Thank God the election was peaceful
GOING by the reports coming from across the country, last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly election was peaceful.
This was contrary to the vicious permutations that blood would flow in many parts of the country. Nigeria can boldly count one successful round while waiting for the last and final round on April 11, for the governorship and state assembly election.
If the evil projections went as predicted, by now, most parts of the country would have been engulfed in crisis. People would have been running helter-skelter in different directions for safety. But thank God, Nigerians want peace. We can patiently wait for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce the results. While Nigerians should maintain the prevailing peace, the security agencies should remain on alert to forestall troubles that may arise when the results are announced.
This country is bigger and above parochial interest of any individual or group. All the contestants are Nigerians; therefore, whoever wins should be accepted and supported. As a matter of fact, millions of Nigerians went to the polls without fear or intimidation. The desire to vote superseded the fear that was generated.
Expectedly, a few incidents occurred in a few places. There was bomb scare in Enugu and Awka, with no casualties. In Bauchi, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram fighters launched attack at sundry election facilities in Kirfi and Alkaleri polling centre and killed some people.
The election did not stop because of the dastardly attack. Serious skirmishes were also reported in Rivers State, where the election is being discredited by some people. For instance, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) is calling for the cancellation of the poll, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) objected. Reports say a soldier and at least two other people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a polling centre. In Osun State, two people were reported killed by alleged political thugs. Three people were arrested.
A man slumped and died after being accredited at a polling unit in Ibarapa Central Local Government Area of Oyo State. Apart from these and a few minor cases, the overall conduct of the election was peaceful. It was also free and fair in most places across the country. Some international observers have acknowledged that the election went beyond their expectation.
Both the ECOWAS and African Union (AU) observer teams have commended Nigerians, INEC and security agencies for a peaceful poll. They described the election as transparent, successful and credible.
While the former Ghanaian president, John Kufuor led the ECOWAS team, the AU was led by Mr. Amos Sawyer, former president of Liberia. Both men said the process so far met the basic criteria and standards of democratic elections in regions around the world despite the initial hiccups encountered. By these testimonies, Nigeria may have scored a high point in democratic experiment.
If the results as counted and recorded at the various polling units in the presence of voters are captured by INEC without being doctored, the election would pass as sufficiently credible. There was no intimidation of voters. The debate deployment of soldiers before the election did not present any problem. The soldiers were not seen around the polling booths. Instead, there were unarmed policemen at the polling stations. People trooped out freely as early as 7a.m. to begin accreditation at 8a.m, as announced by INEC even though, in most places, INEC staff began to arrive from 9 a.m. The late arrival of INEC is an old problem that has recurred in the past elections. One may ask why it is so.
The reason is that lateness has become part of the culture in Nigeria. This culture permeates our life and sociology. It is captured in what is called “African time,” which is widely understood to mean the time after the actual time. Hence, in Nigeria, if an event is scheduled for say 9a.m, people will begin to prepare from 9a.m, knowing full well that the event won’t start until 12noon.
And if you are there, you would observe that the event could not start at 9 a.m. In Nigeria, people go late to work, school, appointments, meetings, events, in fact, practically, everything without qualms. Therefore, when INEC said accreditation would start at 8a.m, they expected people to start coming from 9a.m, which explains why they started coming at that time. But because the day was devoted to nothing but election, people started trooping to the polling stations as early as 7a.m. because people were enthusiastic and had nothing else to do. The issue of “African time” is a cankerworm, which must be stamped out to enhance national development.
Time, they say, is money. INEC should endeavour to keep to time in order to maintain its integrity. The greatest problem encountered during the polls in some polling booths was the “failure” of the card reader. It was not clear whether the problem was due to faulty devise or operational hitches of the devise. The hiccups obviously caused delay in some places and even led to the continuation of the election the following Sunday. The high point was the delayed authentication of President Goodluck Jonathan’s finger prints at his Otuoke polling booth in Bayelsa State.
The President could not vote until around 3p.m. Nevertheless, instead of raising the alarm and condemning INEC, as some governors were voicing out, he appealed to Nigerians to be patient. His presidential posturing at the polling booth must have helped to douse the tension in the few places where the problem manifested.
Following the card reader challenge, INEC quickly directed that manual accreditation should be used wherever the card reader failed. Even at that, Professor Attahiru Jega, chairman of INEC pointed out that only 374 card readers or 0.025 per cent malfunctioned out of the total number used in the election. Jega described it as “statistically insignificant”.
Whereas, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle has applauded INEC for using the Permanent Voter Card (PVC), it is sad that some people, including prominent politicians have continued to mount opposition to the card reader, describing it as fraud, mess, sham and things like that, without considering it as positive innovation.
This group doesn’t see anything good with the card reader. But President Jonathan, notably, acknowledged that the card reader is a welcome innovation introduced by INEC to improve on the electoral process. Nigeria’s leadership role would further manifest when other African countries start copying Nigeria’s electoral instruments to improve theirs.
Nigerians should be happy that the years of fraudulent elections, in which thugs had a field day, and favoured individuals were foisted on the polity with impunity are numbered. Rather than vilify Professor Attahiru Jega and INEC, the electoral umpire should be commended for his audacity, focus and proactive disposition. Granted that there were hitches in a few places, overall, the election has been adjudged good and may be better than the 2011 polls! It would be foolhardy and unrealistic to expect 100 per cent perfection in the poll. Nigerians should accept the outcome of the poll and look forward to future improvements.