Nigeria’s 2015 elections got underway today. Nigerians are voting to decide the president that’d lead them from May 29, 2015, and members of the National Assembly. It has been marred with all the usual issues that go with elections in Nigeria, but there was enough space for lovebirds as a young man proposed to his g!rlfriend at one of the polling units. That is not to say there is a love-lust between supporters of the main candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari.
The inability of the INEC card reader to read President Jonathan’s permanent voter’s card will probably help resound the concern of members of his party, the PDP who were always against the use of card readers in this election. It is useful to note that the United States government specifically mentioned that it expected card readers to be used in a call to President Goodluck Jonathan.
It is 2015 ,but you’d have thought the INEC had just six weeks to prepare for this election and not four years. The logistics was generally a mess. The INEC officials mostly arrived late to their polling units. And where they arrived early, there were too many cases of the INEC officials who didn’t even know that they had to remove the seal of the card reader to have it working. We were made to believe all of these people were specifically trained for this purpose.
In Rivers state, it was a total mess. This state was marked as a possible spot for violence, and it did live up to that expectation; but no one could imagine that some 60% of election report sheets would be missing. This prompted a protest from governor Chibuike Amaechi who refused to be accredited. Rivers is the biggest battleground for votes in the South-south.
Across the board, even though there were sketchy reports of violence, it has not been a telling part of the process, and most reports indicate the elections were, as at the time of writing, generally peaceful.
Unofficial results are already trickling in via social media, but we do not have enough results to call it for any of the candidates yet. When the final results are called by the INEC, expect the Election Tribunal to be very busy. The prospective loser of the presidential election will not be short of arguable processes leading up to the final result: the malfunctioning card readers (the most telling way was when president Jonathan’s accreditation was delayed for almost one hour because the device just wouldn’t work), the number of voters that will eventually be disenfranchised because of the late arrival of the INEC officials, and the reported decision of the INEC to ditch the use of card readers as a plan B for a manual accreditation will all prove telling excuses.
There are many positive sides. Nigerians turned out under the rain in Lagos, for instance and under scorching sun in Abuja to express their desire for either continuity, as is the case of those who want president Jonathan to continue in office, or for change, as it is with General Buhari’s supporters. A lot of Nigerians expressed excitement via social media and television interviews as they trooped out to vote. One cannot write about the voter turnout now as the overall numbers are not yet out. Expect the North to dominate this, as is often the case.
The final results, when they eventually get called, will see some embarrassing end points. Gani Adams, the co-founder of the Oodua People’s Congress, who promised to deliver the Southwest to President Jonathan, reportedly lost his own polling unit. His supporters will hope the reports are not true. His embarrassment will not be anywhere close to that of governor Olusegun Mimiko’s, who reportedly lost one of the two voting points in his polling area. As results are not yet official, one cannot produce the crowd sourced ones here. The prospect of seeing some of the loudest campaigners losing their polling units is an interesting one.
This report will not be complete without a reference to the turnout of the people displaced by the insurgency in Borno. The report of a particular IDP camp producing a 108 to 0 result for the APC and the PDP respectively will not even come anywhere as mind-blowing as the turnout of voters themselves. Mind that the results have not yet been confirmed, but the turnout? Inspiring already.
Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman, said that he expected the results to be out within 48 hours – Monday 30th March precisely. Even though the process has not been as violent as expected, the announcement of the final result is certainly more able to induce violence than the voting process itself. There is nothing to celebrate yet; but, if anything at all, one could say so far, so poor on the side of the INEC, and so far, so inspiring on the side of the people’s intention to make their voices and votes count.
Time will tell. These are indeed critical times for Nigeria, and one can only hope the end would eventually justify the means. Nigeria cannot afford to lose too much to elections, as it has already lost too much to b@d governance in the scale of corruption and the number of those killed by terrorists alone. Monday cannot come soon enough.