Posts Tagged ‘INEC’

So the US election campaigns started about 18 months ago, and I’ll be honest and say I was largely uninterested in the debates, rallies, etc. until very recently. Of course there were the very many days the world was jolted by any of the inappropriate (inappropriate here also meaning scary, unacceptable, criminal, etc.) utterances from Republican Candidate Donald Trump either during rallies, interviews, in the locker room, pretty much everywhere. On those days I would be forced to catch up on the outrage, but that would be all.
Not because I don’t care who the next leader of the free world is, not because I don’t see the incredible importance and leap it would be for a woman to become the next president of the United States, but because my people say that “when a man’s house is on fire he does not bother about the fufu he had on the stove.” There was (still is) just too much “what on earth is going on with my Nigeria” going on to focus on what’s happening in the pond an entire continent away.
TV ads forced me to care. Stickers, posters, heck even conversations a little too animated forced me to join the US Election frenzy. With or without my consent, I’ve had to actively follow.
So, I’ve been in the US for the past 4 weeks now and the excitement/apprehension/tension is palpable. Not the Nigerian flavor of ‘we’re voting for x and y not because we know what they will offer but because our leader says to’, but the ‘we’ve listened to both (major) candidates, know their history and believe overwhelmingly that x is better than y’. Or maybe even that x is the lesser of the two evils, whatever personal reasons.  
It reinforced a thought that led to this tweet“Dear #Nigeria, when we’re done climaxing over the #USElection rallies, our candidates MUST debate in 2019. Anything else is unacceptable.”
I believe that tweet with all my heart, and I hope you, Nigerian, tax-paying, voter card-wielding, pledge-reciting, daughter or son of the soil who has followed the US Elections has been reacquainted with a love for oratory, a respect for facts and figures, an appreciation for the media (and the 2016 expression of the Social Responsibility and Hypodermic Needle theories), and a renewed belief in yourself as a citizen whose vote is worth more than screaming rallies without any substance.
Anything less than debates with concrete plans, economic policies that can be argued for or against, and interventions that directly impact the lives of Nigerians is unacceptable. No more platitudes, no more empty promises, no more roaring rhetoric. 
Our state and national representatives must clearly articulate their plans for us, the people they represent. We cannot applaud the levels of transparency we’ve seen in this election and be content with declarations of assets that end up being as vague as they are untrue.
We must elect representatives who will not subvert but uphold the Constitution, and indeed open up the black hole that the National Assembly budget currently is!
Sigh. Deep breath Chioma. Moving on.
I’ve also thought very deliberately about how technology has been deployed for these elections. I’m not referring to diaspora voting which ensures citizens all over the world are not disenfranchised, and sounds like a brilliant idea till you remember that Nigeria has not come close to perfecting our local, physical processes yet. We cannot guarantee votes cast by human beings we can see and touch (’see and touch’ excluding the era when we had Jamie Foxx and Michael Jackson on the list of accredited voters); yet we’re currently fascinated with diaspora votes. Maybe add that to the things we will blame next for inconclusive elections?
Anyway, I was referring to citizen-centered technology. Technology deployed to make voter education and the voting process as seamless and inclusive as possible. First from the government with the listings/helplines on social and traditional media, to parties and politicians constantly reminding the electorate why, how, and where to vote;  broadcast media and state-specific voting information, to the digital titans deploying doodles, stickers, and other ‘make it cool to vote’ paraphernalia for the electorate to perform their civic duty. No stomach infrastructure, sharing of rice, or bread, or corn; no ridiculous photos where fancy wristwatches meet extreme poverty, none of that mess. 
Anyway, it all ends in the next 24 hours. Those who didn’t already vote have until 8pm to get counted, with a collation and announcement devoid of candlelight, midnight miracles, meme-worthy drama, or any funny business. Governance should also start in earnest immediately after the swearing-in, not 9 months after. 
Quite frankly, these elections rank high on the list of things Americans should be ashamed of – the blatant mudslinging, disrespect for candidates/American History/the American people; the divisive nature of the campaign, the hate it’s inspired, ugh. Shameful.
However, for us, there is a lot to be learned, and I hope we’ve all been taking notes. 2019 is coming. 
PS: Originally published on Huffington Post

Day started ok; I woke up a bit earlier than others and got in some work out of the way (hello entrepreneur), and then I smiled through a very encouraging email from a former colleague. I also danced my way into 3000 steps before our first session. Can I just mention here that I’ve been on a fitness high since the 29th of April this year, and I can’t wait to show before and after photos of my work as soon as I hit my weight target? Whoop!

Back to the day, looking online there was news about Boko Haram continuing what seems to be a renewed onslaught in the North East. It seems to me like there has been one incident or the other since the 29th of May, like these insurgents are baiting, testing the President’s hand, want to see what he will do. I can’t wait for a reaction myself. One too many people have perished. One too many to be honest

Like I didn’t have enough trouble, my monthly visitor came through this morning, with the attendant cramps, irritation, turning me into the perfect grouch. Sigh.

We did something really fun in the session today though, simulated the postponement of the Nigerian elections. The class was divided into civil society, the press, party agents, and the general public, each group playing a different role. I was cast as Professor Jega, and had two guys as principal officers of the commission.

Before I even went through half of my arranged speech, my own ‘Orubebe’ surfaced, and didn’t stop disrupting proceedings periodically. Different questions kept on coming, I could barely take one before another came, my team was swamped, it was incredible. It was hilarious too, but very stressful, even though everyone knew we were just role-playing. It gave me brand new respect for Professor Jega and all the pressure he withstood during the elections. I also learned a few things from the feedback session afterwards

  1. Make more allies than enemies.
  2. Added to the three points from Mr Kaberuka, there’s a fourth leadership quality. And it is to let the people you’re leading know you care about them.
  3. Appearances in the face of challenges are everything. The more ruffled you appear, the easier it will be for people to have a go at you.
  4. Stay on the message. Focus. Pleasant or not, never forget why you’re in a place/doing something/passing a message.

We also talked about elections erroneously being referred to (and treated as) a periodically occurring event (like Christmas) instead of a never-ending process. Think about it for a second. It’s more process than an event right?

Let’s backtrack a bit and I’ll tell you about the gala held in our honor yesterday.

First we had Kie traditional dancers, a troupe that has been in existence for over 30 years and produced renowned artistes famous around the world. Their energy was everything! I made two videos. Sorry, three.

Then there was this young lady, beautiful singer with an incredibly powerful voice. Only snag was I couldn’t tell when she was singing in French, in English, or when she didn’t just know the lyrics to the songs!

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Then it was food time, and the only thing I got from the menu as it was read out to us was ‘ndole’ which is a Cameroonian dish that tastes like egusi with ground nuts without palm oil. It would have been lovely if it didn’t have so many onions! There was also something that looked like couscous but is made from cassava. Not the best for this #FitFam life… Sigh.

I ended up with a bit of duck, a bit of lamb, ndole, cured meats, rice, and some chili. Of course I ate the rice and little else.

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And then we danced!! Boy! I really enjoyed that! Music from across the region, in English and every other language, so much fun! I was sweating like I’d been in a steam bath by the time I got back to my room, but, I’d achieved over 10k steps so yippie!

Got into bed, and I was out like a light!

A little intro before you read this. First off, I didn’t write it, my friend @ElohoOmame did. And boy, was it refreshing to read something overflowing with common sense, devoid of the hate young people (on all sides of the divide) are peddling in the name of voter education, calls to participation, etc. This was refreshing, and is a bigger incentive to vote than the tiresome rhetoric I’m now consciously blocking out of my mind.

Eloho is brilliant with this, simple, convincing logic, sentence after sentence. And I join my voice with hers, asking that you go out on the 28th of March and the 11th of April to vote the candidate of your choice.

Still ‘Undecided’? Here’s What I’d Like You To Know

Undecided isn’t good enough. Millions of us are counting on you. Please spend the next few days deciding whom you will vote for and be bold enough to see it through. Your vote is important, your vote is strategic and it would be silly not to use it. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you why.

First off, if you are one of the lucky 56 million people with PVCs, give yourself a pat on the back. You are a guardian of the welfare of two other Nigerians that will not have a say in how our country is run for at least another four years. Think of yourself as ‘standing in the gap’ for two of your children, employees, friends or neighbours. To stand in the gap is a good thing; it means you speak on our behalf.

Remember also that there 17 million or so, like me, who live abroad for different reasons, but have left their hearts in Nigeria. There is no provision for us to vote. We add the burden of another half a person to each load. Think of us often. Remember you speak for three and a half people, including yourself.

But, if the last two presidential elections are anything to go by, the disappointing reality is that not all of you that who are able to vote will come through for us on March 28. My guess is that around 38 million people – 55% of the 68 million registered by INEC – will actually cast a vote. That means about 20% of Nigerians will speak for the 100%, because 18 million of you with PVCs will do nothing. You will forget the hard slog of getting the card in the first place and ignore its power.

Some of you will mean to vote, but be put off by the simplest inconveniences, like predictably poor logistics or the inevitable heat of the sun. The rest will give us three reasons.

The first group will say their votes don’t matter, “one vote won’t decide the outcome in the end”. And they would be right. If there could ever be an argument for apathy that I respected, this would be it. It makes rational, economic sense. The voting process is individually costly but not individually beneficial since the chance that any one person will cast the single deciding vote is close to zero. It would be silly to respond to this group then with statements like “what if we all didn’t vote?” That’s a close to zero probability event. Thankfully, 38 million people will.

Others will say that the process is likely to be rigged anyway, “it doesn’t matter what I want, the result has been fixed.” These are the classic free riders, and it’s tough to respect that. They are not happy with the status quo and are probably voters for the opposition (or they wouldn’t care if the process were rigged in the first place), but they will abdicate their responsibility. I am not saying that I believe Nigeria is now at the point where elections are entirely free and fair, but I am saying this group should give the process a chance. They are potentially very powerful as a unit but would rather sit at home speculating and sulking.

The last group will tell us that they are truly undecided, and so have no choice but to abstain. They are afraid to take a chance on an outcome that they cannot foresee; they don’t want to vote for a losing candidate, and are probably most in favour of those challengers with an outside chance. These people should spend more time with the most rational of the non-voters. If they did, they would take comfort in the fact that their individual votes will not by themselves change the outcome, and they might have the courage to back their convictions. With any luck, they’d come to understand that voting is not a lottery – it is not about guessing the winner – and that by staying away, they weaken the quality of our democratic discourse.

To the 18 million I say this: you have grown weary too easily. You forget that our democracy is barely 16 years old; the journey has not begun. You want to be inspired, to be rewarded with good leadership and good governance, but until then, you will not join us in the drab modalities of a democracy. Sadly, the promise we all want will continue to be delayed for as long as too few people are involved in deciding how nearly 200 million people are governed. We need many more to be invested in this process. We need you to do your part. We want to be inspired too.

So please vote, and vote wisely. The issues before us are clear and the choice is not easy. Ironically, the campaign slogans of both the PDP and the APC agree that the status quo is unsatisfactory. We debate the semantics of ‘transformation’ vs. ‘change’ and I am reliably informed that one is a point in time occurrence and the other is an impressive process. Politics aside, I understand enough to know that in either scenario the promise is the same – today does not look like yesterday and tomorrow will not look like today.

But, in reality today does not look different enough to where we were four years ago, so given half a chance, I’d give my vote to General Buhari’s government. For no reason other than it is time to go back to the drawing board. The Chinese say ‘if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading’.

But, ultimately, I won’t have a say in what happens on Saturday. If you have a PVC, you can. Whichever way you lean, remember that your vote sends a message, you are luckier than millions of us with no voice and you stand in the gap for 2 and a half people.

You could use your voice to make a show of confidence in President Jonathan, to deliver a message of support for General Buhari or to give a word of encouragement to the phenomenal Remi Sonaiya. That’s your prerogative. Just go out and vote.

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.

Anyway, 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).

I tweeted.

Screenshot 2014-09-01 16.04.09

And yes, I took a picture.

2014-08-25 16.47.39Good thing was, he didn’t touch anyone else (least till I left about 5pm), and I caught him stealing glances at me from time to time.

No, I didn’t get registered.

The End.

 

First time Cheta introduced Sylvester to us at YNaija2015, I was just grateful for someone who was happy to travel and cover elections for us. We exchanged a few emails (on logistics, tasks, uninteresting stuff), and then he was off to Edo for the local government elections.

And then it was like a 300watts light bulb switched on inside of Sylvester once he got there. Show me ten men with excitement and passion for their work, and I would give you Sylvester. I think he came alive in a very special way just being on ground in Edo. He’s high up there on the list of my friends who become animated at the scent of anything political.

We talked a lot more after that, he was always quick to retrieve and verify information for me and spent one particular afternoon phoning up different people just because I asked for the elections calendar for local government elections around the country (a whole INEC doesn’t even have that, but that’s a totally different story).

For the farce that was the gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Sylvester outdid himself. Pictures, text (he would live-blog for each election), audio, and even videos, we didn’t lack for content at all. So much that when his laptop and phone died, he started texting me information! I remember he called me that night, miffed that they had been barred from entering the hall where the results were to be announced, and dogs had been set on them to scare them away. In all of the chaos, he said, “don’t worry Chioma, I will find a way to get in”.

When I saw on Twitter that he had been in an accident, on the same road that took Bankole Taiwo in 2012, I was heartbroken. I prayed to God, begged Him to have mercy, to save this one. I couldn’t be there to hold his hand; I wasn’t even allowed to speak with him any of the times I rang.

I was speaking to his wife on the night of the 4th, missed a call from Chude on my other phone. When we spoke, Chude said Sylvester was gone.  And I said no, that I had just spoken to his wife, and we had just believed God for a miracle. I don’t even know how to call her now, don’t know what to tell her. Words…words are so overestimated.

I never met you Sylvester, but I can imagine God needed someone to chronicle the happenings in heaven for those of us who aren’t there yet. And so even though we hurt, and our hearts are so heavy, we remain subject to His will.

I miss you Sylvester, we all miss you terribly.

Rest in peace, Sly Barzini. Je nke oma.

Sylvester...

Sylvester…

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