ELECTION STORIES

Elections in Nigeria are always fraught with stories of different hues and tones. Some of these stories turn out hilarious, some pathetic, others disturbing, disheartening and even gory. This is not to say that similar stories are not a part of the electoral process in other lands and climes but in our land we seem to have a passion for masterfully crafted stories that most times defy logic and are fit for the big screen. Some of the stories of past elections still abound around us. Recently, the European Union (EU) observers stated that the Nigerian Election 2007 was the worst it had witnessed anywhere in the world. Or in what better way do you describe a situation where 1,000, 000 (one million) votes were counted for a political party in a locality where all the inhabitants are a little more than 3,000 (three thousand)? Some call it abracadabra, others see it as “magic system”; but I call it “Super Story!” In case you doubt this, I like to inform you that it’s not a fabricated story but part of what shaped Elections 2003 in our dear country. We have heard traditional rulers telling us that their “ancestors” also participate in the elections, so maybe the “ancestors” put in the additional votes.
For me, I have a way of seeing the funny side of things. And what I have tried to do in this piece is to let you in on some of the somewhat funny stories of our elections – past and present. They are serious issues nonetheless but I want you to have a laugh and wonder if our elections are sitcoms. If you follow the FRCN (Radio Nigeria) drama series “story, story,” you might be able to understand my point of view. “Story, story” tells the pathetic Nigerian story; it recounts the everyday poverty-laden happenings in a relaxed manner that makes you laugh at our problems as a people but this doesn’t take the seriousness of the matter away.
I would begin my “story” with the bomb blast that rocked the INEC Suleja office on the eve of the elections. This is no doubt a gory story as it has claimed the lives of several persons with many still languishing in pains on hospital beds. I pray that God gives the families of the departed fortitude to bear the loss. And I ask, what inspired the script writers of that particular story? Why bring in that horror scene into this game of decision? The funny part of that “story” is the fact that the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General M.I Tsiga has come to tell us that not a single NYSC corps member died in that incident when newspapers revealed that about 9 (nine) corps member lost their lives, an NGO has now vowed to take him to court for that “inhuman talk”.
In the week preceding the election I was privileged to attend the law week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Kaduna branch and the event, amongst other things, afforded the lawyers the opportunity of sharing stories on past elections. Let me take a part of your time as I retell some of the funny stories shared before we look at the current stories making waves. One of the discussants at the event narrated an incident that happened during the 2007 elections when he went through the nooks and crannies of his village as an independent observer, all in a bid to ensure that election was going on credibly. Having gone through the whole of the village and satisfied that the elections were going on smoothly, he returned home and was soon joined by his cousin who also happened to be the councillor in charge of the ward. Shockingly, his cousin told him that while it was a good thing going round the town but the truth is that the elections have been concluded as early as 4.00 am of that day, you might call that pathetic! Another story that I also found amusing at the event was one told by an eminent member of the bar, Yunus Ustaz Usman, (SAN) who said he called his uncle who resides in the village during the 2007 elections and when he asked if the old man had exercised his civic duty, the uncle replied that voting was not taking place in the village as they have been assured that some people were already voting on their behalf in the state capital, Lokoja!
Election stories for 2011 have also started tripping in. One of the first was the unconstitutional ban of the use of cell phones at polling booths by the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim. This ban was however subsequently denounced by the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and J. B Daudu (SAN), President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) amongst other notable personalities and organisations leading to a denial (and or withdrawal) of the statement. The shameful act in this story was that a statement that was documented on tapes was denied in broad daylight at if it was never uttered.
Another Election story we have had to enjoy this time is the postponement of the National Assembly Elections. The NASS election was initially scheduled to hold on the 2nd of April, but was then postponed till 4th April only to be further postponed till the 9th and some few ones still further postponed till the 26th. In the one week interval between the postponement and the election there was foul cry in some quarters with some asking for the head of the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega on the altar of inadequate planning. We know those calling for Jega’s head, they were the ones who were threatened of the reality of free, fair and credible elections.
As a “social networker”, I followed and monitored the poll results on both twitter and facebook and the massive change that was sweeping across was a story to share on its own part. Some of them were the fact that:
1. Aso Rock Villa polling booth was won by the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC);
2. The Vice President, Namadi Sambo lost his home ward to the ravaging CPC tornado;
3. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole lost to the Action Congress of Nigeria;
4. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was defeated at the polling booth right in front of his nose and leading to his daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello losing her seat in the senate;
5. That Senator Iyiola Omisore of Osun state, who was able to win while within prison walls and currently has his eyes on the senate presidency come May 29, was thrashed;
6. The immediate past Governor of Osun state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was also swept away by the broom revolution.
7. The immediate past Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu’s bid to the senate was scuttled by the Labour party.
I was eager for more and I was almost certain that more I will get, but I had to go to bed so that I could attend service the following day. However, before I went to bed that Saturday night (at about 12 midnight)I had it on good information that the Senate President, David Mark was losing to his arch-rival Major General Lawrence Onoja and also that the Incumbent Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki lost to the ACN candidate in the Kwara Central Senatorial constituency battle. A funny dimension to the Saraki’s defeat was being played out on twitter as Saraki at first denied losing and was posting his now famous “winning tweets,” however, some few minutes later the “winning tweets” disappeared making all to believe that the Politician-doctor conceded defeat. So with the “wining tweets” already deleted by his Excellency, I was hoping to wake up the following morning to hear a shout of victory in the camp of the opposition party but that was not to be. The story took a funny turn when in the morning of the following day we woke up to hear that the same Saraki had won and that David Mark was also leading Onoja. Unbelievably unbelievable! But, that’s part of the Nigerian Election story. So we ask, what could have happened overnight? I read in the newspapers this morning that the Kwara ACN is leading the other opposition parties in a rally challenging the poll results and has also vowed to challenge the PDP’s victory in court, marking the first threatened court action. The “story” in this matter for me is the fact that the father of the Governor, Olusola Saraki publicly commented that his son, Olubukola Saraki rigged the election. Funny!
Also in Anambra State another we have another story making the headlines. The State Returning Officer disappeared into the thin air without declaring the result of the fiercely contested battle between Chris Ngige of ACN and Prof Dora Akunyili and said he was pressurized to announce a ‘fake result’ but that his conscience won’t allow him. At one point or the other, each of the two candidates has laid claim to landslide victory over the other. So the poser is this – who threatened the State Returning officer? However, this morning we hear that the new State Resident Electoral Commissioner has announced the result and declared Chris Ngigi winner with a meagre 44 votes to beat Akunyili.
At the moment, several parties have also started calling for the cancellation of the polls in several states including Delta, Bayelsa, Imo, Benue, Akwa Ibom amongst others. This is not surprising as the umpire itself agreed that there were instances of ballot box snatching with the highest record going to Delta followed by Bayelsa and then Imo. As INEC is putting in measures to curtail rigging, the desperadoes are also creating new means of perfecting their dastardly act. In a detailed petition to Prof Jega and signed by the Akwa Ibom ACN state chairman, Aniekan Akpan, the party claims that “unused ballot … papers were given to PDP members who used palm kernels or bitter kola nuts to print in place of thumbs! What an innovation.” It is also being said that in a particular local government, Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom state, all registered voters in the state voted for the PDP leaving no allowance for voters who died, travelled, took ill or abstained from voting!
Here is a piece of advice for you: “if you take the surprises, disappointments, scheming, manoeuvres and shenanigans of the Nigerian electoral process ‘too seriously’ you might be endangering your own health and end up frustrated, so look at the funny side of things”. If you get frustrated now, then you won’t be able to rise up and continue the fight. So, laugh the sad story off, don’t give up, get going and be ready to continue the fight another day. I guess that’s the Nigerian spirit, the spirit of ‘never say die’! The smiling Nigerian spirit was why we were ranked the happiest people on earth in the face of hunger, massive joblessness, threatening disasters, political frustration and economic failure. No doubt, we are marking great improvements in our electoral process but we are not there yet, so there is still more to do. So cheer up.
As I write now, I know we have not concluded all the election stories for 2011. The big shows are yet to start screening. I therefore enjoin you to sit back and enjoy the unfolding drama that Elections 2011 has in stock for us as we return to the poll on the 16th and 26th of April. Action!

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