Over 72 million Nigerians are voting to elect a president, 109 members of the Senate and 360 members of the House of Representatives with President Muhammadu Buhari rejecting any insinuations of defeat. The election is the first out of one other set by which the said offices would be filled for a new term of four years beginning May 29th, 2019. Scheduled originally to have been held February 16th, 2019, it was postponed for logistics reasons, according to the national election management body – the independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC)
An assemblage of nearly 200 observers, monitors and sundry quality assurance guarantors are involved in the election preceded by controversies of incomparable magnitude. One of the most prominent of such is the acceptability or otherwise of ballot box snatchers losing their lives to bullets from troops stationed in polling booths as advanced by the president but rejected by opposition and hate speech campaigners.
76 year old incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is slugging it out with fellow northerner, Muslim and Fulani, 72 year old Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice-President and wealthy businessman. Asked if he would congratulate Atiku should he be defeated, President Buhari said he would not because he is rather going to be the winner. It is a hilarious but meaningful communication to suggest that he has done his homework. His challenger, Atiku Abubakar is confirmed to have voted in Yola along with one of his wives but there is no interview or video of his encounter with journalists. It will be updated as soon as it is available.
Some prominent citizens have been reported to have suffered card reader malfunctioning, ranging from Bayelsa State governor, Mr Seriake Dickson to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. but, aside from Enugu where an unclear story of a bomb exploding and Borno and Yobe states where Boko Haram appear to be contesting grounds, the elections appear to have taken off across the country. Reports from Benue State suggesting that elections did not start appear to be incorrect. Intervention spoke directly to voters in some of the remotest parts of Okpokwu LGA where voting had already commenced or about to as at 11.17 am. Similar call to Otukpo at 11.50 am showed there had been no major hitches. A politician who spoke from Makurdi, the Benue State capital did not hint of any troubles either.
What seems to have been generalized is Governor Samuel Ortom’s complaint that the IDP Camp at Gbajimba, near Makurdi has been excluded in terms of distribution of electoral materials. He complained a short while ago against that, saying such would amount to disenfranchising the 180, 000 registered voters he claims to be in there.
In Waru polling booth in Karu which falls technically in Abuja but is actually in Nasarawa State, polling took off in glitches. The team had set up as at 9.46 am before their arrival, the voters who came earlier had written down their names in a book and formed a queue. The question was which to follow: the book or tell the voters to form a completely new queue? It developed into a rowdy session as captured in the video below. By 10. 42 am, nobody had voted yet but they managed to get off the ground eventually by voting manually because the card reader was programmed for February 16th, 2019 rather than February 23rd, 2019. The sad side of the voting there was the dirty slap meted out to a voter but which another policeman intervened and resolved amicably.
Still around Abuja, the Games Village was a beehive of start and stop here and there. A key problem was the card reader not functioning. As at 130 pm, people who voted manually had to come back to repeat after the card reader had become functional. In Garki 11, almost all the card readers were dysfunctional and they have to resort to improvising on the manual lane. In fact, in Garki Market Voting Center 006, the handlers impressed almost all with their dexterity in crowd control measures and counting is being started by 2 pm.
In various parts of Oke Ogun in Oyo State, accreditation and casting of ballots began smoothly at between 8.00 a.m and 8.30a.m. At Ikolaba/Obadimo polling unit, Ward 3, sub-unit 003, a minor uproar occurred regarding who should assist a would-be voter who has a problem with how to vote. The matter was amicably and finally resolved. The decision was that a voter can call anyone of his or her choice other than the polling agents, INEC officers or security agents.
There has been observed military garrison here and there, especially on the road leading into Abuja from Nasarawa side.
It might not be such a long waiting game. The plausible scenarios are outright victory by one of the two or a tight result which leaves one a bare winner or some glitch that becomes disruptive of the process. In other words, a run-off election is most unlikely. That hinges Nigeria’s future on only a transparently free, fair and credible poll. Interestingly, both the two leading presidential candidates, the hundreds of election quality guarantors as well as the National Peace Committee have been all cued on a peaceful and credible election.