My second voting experience
OF what use was the peace accord signed by the major contenders for the office of the governor of Rivers State if such pact could not stop the fear of violence? It is a big shame that this state finds it hard to remove the clouds of evil hovering over the heads of some people with a devil-may-care attitude and, around its borders. It is also a shame that the perpetrators always vanish into thin air after these acts.
In “My first voting experience”, I stated clearly that it remains to be seen how hot-blooded the gubernatorial elections in Rivers State will be on April 11, 2015 and further asked if Rivers State would ever get its acts right democratically? I was proved right.
Before I left home for the polling station, text messages were strewn round, presumably from the governor of Rivers State asking voters not to go out and exercise their franchise. In the end, it turned out to be a hoax because the governor’s phone numbers were cloned (as clarified later) by mischief-makers – to interfere with the elections, but at whose advantage?
The number of voters in my unit this time was poor, unlike that of the presidential election a fortnight before. Very early in the day, there were numerous cases of ballot box snatching, with police officers all over town hotly pursuing trouble makers, youth corps members beaten yet again, and I wonder why these youngsters bear the burden for a failed system.
Hooligans had a free day shooting in many places, a polling unit as reported was seized by gun-wielding thugs who came to snatch ballot boxes and when a voter tried to take flight for fear, he was fatally wounded by a gunshot.
Many people stayed indoors in many communities, they couldn’t dare to venture out. Some were discouraged from coming out because of the known cases of people killed in cross-fires in their territory. But I won’t be surprised if results were announced for those units. Is this how the political gladiators here hope to take over power from the north and west?
You would be mistaken that this ‘mobocracy,’ took place only in the suburbs of the state. Hundreds of meters away from my unit in the urban area of the state, gangsters managed to shoot and snatched ballot boxes. My young friend gave an account of this hellish experience and swore never to vote again. Who will blame her?
Just like at the previous elections (presidential elections), the voting booth next to mine was not free of rumpus. The party agents, like then, “never worked in sync to ensure a unified election.”
A party agent noticed that an INEC ad-hoc staff was indeed a card-carrying member of a major party wanting to take back power from the party in government and couldn’t understand why he should be involved in this major assignment. I couldn’t comprehend his complaints. Doesn’t one have the right to work for a national agency despite political affiliations, so long as one is not in charge of affairs that may compromise results? Besides, there are other stakeholders there as witnesses.
Members of the audience also fingered the complainant for being an agent of the party in power in Rivers State despite the fact that he pretended to be an agent of a party (established by a deceased statesman who directed a civil war) in government somewhere in the South-East. One couldn’t find fault with these allegations and counter- allegations. They are all members of the same community and know where the loyalty of each member stood. Police officers however suppressed the commotion.
But you would imagine that since people here claim to be more educated than others they always refer to as “backward”, they would synchronize their affairs without commotion and ill-will. One voter behind me couldn’t understand why a “daring” statesman should be given the chance to rule Nigeria again. I was almost tempted to, but was more discreet in telling him that the daring statesman isn’t liable for the indifference displayed by my friends who chose to stay indoors and not vote, unlike elsewhere in other parts of the country where they poured out in droves. That the statesman cannot be accused of promoting the division that has seen non-indigenes pigeon-holed by the indigenes. Are ‘non-indigenes’ not fit to enjoy democratic booties? Was the statesman also responsible for tyre manufacturers, Michelin, folding up and moving its plant out of Rivers State? Could he also have been answerable for the social disorder witnessed in this election in an unprecedented manner? How can he be blamed for the situation where people become sworn enemies for political reasons or get killed for holding differing views? It is so bad that at burial ceremonies now, people sit with party members on designated party sections.
I had planned to wait until results for my units were called, but when I overhead a police officer say to another person on the telephone line somewhere else, “Kuzo da sori kar yaran nan suzo so kwache akwati nan”, literal translation (Hausa) for “come in time so these boys will not come and snatch this box,” I had to rescind the decision.
The officers were indeed overwhelmed. No sooner did he make this call than some police officers drove to the unit and took positions as if we were in a state of war. Pity!
It is obvious that the perpetrators of mayhem in the state do not understand the purpose of seeking elective office and acquiring power thereof, which is “power to love,” and not “love for power.” I was hoping you would ask me if I will ever vote again. I might, only if we become more civilized as a people.
•Abah contributed the piece from Port Harcourt.
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