"Is this an election?" Part II, By Dr Muyiwa Enuaye

So my friend Muyiwa Enuaye is not done yet. He sent me this piece yesterday from Benin City. — Last week I wrote to inform you about my attempts to vote during the gubernatorial elections. The story is already known to you and I believe a lot of Nigerians now know how the PDP has imposed its will on the rest of us in Edo State. On Monday, INEC declared Professor Osunbor the Governor. Surprisingly, I am yet to see anyone celebrating the result. Even the governor-elect is holed up in his home and has been issuing declarations. On the contrary, Adams Oshiomole’s protest rally was like a carnival and was probably attended by more than the one hundred and ninety thousand voters he got in the result sheet.

Rumour mongers have alleged that OBJ promised his late wife that her kinsman will rule Edo State. It has also been alleged that OBJ flew into Benin-City at 3.00 am to ensure Stella got her death wish. Offering a dead woman a stolen mandate speaks volumes of the character of the giver and the receiver (May her soul rest in peace). Let us leave the governorship election for now. On the 21st of April I took a foolish decision, I went to vote. All my friends and colleagues decided to stay away because of the previous week’s robbery.

On the previous day, an Okada man who helped me buy fuel for my generator thought I was insane when I suggested he vote. I did go to vote to give my candidate the support and to confirm how far INEC was prepared to fool us. I got to the polling station at UBTH by 10.30am and met no INEC official. A handful of voters were there waiting to vote. This was a far cry from the massive turnout on the 14th. A number of people I spoke with came to satisfy their curiosity or because they had nothing to do at home. INEC arrived an hour later in a bus that had two different plate numbers on the rear and on the windscreen. The bus was occupied by INEC staff and some policemen and was accompanied by three cars driven by party agents. On arrival INEC officials tried a trick; they said only unit 22 materials had been supplied.

The suggestion was rejected they were told to go home and they actually tried to leave save the intervention of the policemen. After an hour of argument arrangements were made for voting in all four units (22, 23, 24 and 25). For reasons best known to INEC and the party agents, units 24 and 25 were relocated to UBTH gate. Then another problem reared its head up. Those of us in unit 23 were told that list available contained only voters whose surnames started with the letters A, E and I. Good news for me but not so for the bulk of voters whose names started with letter O. Voting proper started by 1.00pm. I decided to explore and locate the 21 missing polling units that I failed to find on the 14th. I tried my luck with the most senior INEC staff. I ended up getting insulted and referred to the supervisor, a woman who was too busy to attend to me. I decided to take a walk to EDPA primary school. On my way I noticed that most voters stayed at home.

I even passed by a TV viewing centre. Tottenham VS Arsenal was being aired and it occurred to me that these young men had made a better decision. When I arrived at the primary school I noticed election officials and cops outnumbered voters to the ratio of 3:1. No voting materials had arrived as at 2.00pm. I also learnt that units 20 and 21 were in the school both had a total population of less than 200 voters. They also voted on the 14th. But I wondered, “if INEC wanted to decongest UBTH, this would have been the ideal venue”. I was told 4 units were located in Ugbowo Primary School and at Adolor College. Also I was informed that a polling station was located at the nearby Ohenru Grammar School. I was to discover that the school was not nearby after trekking for over 20 minutes A few metres from the grammar school, I was overtaken by a convoy of two police vehicles and some other cars.

The arrival of the second vehicle manned by members of the dreaded SARS unit sent a number of young men running for their dear lives. I concluded the young men were thugs because they refused to tell me what they were doing in the school, were not registered and were only worried about the loss of an opportunity to make money. Because of this, I decided not to go into the school. I did not want to get shot besides I had only one hundred naira in my pocket. Enough money to bribe five cops. On my way back I noticed that the residents were not interested in the election. I asked for directions and walked to Adolor College. On the way the two police vans passed me by and I noticed the young men who I saw running away a few minutes ago moving in the opposite direction back to the grammar school. I think my earlier conclusion was correct. At Adolor College, I found five units (013, 014, 015, 016 and 017). Voting was peaceful and had been so last week. I was reliably informed that Ugbowo Primary School had four units (009, 010, 011 and 012) I had still not accounted for 10 of the 27 polling units.

If we assume that the grammar school I could not visit had five units that would still leave us with five units. The question still remained, Why would INEC relocate voters without informing them? Worn out, I decided to return to UBTH. By this time it was almost 3.00pm and when I got back the list was still at large. Most of the people had voted but the four ballot boxes were still relatively empty. A number of die hard unit 23 voters were still waiting. One of the staff was using the handwritten voter registration list to accredit voters. Unfortunately only he did not have the whole list. While I was there a big man arrived in Jeep accompanied by armed policemen. We were told he was the new INEC commissioner and we took advantage of his presence to complain about last week’s robbery and the present day’s mishap.

Some voters from Uniben also complained that they had seen neither INEC officials nor voting materials. The INEC man who insulted me earlier on posed as a voter in unit 23 and proclaimed he had voted and that there was no problem. The man was shouted down. I just cannot understand why INEC men wanted to hide the truth. There was also a TV crew to listen to some of our complaints but guess what? Someone on the queue told us the cameraman interviewed our anger with his camera switched off. 419 people. Hungry and thirsty, I went to have a drink and chat with friends. I came back by 4.00pm to learn the missing list had appeared and so many voters had left. The ballot boxes were still empty and the accreditation of voters had become chaotic in unit 23. The lines in the other units were empty. I decided it was time to vote and end my miserable adventure. Who did I vote for? It is a secret but I can tell you I did not vote for PDP or AC. I am still disappointed in INEC. The mishap of the 14th had discouraged a lot of voters and I was not convinced they were impartial.

By Dr Muyiwa Enuaye