It is one week to the General Elections in Nigeria and I write all words here with anger- not righteous anger- just plain old pure, Nigerian anger. The kind that makes you surprised that you’re angry. The kind that leads you to shout at the bus conductor who expects you to let your 20 Naira change go although he would never do the same for you. That, which seeps in from time to time, leaving you more confused.
I am a very patriotic Nigerian- there, I said it.
No matter what has happened, from utterly useless regimes to even stupider laws, I consciously chose to keep believing, to defend when deemed necessary. Over time, like the incident involving the Chibok girls, I did have my moments of hopelessness, but I never, ever thought of giving up on my country.
So when the time came for me to get my Voter’s card, I missed my first opportunity when I was 19 years old, but I swore that nothing would stop me next time. I thought, I must vote next time, no matter what! So, four years later, I sought to get it.
This took me two attempts- 3 hours in Delta State and 11 hours in Lagos State.
First, in April 2018, during my internship in Delta, I took some hours off from work to get it from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). I got there at 9am and left at 12pm…without the card. Why?
Well, this was partly my fault. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to vote in Delta so I decided that after getting it here I would transfer to Lagos. When it was my turn to be attended to, I explained the situation to the INEC official who said that I won’t be able to transfer until after the elections. I should have asked earlier instead of wasting the time I did. ( Ps. I don’t understand why I can’t vote anywhere in Nigeria, but specifically where I registered! This is definitely the dumbest policy I have ever come across.)
I was left stunned, wondering why things have to be so darned complicated in this country. I mean, the whole point of this card is to vote, so why would I want it transferred after the elections? I resolved to get it when I got back to Lagos.
I was finally able to go to the Amuwo-Odofin INEC Office when I got back. I got there at 6:37am, wrote my name on the ‘list’ (which was rather pointless) where I was number 143 and finally got the Temporary Voters Card at about 5:36pm. The tales of what happened in these 11 hours are the crux of this story.
Yes, I am still very angry.
BRIBERY FOR VOTERS CARD
Location; INEC, Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos.
Now, I know that one of Nigeria’s larger problems is bribery, I really get it. However, I thought there was a line because, you know, in this life, there should always be a line…where it all becomes too much.
Apparently, there is no queuing in Nigeria! The Voters’ and National ID Cards ought to be free and convenient to obtain but no. In this nation, we must suffer (and maybe add a bribe) to get them.
I saw this ‘correct Area boy’ in the morning when I got to the INEC. He was just walking about talking to different people but I thought he was just being loud. Would you believe that when the INEC finally decided to start issuing cards (at about 10am), the INEC official came out with a bunch of papers and started calling people the man was talking to? Well, that was exactly what happened. Oh, and he was comfortably standing with her, smiling, while the rest of us were told to stand behind a car tyre the LNSC (Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps) placed on the ground.
After at least 50 people were called in before a man who came before I did started telling the woman that wasn’t the right ‘list’ because the people being called in came much later than he did and several people, myself included, joined him.
The INEC official absolutely ignored us and continued calling people as if we were just a bunch of buzzing flies that were making a noise. Later, I found out that people were paying 1000- 2000 Naira to get in.
See, ehn, Nigerians, we are our own problem!! Ordinary Voters Card we still offer bribe simply because we want to hasten things. How do we expect to move forward?!
INEC OFFICIAL SLAPPED A NIGERIAN
Location: INEC, Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos.
While we were playing the wait-to-get game, I met a number of people. One of whom was a lady, probably in her mid-twenties, who came from work at about 2pm. She said she came in the morning to enlist before going to work. She came back after work hoping to get her card.
She noticed that some nursing mothers and pregnant women were left unattended to while other people were taken in. She spoke up, telling them to attend to the aforementioned but she wasn’t listened to, of course.
When her name was called finally, the INEC official and one of the LNSC members made her step aside since she ‘thinks she can talk’. When she tried to defend herself, this same INEC official woman gave her an aggressive ‘back hand’ slap with the papers on her hand.
Now, you might be tempted to think that it wasn’t so bad since it wasn’t a flesh-to-flesh slap but it very well would have been if she didn’t have those papers with her.
Plus, a slap is a slap. Period.
To aggravate things, my fellow Nigerians told her to ‘apologize’ and I was astounded because she did nothing wrong. People started pleading with the government officials- the same ones who have been employed to attend to the masses- to ‘forgive’ her and eventually, she gave in and started apologizing for doing the right thing. I have literally never, ever been so furious at this country the way I was after this happened.
NO ID WAS REQUESTED BY THE INEC
Location : INEC Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos and Agbor, Delta State
We live in a disoriented society, I agree. What I don’t agree with, however, is how frequently we cross the line to absurdity.
I expect that if someone is to be registered to vote in a country, the person should be proven, in one way or another, to be a citizen; by birth, naturalization or marriage.
In Agbor, I had two ladies who couldn’t communicate in English (or Ika, the native dialect) in line in front of me who asked me to help fill their forms. They did not know (or couldn’t communicate) their dates of birth, local government of origin, addresses or full names, so it was a bit tough.
I did not expect them to have National ID cards (as that is super tough to get too), but how are we sure that they are Nigerian? What proof did they really have? How do we know that they know what it really means to pick a leader democratically? That their votes would not be bought with rice and yam tubers tomorrow?
They had zero proof, but no questions were asked, dates of birth were estimated for them by the INEC official and they were given their Voters’ Cards. They became Nigerian citizens officially, just like that.
In Lagos, I asked a young man who said he was born in Ghana by Ghanaian parents why he felt he deserved a Nigerian Voter’s Card. He told me that he had lived most of his life in Nigeria so he should have one.
Pray tell, what does that even mean?
Hypothetically, even if I have lived in the USA for twenty years without being a citizen, I can’t just waltz in expecting to get a Voter’s card, as who? A well-wisher?
Why aren’t we asked to present a form of identification to ascertain our citizenship before we are given the power to elect leaders? Voting is a right of the citizens, not just anyone in Nigeria.
We just need to start moving to do better; then do better. With the things I have been seeing recently, I doubt that Nigerians are truly ready for a change; we say we are but are not ready to actively do something about it.
Do you think Nigeria and her citizens are truly ready for a change?
Do you have your PVC? Will you vote in the coming elections?
VENI. VIDI. AMAVI.
Let’s play catch up;
My Top 10 Paperback Reads In 2018