…while we call on INEC to take whatever steps necessary to ensure the voter’s register is cleansed of all debris, including all the unborn, stillborn, underage and dead voters our shameless politicians have succeeded in sneaking in over the years, let’s all remember that our democracy is too delicate and important to be abandoned to just INEC and the politicians alone.
It was with a bit of relief that I read about Independent National Electoral Commission’s findings on the February 10, 2018 elections into the 44 local government areas and 484 councillorship positions in Kano State, during which underage voting was said to have taken place.
The report revealed what many of us already suspected; that while there might have been underage voting on that particular day, the photos that went viral on social media didn’t quite portray the reality and neither were the people behind sharing those photos as altruistic and innocent as they would like you and I to believe.
There were even instances where pictures of children queuing in an Internally Displaced Persons camp were passed off as child voters waiting in line.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Nigerian politicians are a strange lot.
As 2019 approaches in earnest, one is not surprised that the politicians are at it again through attempts to tar INEC with the all familiar brush. Discredit the electoral institution by impugning the integrity of the voters’ register so that when they lose election next year, it would be easier to blame INEC and an already condemned voters’ register.
Are there truly cases of underage voters in INEC’s register? Yes, of course.
Even INEC itself has owned up as much. Its committee’s report after the Kano election stated that after the committee carried out random manual checks of six local government areas with a total of 1,237 polling units and 693,935 voters, it discovered about 2,941 underage persons in the register, representing about 0.42 percent of the total figure.
But these desperate attempts to make us all believe that the same voters’ register they’ve been using to get elected since 2011 is now a problem should be seen for what it truly is: A grand act of mischief.
You see, the Nigerian politicians are like your everyday coward; they would always need someone else to blame every of their self-inflicted problems on.
Just look at what happened over the weekend in Ekiti State during the APC primaries. Look at all the ugly stories emerging from the state congresses of the same ruling party. From Rivers State, where APC’s party secretariat was vandalised on the eve of the ward elections, allegedly as a fallout of the needless feud between the minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi and Magnus Abe, to Taraba, where police had to shoot indiscriminately into the air to disperse hoodlums, the stories were the same wherever you went – violence, and violence and even more violence.
There was hardly any State that experienced a hitch-free ward congress, with blame and counter-blame among members of the party ruling and ruining our country.
I’m still waiting for them to blame INEC for all the chaos of this last weekend because once an electoral exercise does not end as one party or the other had envisaged, then INEC becomes the official scapegoat.
It was just like yesterday when a former minister under the Jonathan-led government, Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe, was vibrating like a malfunctioning china phone in front of an exceptionally calm electoral umpire, Professor Attahiru Jega, when it was obvious that his principal, Goodluck Jonathan, had lost the election. That loss, according to Nigerian politicians of the PDP edition, was the fault of the Jega-led INEC.
I can also bet you that if you traced the origin of those underage persons in the register, you will certainly meet these politicians shouting themselves hoarse now, at the beginning, middle and end of it all, with a handful shameless and greedy INEC staff dotted at the fringes.
I remember very well about two decades ago as a National Youth Service Corps member serving in Ona-Ara Local Government, Ibadan, Oyo State, when some politicians approached some of my colleagues who were on electoral duty with names they wanted them to fill up the voter’s register with, at a fee.
That particular registration centre was manned by ‘corpers’ and teachers from the locality. The INEC staff would come only in the mornings and evenings daily to drop and pick up the registration materials respectively. Without any effective supervisory presence, it was super easy for the unscrupulous politicians to display their talent by filling up the voter’s register with names of all their known and unknown ancestors.
I tell you it’s an age-long feature of our homegrown democracy, which INEC must ensure is stopped right now by putting its house in order.
But while we call on INEC to take whatever steps necessary to ensure the voter’s register is cleansed of all debris, including all the unborn, stillborn, underage and dead voters our shameless politicians have succeeded in sneaking in over the years, let’s all remember that our democracy is too delicate and important to be abandoned to just INEC and the politicians alone.
Active citizens participation in the electoral process has become inevitable for every adult Nigerian at this time.
We can’t give up on our democracy because of these clowns who call themselves politicians and we won’t.
Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe is editor of The Interview.