Two weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of INEC‘s registration exercise to get a voter card. What’s all the activism for if I can’t vote? And so far, the chances that I will be in Nigeria during the elections in 2015 are very high.
So it was off to Government Secondary School in Lifecamp that Monday morning to get it done.
Got there about 8am, and if I had any sense, I would have known (from the crowd I met there) I didn’t stand a chance. I would also have known that heels on the day wasn’t the smartest idea. To be fair to myself though, I actually believed I would be able to get it done and then head off to a training I had fixed for past noon; looking back I’m sure even God must have been giggling at me and my plans.
9am and INEC guys still hadn’t come. There was no place to sit and my shoes were starting to hurt. People were gisting with the Police guys and promising them heaven on earth. Me? I was sipping lipton.
9.31am. INEC guys came in a white van, and as they were unloading their stuff a police truck came (siren and PSA included). A lady (whose appearance, voice, and intonation reminded me of Dame Peshe) announced that people who had registered before should leave or they would face the “full wrath of the law”. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that phrase in this our Nigeria I’d be super wealthy.
noise warnings from the lady lasted another 20 minutes, and then the police truck left. By this time we’d been asked to write our names on a list so we’d be attended to.
The men seemed to get theirs done without a fuss, but we ladies had to have two separate fights over the order of names on the list. #CatFightTinz
One torn list and a few exchanged curses after, our list was sent in to the INEC guys and the wait began. About noon and no where getting close to getting registered, I left. Plus I had a visitor (and the attendant cramps) that demanded I leave and sort myself (forgive the TMI).
Got back about 2pm, and it still wasn’t my turn. Matter of fact, it became even clearer that it wouldn’t get to me. I chatted with various groups of people and apart from the INEC guys still dealing with lists they collected on Saturday and Sunday, I learned from more than one group that the police (who were at the doors to ensure people were orderly) were collecting money to facilitate quicker entrance to meet the INEC guys.
Still, I waited. Most of my day had been wasted anyway. I was content watching everything from a safe distance.
About 3pm, people started getting testy. Being the last day of the registration, with no extension in sight, people were agitated. The police started using belts and things to get people to disperse. Was really disturbing for me to watch for a number of reasons.
1. Ebola – as we all know, body fluids are a vehicle for the transmission of this virus. The sun was scorching so of course people were sweating. Some others were spitting (yuck), and a few others were cleaning out their nostrils on every inch of ground they could find. Now people were thronging, pushing, a few of them fell, it wasn’t pretty. Absolutely disgusting.
2. Whipping people. Really? Really? Why on earth? Do you blame the people for becoming restive when some of them had been there since 6.30am and then because some others who came about noon had ‘tips’ for the police, they got bumped to the top of the list for registration?
I spoke to one of the policemen whipping people, and the conversation is reproduced below.
FGS – Sir, it’s 4pm. Won’t it be better to tell these people what their options for registration after now are, instead of whipping them?
Police – Did you see me whipping anyone?
FGS – (A little shocked at his question) Yeah! I’ve been standing and watching you for the last 30 minutes. I feel like…
Police (cuts in) – You are making allegations against my person! I am an officer of the law! Do you know what we are doing here?
FGS – Yes I know you’re supposed to keep the peace, keep the people orderly, but you’re not supposed to whip…
Police (cuts in, super incensed now) – Did you see me whip anybody? If you talk too much I’ll take you to the station…
FGS (cuts in, a little ticked off) – stop spitting on me. And are you threatening me? Are you actually threatening me? (To be honest I was a little flustered, but I don’t know why I was smiling)
Police – You can write anything you want to write! I don’t care! I am an officer of the law…
FGS – (cuts in) This is not a productive conversation, you’re not listening to me, and you’re still spitting on me. (And I turned and walked away).
And yes, I took a picture.
No, I didn’t get registered.