A Tale of Two Elections


June 8 UK General Elections
I was in London during the recent UK General Elections that held on Thursday, June 8. I went into an office to do a transaction. The office happened to double as a polling station that day. While the office continued with its normal activities, the conference room was used as the polling booth. Voting commenced in the morning and ended at 10pm, to enable workers return from work in the evening, and still have ample time to vote. I only noticed about 4 electoral officers.

The voting exercise was so peaceful and orderly. You really wouldn’t have known that there was anything going on. There were no policemen and 500 polling agents at the polling station like we have at our local polling stations. No fanfare. You didn’t even need your actual voter’s card to vote. Once you register, your name is on the voter’s list. Your name is checked on the list, you cast your vote and put it in the ballot. Shi ke nan (that is that)!

Nigerian Voting
Unlike our dear country, Nigeria. I thought to myself as I left the office, when will we ever learn and get it right? The voter’s registration that took place in Nigeria prior to the 2015 elections, was rowdy. Voting itself was hell. If not that I was determined to vote, I would have just turned around and gone home. It was a nightmare. Apart from the electoral officials arriving at the polling station quite late (claiming that the transportation to convey them to the polling station came late), we had to queue in the sun for hours. On the 2 occasions that I voted, the obviously sub-standard card reader, failed and did not accept my fingerprints. I then had to join another queue for the manual voting, where my name was recorded on a list.

What am I trying to say? We Nigerians are exposed and travelled enough to be able to see how other countries that have trouble-free elections, carry out their voter’s registration and conduct hitch-free elections. I think that INEC’s extended voter’s registration exercise this time around, may be a step in the right direction. However, INEC still needs to study the system in countries like the UK for example, send their staff for proper training, and see how we can make our system better.

Sure, certain things that obtain in other climes, like sending the voter’s registration card by post like they do in the UK, may not work in Nigeria. Your voter’s card would probably be intercepted by unsavoury characters, who probably want to use it for ‘rigging’. But other positive aspects can be adapted to suit our own purposes.

Do we even have a functioning and efficient postal service in Nigeria? I never forgave the Nigerian Postal Service for stopping me from becoming a full Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK. I remember that I had joined the Institute as an Associate, when I was about 29/30 years old or so. I was not qualified to sit the exams to become a Fellow of the Institute till I was 35. However, at some point, the Institute decided to upgrade Associates to Members automatically. I received the letter for my upgrade, which I had to accept, in the post about 6 months after the deadline for acceptance had passed! It had taken over 6 months for the letter to travel by post from London to Lagos!