Nigeria Decides or Indecisive Nigeria? – A Comprehensive Analysis
By Juliet A. Amoah
Nigeria is a country of many things, hugely successful writers, impressive academics, producers of culture influencing films and big barrels of oil. Effective planning seems not to be one of them.
Having rescheduled its 16 February elections in what was described by the BBC as “a dramatic overnight press conference”, a mere five hours before polls were due to have opened, the country is gearing to vote this Saturday February 23.
Observers say not much can be expected of the process. The general feeling is that momentum has been lost and any chance of significant voter turnout is slim. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has sought to quieten doubters. It gave itself a deadline of Thursday 21 February to reconfigure some 180,000 card readers that are being used to validate the more than 80 million voters’ identity cards and to check their biometric details. By Friday 22 February, the INEC says it will deploy all the voting materials around the country.
The jury is still out on whether they can achieve this is or not. With less than 24 hours remaining to Election Day, a significant number of people at home, on the continent and abroad say the weeklong extension is too brief to correct all the lapses that the institution enumerates as contributing to the reschedule.
Inabilities and Instabilities
The INEC has not won any points for itself in its conduct in the meantime. For instance, it went back on its word that it would stick to the law on campaigning. After initially saying that the ban imposed last week on campaigning would remain in force, the much-insulted INEC decided to allow the campaigns to go on and to end 24 hours to the new February 23 date.
Political pundits across Twittersphere and on TVs everywhere say they doubt this will influence the election itself. What will is the possible low turnout of voters on the day, in spite of the declaration of Friday 22 a national holiday to allow for travel. They say the country cannot expect to see the thousands of people who travelled a long way to cast their votes, going the second time in a week.
Accusations and the place of technology
In a statement issued on the day of the postponement, the INEC gave several reasons for the delay, including attempted sabotage and logistical issues such as bad weather and problems with delivering the ballot papers.
One wonders where the place of technology is in all of this. For a country as big and populous as Nigeria, printing ballot papers is certainly not the most efficient of methods, or is it? Elsewhere, votes are cast on tech platforms. Surely, this would have saved INEC and Nigerian voters all the inconveniences.
INEC is sweating. The Chief of the institution is quoted as saying that “keeping to the new date is central to maintaining the public’s trust otherwise there would be “pandemonium” if election materials cannot deployed this second time”.
The voters are venting. Money and time they did not have has been wasted, and a second round of this may not be feasible for some, leading to a feeling of disenfranchisement.
“How can a country which has practiced democracy for some twenty odd years be this inept?” fumes Bolade who travelled from Ghana to vote in his home in Enugu last week.
All eyes on Nigeria
Prior to the rescheduled elections, the more than 70 presidential aspirants bombarded Nigerians with pledges, slogans and social media messages. Phrases and buzzwords such as taking the country to the “next level”, and bringing “power to the people” flew around like cotton candy at a children’s birthday party.
Much like in elections elsewhere, the power of slogans can often times drown out the details. Key policy issues such as – education, health and the economy are all left painfully ambiguous or given only half-hearted explanations about how they will be achieved by politicians. The electorate is left with hearsay and half-baked analysis from multiple sources and sometimes from their own lived experiences of yester years.
Penplusbytes, a Ghana based not-for-profit, has been following the analysis and the debates with keen interest. Having covered elections all over the continent using its Africa Elections Project (AEP) platforms, Penplusbytes has the unique capability of offering a serving for both pedestrian and elite tastes. The former, it gets from its social media tracking tool “Aggie” which crawls on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to bring in what people are saying on the ground, while it provides elite analysis by monitoring radio and TV broadcasts with experts and professors from multiple stations.
The level of information is rich and there is no shortage of stories and quips pre, during and post elections. For the next 24 hours all eyes will be on Nigeria and over a period of seventy-two hours, most eyes and ears are sure to be on Nigeria. Keep up with all of the news if you can, alternatively you can rely on bitesize information from this savvy not-for-profit good governance promoter.
The writer is the Executive Director of Penplusbytes
Contact her on WhatsApp: +233241995737 or via Twitter @Jamoah2