N18, 000.00,’ said of them. As they tried to classify how to choose a credible candidate who is to represent their community, the argument became tough, one of them, a party agent said, ‘we need someone who live and schooled in the community, who know the problems on ground and is approachable to all. Another said, ‘if you choose that way, you may choose the wrong people because, the person may live within the community yet do not have solution and strategies to address the problems.’ The argument continued until the gate was widely open for the car to drive in and it was the inec officials. Everyone stood up to form a line to begin the business of the day. The police officers were on duty to assist maintain peace and orderliness.
I proceed to the presiding officer to find out all I need to fill the observer’s form before the processes begins. In a few minute, the officials were ready and accreditation started in the two polling stations within the school. Out of 630 who registered in the first polling station, only 209 came for accreditation and in the second station, only 259 were accredited out of 868 that registered for the election.
The voting process had started, at about 1pm, the rumour came in that the election has been suspended till Monday because a lot of station did not receive the election materials on time. I got the message and called some of my colleagues in other polling unit to confirm and it was the same news. I called the attention of the police to confirm from their officer. Some of the inec officials had heard and was waiting for confirmation and finally it was confirmed and it was announced to all.
At this point the peaceful atmosphere turned noisy, there was almost a chaos. Electorates demanded that the ballot papers that have been used be torn in their presence so as to avoid rigging of the election or be counted. The police and the inec officers were able to control the situation by suggesting that the party agents and a respected community stakeholder follow them to the office to decide on the next step. This suggestion was accepted and everyone when home.
As I listened to the chairman of inec, Prof. Jega on TV, he apologized to Nigerians for the suspension of the election in between the process. He said, that the tsunami in Japan and the fight in Libya contributed to the reason materials did not arrived earlier as scheduled. Since the election materials were produced outside the country, the vendors promised to deliver the materials as the agreed day and time but because of the crisis in Japan and Libya, the aircraft which could have been used to deliver the materials to all the various states in Nigeria was used to evacuate people for safety. The election was suspended till Monday and this again caused a lot of controversies, by Sunday evening, there was another breaking News by the inec chairman. He said, after today’s meeting with the political parties leaders, it has been agreed and signed that the Monday election for the National Assembly elections be held on Saturday, 9th and the presidential on Saturday, April 16, while gubernatorial and the state assembly elections will hold on Tuesday, April 26.
The masses felt that the inec chairman is not prepared for this election and that he has plans to rig the election but many stakeholders and religious leaders have commend the action of the inec chairman for talking Nigerians the truth.
I am also of the opinion that the inec chairman has good plans for the country. For me he is a bold and strong man to have suspended the election immediately he discovered that the results sheets were not available. Mistakes have a way of correcting us, if we do not blame it on another person. It was also good that the election was canceled because some of the political parties complained that their logo was omitted in the ballot paper. This will now be corrected in the new one that will be used. It is also oblivious that the fear of using the last Saturday ballot paper for rigging is solved since a new one will be produced.
Though the number of those who came out to vote did not equate the numbers that registered for the election, I saw commitment and determination in those that came out to vote. Nigerians are really out to exercise their civic rights by casting their vote for their own candidate. They are very willing to protect their vote.
I really hope they all come out again on the 9th to cast their vote and not get discouraged by the past experience. I will let you know the outcome of our elections.