So over the last year I’ve been going through a phase of political detachment and I have neglected to share my views on most of the passing political events in Nigeria. However thanks to my 2015 voting experience that has all changed, I am re-engaged and resolve to care about the political direction of my country.
This Boys II Men song repeats in my head as I reflect on my 2011 voting experience and its seductive allure, ‘tell me do you remember when, everything in life was so much better then… do you remember…’. I actually do remember voting in 2011, it was a bit uncomfortable and although I was too posh to push, nevertheless I voted without much of a moan. My past political experience compared to my present is not positive. We shifted from manual to a technological process with a defunct manual finale…
Fast forward to 2015– Channels News live feed of the President voting on Saturday 28th March 2015 possibly set the tone of what I would experience on the 29th. We all laughed at the ineptitude of the dysfunctional card reader and it most certainly felt like a regular technological device failure in Nigeria, when it took several hours for President Goodluck Jonathan to get accredited. A few hours later I marched happily to my polling station, taking selfies and generally bemused by the fact there were no INEC officials or any hope of voting. We all waited around happily, diverse discussions and banter, till it became apparent there would be no voting for us on the 28th of March.
INEC thankfully extended the voting till the 29th. There was a very late start to the process at my polling unit, but it kicked off around 2pm with the over 60s getting happily accredited and there seemed to be method to the madness. At 6.15pm I got accredited, I won’t complain about the fact that the queuing sequence was obscure, I will not complain about the military presence and their random shows of force and violence (I thought this was unnecessary and definitely not experiences I recall from my past election experience), what I will complain about was the fact I got put on an INCIDENT LIST. I was so excited when I saw the card reader, my card was placed on the machine (moment of euphoria), and the INEC official put my finger onto the reader, she tried my thumb and then my index finger and yelled ‘incident list’. I was visibly confused and asked what was going on, to which another INEC official said ‘don’t worry Ma you will vote,’ as he hurriedly wrote my name and PVC (permanent voter card) number onto the incident list.
INEC Incident List & Card Reader
I would really like INEC to explain the purpose of the incident list. The Presidential live card reader failure was resolved on air, but mine was not. I simply got put onto the bottom of a long list of FAILURES. So I really need INEC to explain what the purpose of that list is, I truly hope the list will be used to justify the use or not of card readers in the process going forward. After my accreditation I thought I would have to come back and find my name on the incident list to justify my live voting experience.
THERE WAS NO LINK BETWEEN ACCREDITATION AND VOTING. So did INEC spend 4 years working on the accreditation process without visualising the link to the actual voting process and linking that to the prior? There is no way you can have a biometric voter identification process and then have a lacklustre thumb printing process with no link to the biometrics. I question why the biometric data is not linked to a national master computer list? Nostalgic for my 2011 experience, I vividly remember there were laptops used at each unit, surely this data was not destroyed and should be on a national grid for future reference and citizen identification.
Anti-Climax of life at 9.28pm when I voted
So I finally got into the booth and I was almost stunned into voting for pretty much anything, because as you tried to scan the voting sheet looking for your candidate and party of choice you were confused by the array of logos. So many questions ran through my mind…
- Why did individual candidates engage in money politics and waste their campaign funds?
- Why did we have card readers?
- Where does it state this voting sheet is linked to my card reader?
- If the card reader actually read my card, can my biometric ink print link back into it?
With the ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ phone a friend countdown tune ringing in my head, I quickly scanned each of the three sheets for the most familiar symbol and voted. I am literate but found the simplicity of the sheet and the cost of voting to be disingenuous. Anyone can simply replace all the ballot sheets at my polling unit with the number of PVC’s recorded, but there is no evidence of the link between each individual voting sheet and PVC number.
All in all, I’m glad I voted, because unless you participate in the dysfunction you can’t actually add value.
I do not want to downplay the positives of the experience, as I observed heightened engagement and camaraderie and disciplined patience to exercise civic responsibilities with eagerness and pride. I also don’t want to underplay the negatives, because a few people after me, the ballot papers would finish and there would be numerous disgruntled voters who would have to languish in a mosquito ridden, badly lit waiting zone, in anticipation of the delivery of new ballot papers.
I am not a technology ‘whiz kid’ of any sort, but there are so many loopholes that can be plugged ahead of 2019 and maybe I will blog about these in the future and give INEC the helping hand they possibly need. Whoever the winning candidate is, I implore you to restructure the voting process with urgency. I look forward to voting in 2019, because I know the whole process will be revamped and any funds further spent will be backed up with empirical and actual pilot evidence that the process is actually workable and scalable.