Saturday 2 April 2011

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review I


All that needs to be said about the aborted elections of the 2nd of April, 2011 where Nigerians were voting to elect their national parliamentarians has probably been said on the social media forums and the devices that promote such interaction.

On Twitter, the conversation was run with the hashtag #NigeriaDecides, I am of the opinion that it was deliberately prevented from trending worldwide on Twitter for other ephemeral and mundane purposes, but that is beside the point.

There is no doubt that Nigerians are seriously engaged and they are availing themselves of the many tools available to inform most of the time and sometime misinform to serve certain ends.

What should have happened

The schedule for any election day was simple as documented in this INEC Electoral Chain of Custody, the Presiding Officer was to use Form EC.25B – Electoral Materials Receipt to check all the materials needed at the polling unit and sign the form confirming all the materials met the necessary requirements.

The Presiding Office should have arrived at the Polling Unit well before 8:00AM to set up the location so that voters can be accredited for the next 4 hours up until 12 noon.

For this, the Presiding Officer needed to use Form EC 8A – Statement of Result, the credibility of the elections depended on the presence of this form and it documents the number of registered voters for that polling unit, the accredited voters, the number of accredited voters queued up to vote and the results after the ballot which after being signed by all accredited personnel should be posted at that polling unit too.

A maelstrom of chaos brews

The day began to unravel when INEC staff had not arrived on time at the Polling Units and the messages were posted on Twitter, so many were hours late and most never arrived.

Whilst the lame excuse of tardiness commonly known as African Time had been proffered, it transpired that there was a more fundamental problem; many of the INEC staff did not have the materials they needed to take to their Polling Units.

Where they did, there are many instances of errors in one case the wrong voters’ register was brought, that left many exasperated, how after doing the Form EC.25B checks did the Presiding Officer end up with the wrong register.

Those who did not check the voters register when it was displayed were in for a shock at some Polling Units, their original registration was already deficient when their fingerprints were not recorded and hence they were eliminated from the final list.

Pictures then appeared of people who were accredited and they were getting their thumbnails marked instead of the index finger of the left hand as stated in the INEC Electoral guidelines.

No guidance was given for how to deal with Polling Units that opened late having to finish accreditation by 12 noon and then commence voting at 12:30 hours.

A number of despair

Voting did however commence at some Polling Units but the shocking sample statistic that came from one Polling Unit was in a Tweet.

RT @akintundedisu: 748 registered, 147 accredited, 99 on the queue #inecregistration Wow! This is despairing 1/3 left before the vote.

How could only 19.6% of registered voters appear for accreditation and then we end up with 13.2% voting – that was not only depressing but if this were to be reflected across the federation of Nigeria, our country has definitely gone to the dogs.

A postponement to Monday

Meanwhile the INEC high command was meeting at their headquarters to arrest a rapidly deteriorating situation and just before 13:00 hours the INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega addressed the nation on the developing crisis.

The elections were being postponed until Monday because of serious logistical and organisational problems, beside the reported dearth of ballot papers, the EC 8A – Statement of Result forms were in short supply and they basically were critical to conducting credible elections.

Amongst other excuses, the Chairman, took responsibility, took the blame, apologised to all Nigerians and promised to improve on the performance so far.

After his address, his handlers tried to prevent him from answering questions which excited an angry uproar from the assembled correspondents and he relented overruling the apparatchiks and answered a number of questions.

The aftermath of the announcement

Postponing the elections was a very weighty decision to take when INEC could have muddled through but INEC does hope to deliver to Nigerians a credible result and with all the scrutiny of each stage in the process, something had to be done.

Some opposition parties have challenged this decision but the responsibility of delivering the elections is solely that of INEC and for the reasons that this election presages the next four years of accountable government in Nigeria a 48-hour delay is worth every second of the wait to get things right.

There are concerns however about the ballots already used in this postponed election which would not be destroyed, only cancelled and with news of people being paid for their votes on Saturday, those paymasters would be well advised that that is money down the drain and that just serves them right.

Looking forward

Nigeria now has to look forward to Monday and come out in multitudes to change their country at the ballot box, the addition chatter about fault, resignations, blame and criticism do not contribute to the positive energy necessary to ensure that things work right from now on.

It is all hands on deck, not asking what Attahiru Jega can do for you but what you can do to help Attahiru Jega and INEC deliver free, fair, honest, transparent and credible elections.

The cynics and sceptics should go play with some long ropes; we have heard enough of their whining already.

Reference Notes & URLs

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review I

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review II - New Election Dates

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review III - Who votes on Saturday.

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IV - Part I to Voting

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IV - Part II - We can

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review V

To contact INEC

#NigeriaDecides: INEC incident reporting addresses:

Follow @inecnigeria, @EiENigeria, @reclaimnaija on Twitter if you are voting tomorrow. You will get useful alerts and information.

If you are tweeting about the elections, please use the hashtag #NigeriaDecides.

Send SMS Reports to INEC on these numbers 0816-666-2222, 0812-000-6622, 0809-666-2221.

Use these HOTLINES for incident reporting: 0707-0273-6781-9 (9 lines.)

General Election Information

Nigeria: A Primer on INEC Elections in April 2011

Nigeria: INEC Election Guidelines - Critical Information

Nigeria: Table of INEC Electoral Chain of Custody

Participate in monitoring

Reporting from your Polling Unit - ReVoDa | How it works

Submit a report as a monitor to ReclaimNaija – Click to Submit a Report Election Incident Reporting Site

Nigeria Elections Social Media Tracking Centre

News Stories

Address by the Chairman of INEC on Postponement of National Assembly Elections

Thisday Live: Jega: Why We Postponed N'Assembly Election to Monday, Articles

Reuters Africa: Nigeria postpones parliamentary elections to Monday

234Next: Elections postponed until Monday

BBC News - Nigeria's elections postponed over logistical 'chaos'

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