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The blues of last Saturday’s elections

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Some youth playing football after casting their vote in Lagos PHOTO: SUNDAY AKINLOLU


Last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone with the victors celebrating, while the losers lick their wounds and ponder the next move to remain relevant till the next four years.While the elections were holding, some comical, humane and sometimes funny activities went on, ranging from the unimaginable to the bizarre.Across the country, there were tales of absurd and unthinkable scenes and incidents within and outside polling/collation centres by people of various ages, socio-economic and political strata abound.

Entrepreneurship Of The Average Nigerian On Display
By Daniel Anazia, Ijeoma Thomas-Odia and Maria Diamond
The Executive Director of Partners West Africa, Nigeria (PWAN), Kemi Okenyodo, was struck by the “economy” around the elections, where the entrepreneurial nature of Nigerians was glaring, as they sold kunu, soft drinks, buns and rented chairs for voters to seat, among others.
“As an observer in the field, I saw how people were also disenfranchised. They had their voters’ cards, they checked their names, using the links provided by CSO and INEC and their names were not on the physical register.

“There was a young woman who was with a three-month-old baby, who told me she left home about 8:00am and about 3:00pm, she was going back home disappointed after going to six polling units in Gwarimpa and was not able to vote. Her case was not an isolated case, as there were quite a number of people with similar experiences.”

For human rights lawyer with the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), who was an election observer, Mrs. Bukky Afolabi-Osidibo: “One thing that stood out for me was when I wanted to administer a questionnaire on a man who had casted his vote and after exchanging pleasantries with him and asked if he had voted, he responded by showing me the inked part of his finger with a positive affirmation.

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“When I said I had some questions for him, he said if I will offer him money, as he will not say a word free, adding: ‘I will be 60 years the same year Nigeria will be 60, I don’t have any support from anyone or government. I am a mechanic, there should be some money set aside to buy tools for people like us to help our businesses and give us space to do our work, so we can provide adequately for our family without having to depend on anyone for survival.

“Go back and tell them that is what I said and that is what we need.”For some voters at polling units in Oke-Afa Ilamoshe Estate Isolo area of Lagos, it was a time to make new friends. Ikenna Igwe said: “I was excited about the scenario of the exercise, as I met people of like minds. I remember reminiscing the entire incident of the day while in bed later at night.

“There was this older man, who, while we were waiting and the INEC officials were trying to settle in and get started, but were whispering something amongst themselves, looking disturbed, screamed in Igbo language: “Bia nde INEC (come INEC officials), whatever you people want to discuss, say it out loud for everyone to hear, whatever you are whispering is not solely your business; it is everyone’s business. N’gwanu (alright), speak out.”

He beckoned to them and everyone supported him and we all insisted they told us what the problem was; that the ballot paper had not arrived, but the truth was that they actually forgot it. So, we insisted nobody would cast any vote there that day unless they had everything needed available for free and fair elections,” he said.

Okwanuzo Nwanneri, a 27-year-old lady, described her experience as one-in-a-lifetime. “I came back from Delta State to Lagos just to vote, because I registered in Lagos before my cousin helped me with a job in Delta and I moved there. For some reasons, I couldn’t change my voting location, so I decided to seize the opportunity to also see my parents here in Lagos.

“However, at the polling unit, I met my first boyfriend. We lost contact after secondary school when he had to go abroad to study and, as God would have it, he also came back to Nigeria for a break and decided to follow his dad to the polling unit. “We were both so excited and he introduced me to his dad. He insisted I go with him to their house after voting and I did. The next day, Sunday, he called and came over to my parent’s house and asked if I was in any serious relationship and the answer of course was a ‘no’ and that was it. He asked me to marry him and I accepted without hesitation.

“So, I will never forget last Saturday, because it changed my story.” At the popular Sansiro field located on Joseph Adegboye Street in Isuti, Igando, a Lagos suburb, as early as 7:00 am, youths of eligible voting age gathered at the football playing ground to play what is well known as ‘set.’

When The Guardian approached some of them to know if they would vote, they said there was no point voting as the winner had already been decided. As one of them, who simply identify him as Deola, put it: “There is no point going to waste my time queuing to vote when the winner is already known.

“Whether I vote or not, the INEC knows who will win, because the election will be rigged. Again, those we vote for don’t even know us, but here we know ourselves and this only thing (football) that unites us as people.” In Alapere area of Agboyi, Ketu, a man in his late 50s, in a comical way like a town crier, called out residents to come out and exercise their voting rights.

In Rivers, Survival Instinct Is Key
By Chuks Nwanne
SOMEHOW, every Tom, Dick and Harry knew the presidential election in Rivers State was going to be crises-ridden. Indeed, it was one of the easiest predictions ahead the 2019 elections; history repeated itself as lives were lost. For residents of Rivers State, electoral violence has become almost normal, it’s no longer dreaded over there; survival instinct is key. Having experienced the scenario over and over, residents seem to have mastered the act of surviving Rivers election. In fact, in the midst of the usual confusion is an opportunity to make brisk money, though not for the lily-livered.

Take away Lagos, if there’s any other hustling city in Nigeria, it must be the oil city of Port Harcourt, the Garden City. Unlike the days regular airport taxis held passengers ransom with their high fare in the name of being in a union, this election period was entirely different; most residents turned overnight taxi drivers, the hustle is real.“Oga, I will carry you, just small money,” they pleaded, as passengers made their way out of the arrival hall.

In Port Harcourt, almost everybody is a political analyst. And if you really want to get inside gist of the political situation in Rivers, just strike up a friendly conversation with a taxi driver, you will be shocked how much they know. Don’t go there and claim ‘Mr Know-it- all,’ just show some level of interest and you will be furnished with all details; you will hear the ‘Genesis and Revelation’ of Rivers politics.

“Amaechi created the problem in Rivers APC, that’s why they don’t have candidates for this election. If not, it would have been tough; Wike has upper hand now because the court has stopped APC. If not, it would have be bloody,” Nathaniel, the taxi driver said on the way out of the airport.

Don’t ever under estimate taxi drivers when it comes to information gathering; their news is usually authentic. “Last week, I carried some women to the airport and they were discussing politics; I think they are politicians. From their conversation, I knew this presidential election is going to be difficult because Amaechi now has federal might. I heard a lot of things from the women on our way to the airport. When I dropped them, they ‘blessed’ me well, well. We had negotiated for N3000, but they gave me N5000. Oga, I hope you will bless me too,” he said jokingly.

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Talk of vote buying, it was real in Port Harcourt; both parties did as confirmed by some residents, who spoke to The Guardian.“Ah, my friends have sold their votes already. If I take you to my street now, you will see them; some buy for N5000 or N6000. But they will snap your PVC and use it to monitor you on Election Day,” Charles, a resident of Port Harcourt revealed.

Asked if he also sold his vote, the young chap said, “No, I’m waiting till election day. By that time, the price will come up to like N10,000; it happened last time. So, I will wait because those that waited during the last election got more money,” he declared.No matter how rough elections are in the Garden City, street traders would always earn good pay, especially food vendors that operated around the INEC offices and polling units. Though provision was made for the feeding of security men guarding the INEC office on Aba Road, most officers patronised local food vendors by the heavily guarded gate.

And when an officer teased one of the vendors on voting, the woman, who had two of her daughters helping out, said, ‘which election? Will that pay my children’s school fees? Whether you vote or you don’t vote, politicians will always have their way. Na dis one be my election o; I have a family to feed,” she said.Come to think of it, who actually recruits Domestic Observers? Well, maybe not all, but the ones at Governor Wike’s polling unit really ‘observed’ for their pockets. As soon as the governor, who voted alongside his wife at PU 007, ward 9, in Obio/Akpor Local council, made his way back home, the youth sang his praises, even as he acknowledged cheers from his people.

“Dimgba of Africa,” they chanted, even as his security operatives ensured nobody came too close. While the hailing lasted, the Domestic Observers mobilised themselves in a small group, waiting for His Excellency to get done with the youths, who obviously needed to be “blessed.”
Meanwhile, a certain poor woman, who seems to be very popular in the community, had been making frantic effort to attract the attention of Governor Wike. In fact, at a point, the woman, who appeared to be having some challenges, made attempt to pull Wike on his immaculate white native outfit, but the security men prevented her. In fact, one of them, who appeared overzealous actually pushed the woman away.

While the drama lasted, Wike has his eyes on the woman and even assured her of ‘blessing.’ Just as he promised, the Governor pulled two bundles of N1000 notes and another bundle of N500 note from his aides and handed over to the poor woman. You need to see her joy, as she took to her heels in excitement, heading straight home.By the time ‘blessing’ came for the Domestic Observers’, who were dressed in their brown jackets, the atmosphere became charged. As soon as the observer that got the ‘blessing’ made his away out of the scene, he was besieged by other observers, who closed down on him to ensure a group ‘blessing’ doesn’t turn into a one man’s show. Out of sight, the ‘blessing’ was shared, even as the polling unit was without any Domestic Observer.

Voters ‘Entertained’ After Casting Votes
From Gordi Udeajah, Umuahia
IN Abia State, many people were seen inquiring about the location of their polling units and where to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) on election day, even as others claimed they lost their PVCs on their way to the polling centres. Oge Anyanwu, who misplaced his PVC, thought as a registered voter, he would be identified in the voters register and allowed to vote when he arrived the polling unit where he voted during the last election. “This was why I went with my driver’s license that would identify me, but the presiding officers did not allow me to vote,” he lamented.

At Ogele in Isiala Ngwa Council, Nze Kamalu, who wanted to be sure his wife voted the way their larger family members agreed, was not allowed to watch her cast her vote, and he refused to vote until he was persuaded to do so and to allow his wife vote according to her will.It was reported that some voters, after casting their votes, trooped to the residences of those they claimed they voted for to announce that they voted in their favour, where they were “entertained,” an action that spurred more voters to troop in to get their own “entertainment.” Security agents swooped on the politician’s residence, thinking illegal polling was taking place there, but after searching the entire house and finding nothing incriminating, collected their own “entertainments” and left. 

The Day Akpabio ‘Sweated’ For Votes
From Anietie Akpan, Uyo
IN his Ukana West Ward 2 in Essien Udim Council of Akwa Ibom State, immediate past governor and ex-Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, is revered by many like a tin-God and a giver.So, when he arrived his ward about 11.30am last Saturday to vote, the crowd of voters, community people, mostly women, journalists, domestic and foreign observers, and of course, security men milled around him.
 
Akpabio and his wife, Unoma, voted at about noon and while his wife left, he tarried awhile, remaining in his car for almost an hour, probably making calls, even as the crowd of community women and few others stood round his black SUV from a distance.In previous elections, Akpabio left the vicinity once through with voting, but this February 23 was different, as he stayed behind till collation was over around 8.15pm.

Within that period, the crowd kept on following him like bees wherever he trekked to within the Independent High School compound, venue of the election. Once in a while, he chatted them up and at a point he went to sit under a tree, watching what was going on, with his security aides standing beside him.

The crowd as usual expected the boisterous Akpabio to dole out cash, but this was not so, as the electoral law forbids anyone from carrying over N2, 000 at venue of election. While Akpabio was waiting, something strange happened. Voting had ended by 2:00pm, but counting and collation did not commence until about 4:00pm.

Following cases of snatching of ballot boxes and stuffing, it took hours before the INEC ad-hoc staff, assisted by APC and PDP chieftains and parties’ agents could reconcile the new figures that were higher than the total number of accredited voters before the result was announced about 8.15pm.After hours of keeping voters, journalists and observers waiting in the course of trying to put their acts right, the Presiding Officer finally released the results of the three units, with APC candidates wining all.

Another behind the scenes activities and the news behind the news was one of Akpabio’s words on marble that have gone virile. In one of the campaign ceremonies, just few days to election, Akpabio boasting in English mixed with his local Annang dialect, said: “If I fail to deliver 90 per cent of the local governments for APC, if I die, don’t bury me in Ukana my village.“I can confidently tell you that election in Akwa Ibom will last for three hours. In fact, I will make sure that APC wins at all level within three hours. PDP died the day I left them. Chai, Mbom PDP (I pity PDP) yes, I pity them, especially Udom. I put him there and I will remove him.(He cried mockingly and raised a song) Kop ntuagha ke PDP, Kop ntuagha ke PDP. Akpabio asio ukot Udom onyong idung, kop ntuagha ke PDP (meaning, listen as they weep in PDP, see as they weep in PDP, when Akpabio raises his leg, immediately, Udom relocates to his village).
 
“If my gateman disobeys me, do you expect me to start exchange words with my gateman? God forbid! I will just sack him straight away. By the time I finish with PDP, they will know I am Akpabio.”So, when he finally lost the election, some persons used the same song above to mock him by just changing the names. For instance, in the first line where you have PDP, they substituted APC and where you have Akpabio, they called Ukarakpa (an alias for Chris Ekpenyong, who defeated Akpabio) and where you have Udom, they put Akpabio.
 
In Calabar, as the new style of vote, snap and come for your money was uncovered, despite the ban of phones at polling centres, another method of payment was introduced.  At Edem Otop and many other areas in Calabar, some persons hid themselves in a corner, paying out money to voters before they went in and vote. Some voters had to leave the queue of one of the two presidential candidates that was giving N500 to another that was dishing out N1, 000 per person.

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From Tina Todo, Calabar
AT a polling unit in Calabar Municipal Council, an old man of about 80 years, after thumb-printing on his ballot papers, wanted to leave with the presidential ballot paper and when directed by the agents to drop it in the ballot box, he was reluctant and held tightly to it. When asked why, he said he only came there to vote for a senate candidate.

Mrs. Mercy Edosa, a voter who stayed in the queue with her husband for four hours before voting, lamented voter turnout, complaining: “Imagine a woman who was at the same polling unit with me, she was not there to vote, but to watch what was going on and at the end of everything, she said to me, ‘madam, abeg who win?’ I asked her: “Did you vote?’ she said, no o! “She wanted one of the candidates to win, but she never made any attempt to give him her one vote. It is a pity, we need to learn from this,” she said.

‘See And Buy’ Maxim Reigns In Ondo
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure 
ONDO State, where the “see and buy” maxim found its way into Nigerian politics during the 2015 House of Assembly poll, experienced low cash transfer and transaction during the polls across the 203 wards and 3,009 units, where Dibo ko sebe, meaning ‘vote and cook soup, was a popular slogan.According to findings, heavy monetisation of the electoral process reduced drastically due to the voting pattern, which shielded the voters from any possibility of displaying the party they voted for to a waiting party merchant who was ready to pay them for the vote.


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