I hate elections. Well, not quite. After all, no one desires to be an onlooker when important decisions are being made. But Nigeria elections, in my opinion, are an elaborate charade woven in expensive foolery, needless violence and deliberate corruption.
At twenty three, I had never voted neither did I look forward to doing so. Until a succession of strike actions, occasioned by a retrogressive governor who called himself the Zion of the West, which threatened to extend my four-year course at the state-owned university, suddenly threw me a chance to be part of the electoral process.
That fateful Saturday in April 2007, I made for the polling booth, determined to perform my civic duty.
“The idiot must go,” I said to myself as I strolled to the polling unit.
The queue of prospective voters stretched like an abandoned train on a desolate track. The rising sun, with its golden colouration, gave a friendly ambience to the setting. I was impressed at the turn out. I only hoped the people shared my sentiments for a change of government. It took a few hours to confirm that.
Six hours later, the queue was much shorter and the whole electoral process had less than an hour to go. A lot of voters waited around, ostensibly to witness the collation of the ballots. When the hour came, polling officials emptied the ballot in the open and proceeded to sort them. With hushed tones and apprehension, we all watched as the electoral official counted the ballots one after the other. That was when the idea, like the proverbial thief in the night, dropped in my mind.
“Why don’t you record the proceedings?” came the soft, prompting voice. “That’s true o,” I answered as I fished out my phone. Stepping back from prying eyes, and pretending as if I was receiving a call, I started the voice recording.
“NPP, NPP, NPP, VDP, VDP, NPP, VDP, NPP…,” the official announced as the ballots were sorted. After sorting, the counting began. It took just over seven minutes to collate the result and it was just as expected: “The candidate of the NPP polled 1,322 votes while the VDP candidate polled 211 votes…” Her voice trailed off in the euphoria that greeted the announcement.
Like everyone else, I was happy that I was part of the process that would contribute to the potential downfall of the unpopular governor.
Later in the evening, as other results were being collated, it was clear that the incumbent would be jobless in the next political dispensation. But it was never to be. A flurry of activities altered the direction of victory. It began when the sitting governor, in an unmarked vehicle, suddenly showed up at the DNEC headquarters. A couple of Ghana-must-go bags exchanged hands and the results were sealed.
I stood, mouth agape, as the chief electoral officer declared the incumbent re-elected by practically swapping the polled votes between him and the leading opposition candidate. While party agents and supporters jubilated, I pulled off my ‘Polling official’ ID, submitted it to the person in charge and walked out.
As I walked away, I slowly brought out my phone and deleted the recording. However, when a similar result in a neighbouring state was upturned three years after the elections, it dawned on me that my recording could have aided the quest of the cheated candidate to getting himself declared as the rightfully elected governor.
Who knows, I might have graduated instead of remaining stuck in final year for two straight years. No thanks to the Zion of the West.