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To say I’m overwhelmed at this point would be grossly understating the obvious. And this is all thanks to our very own electoral commission body, INEC. For those of you who missed it, 9th of December was supposed to be last day for the registration for the voters card – your passport to vote next year.
For most of us the urge to register didn’t stem from our enthusiasm to vote. NO! It was mostly to be on the safe side so when some sort of application comes up, you wouldn’t be blackmailed. That alone says a lot about the country. A country where there is no interest whatsoever in who our leaders are. It is not that we don’t care who wins, it is that we know, that really we don’t count! Our opinions and even our votes. Well really, that’s no reason for not trying but all that is even beside the point. I still believe I had the worst INEC experience and I need opinions from others to convince me otherwise.
Let me explain. I’m guessing this will be the tenth time we are registering online for some sort of national card. It’s simply appalling that in this age and time, as a country, we do not know how to rehash those details instead we keep registering over and over. Painful but we still do.
The 9th of December being the last day, everyone rushed out trying to register (typical Nigerian last minute mindset). After being on the queue for about 4 hours straight I was confident there really was not so much to say. You couldn’t blame the officials for their incredibly annoying “speed”. Half of the time they had to “rest” the laptop to prevent “overheating” and there was the finger sensor machine that seemed to have a mind of its own as it only appeared to pick fingers it liked.
The problem was not the waiting (maybe it was a little of the waiting). It was more the chaos in it all. People simply did not know how to maintain order or await their turn. It’s like we’re by default just cheats. You remain on the queue and millions of people cut the line in front of you. They are so apt to not follow numbers or order.
With each passing day I think it’s becoming clearer that our issues as a nation do not just lie on the national level. It starts and rests mainly on us as individuals. To put the icing on the cake, some INEC registration centers went as far as collecting money for registration. Ok! Just in case you didn’t know, every single equipment (the laminating machine, the printer, laptop, inverters and what have you) should have, and to a large extent, was provided by INEC, so if like me you paid 50 Naira for a ‘form’ and 50 Naira for lamination, I am sorry but you were defrauded. But don’t worry, it was not so bad considering that some centers in Lagos collected 1000 naira each for voters’ card registration. As if that was not enough, some centers asked the people to get them a generator when light went and of course the people paid to fuel the generator too. Market women, senior citizens, etc. Even an old blind man! All these people strolled in begging them to reduce the fee but the so called INEC officials just asked them to walk away if they couldn’t pay up.
These kinds of experiences get me thinking about if we are really making progress as a country. You don’t even want to know how much the government would have paid INEC for this registration and how much would have disappeared into thin air, while we make do with old, useless equipment. It is bad enough that the leaders defraud us but to then defraud ourselves including the elderly people in our community? I think it’s beyond sad.
Well I would just advice that it would do you a whole lot of good if you knew your rights as a citizen. Those officials pulled a fast one on those poor women because they knew that they were clueless. But more importantly, it is not enough to wish that Nigeria becomes America. I look around and I see people referring to foreign countries when they mention something good. We keep hoping, wishing and thinking that this country would be better if we had better leaders but it is more than just good leaders. It also boils down to good, patriotic citizens and really it is the little things. If you can collect money from an old blind man for a job you are getting paid for today then it’s safe to predict that you’d steal us dry when you become a governor.
I do hope that whatever authorities that can would get to those poorly managed INEC centers, investigate and follow-up accordingly. But in the meantime, the Nigeria we desire does not lie in our wishful thinking. It lies in our simple decisions (that includes whoever you are giving your votes to next year) so let choose right and do things well.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA
Written by Opeyemi Awofeso