Greg Abolo, (NIGERIA MOMENT). Kano –
It has often been said that elections in Nigeria have always been issues concluded for the electorate by a few strong men, most times, in the wee hours of the morning, and the rigmarole of voting, counting and winning is done to fulfill all righteousness and for the people to affirm that yes, they got what they believed they wanted, or at least something close to it. When they seemingly feel cheated, with a few riots here and there, court processes hither and thither , finally in the end, life goes back to normal, winners take their loot while losers lick their wounds and the nation moves on, till the next four year ritual once again.
This routine that has been a part of our national life has suddenly been punctured with the introduction of the Card reader into our voting culture by the outgoing government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, who opened his eyes and agreed to the introduction of the smart Card reader under his watch knowing fully that it could signal the exit of his own administration by aborting his second term bid.
Not to worry. He preferred to be on the side of history, rather than swim against it’s tide. Posterity has recorded him as the most selfless politician in the annals of Nigerian history,who willingly conceded defeat, called the winner and offered his congratulations, hours before the final vote count was done to the consternation of an entire nation and a pleasant surprise to the global community. This unprecedented moved has calmed frayed nerves and beaten every Nigerian to the path of infectious peace for the first time after an election that in the past was source of blood spilling and threats of military coups ,religious and civil wars that often led to mind boggling carnage.
With this his singular masterstoke, the penchant for expensive litigation over election matters would witness a steep decline as greater and more efficient use of the Card reader when faithfully implemented, improved and expanded, would eventually give us a One Card solution to Biometrics in voting, personal identity, bank details, international passport and driver’s license.
Nigerians would then be known to the hamlet and domicility. On the other hand, this patriotic move has caused disquiet in many a political circle. The idea of votes truly counting has upset those who ordinarily would profit from electoral chaos. This has been apparent in the emotional outbursts found in certain strongmen who still wish to dictate to the electorate who their choice must be, invariably, the choice of the strongman.
To achieve this, rumors are rife that in Edo State where civil servants have not been able to adequately draw their salaries in many months , we’ve heard of voters receiving between ten to fifteen thousand naira to vote for a particular party, just to enhance the chances of a particular set of politicians at the federal level now that President Elect Muhammadu Buhari is waiting in the wings to take over from the outgoing President Jonathan, come May 29, 2015. Mr Buhari’s Party governs at the State level in Edo State.
Worse still is the allegation that a certain Chief was said to have invoked the gods of the land to strike dead those who refuse to vote for his party that will soon form the federal government. He was obviously drawing on the innate fear in the people who fear household gods more than God Almighty, due to entrenched superstitious beliefs. An example of this had already been laid by the Oba of Lagos, who himself can trace the origin of his monarchy to the ancient Edo kingdom, whose first Oba (king) called Ado was an Edo prince.
The tape of the Oba’s threat to the Igbo community in Lagos to vote for nobody else but his preferred APC gubernatorial candidate, or be prepared to drown in the lagoon as he would pour libations into the waters and activate the spirits to swallow whoever decided not to vote his choice candidate.
Using fear to intimidate voters is now the vogue since the purchase of electoral officers to write doctored results is beginning to disappear faster than one can think, and the Card reader has given power to who it really belongs to, the electorate. The people now have the power to hire and fire at will.
It is now left for the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that every adult Nigerian above 18 years to possess a voter’s Card for voting in an ongoing registration process. The next step would be to make the Card truly an online instrument and for voting to be mobile, making the process of voting wherever one was at any given time, a reality. It can be done.
Written by Greg Abolo, a Public Affairs Analyst.