Now the day is upon us. Today is the beginning of what most Nigerians wish would be the beginning of the reversal of all the negativity and mediocrity of the past 23 or 24 years. Today, as we go to the polls, most Nigerians look forward to a peaceful, free and utterly pivotal electoral activity, in which INEC officials would be “on time” at their different duty posts; where eligible voters would comport themselves on orderly and friendly queues; where our aspirations in picking the right president and legislators would be transparently respected and manifested; where cries of rigging, violence, cheating, underhand agendas and such blemishes of our past elections would be so relegated that 2023 elections would appear like a divine dream.
However, the success, or God forbid, failure of our attempts at choosing our new sets of leaders by uninduced freewill would not only depend on the efficiency and even-handedness of INEC, we the voters, eligible or not, would also have to pull up our sleeves, and put determined hands to the plows. Nigerians must take ownership of the process, and make sure that we give our best shot in creating the atmosphere and circumstances that will enable free, fair and conducive elections all across the over 176,000 polling units scattered in this far-flung country.
Here, therefore, are a few things we should keep in mind to do, and make possible, as we go to the polls today. Of course, we are in a country where there are no vehicular movements nationwide during national elections. When we vote, everything else stands still – may God help you if an emergency necessitates driving out. So, it is not unusual to see some level of recreational latitude during elections in our neighbourhoods, especially where opposition parties are not equally well represented. Some areas have such a carnival feel, while some appear like war zones. Whichever area you find yourself, do comport yourself with dignity and controlled animation today. If your PVCs have “k-leg” or some unresolved issues, don’t use the day of election to “drag shege” with INEC adhoc officials. It is unhelpful and likely to cause a breach of peace. Simply resist the urge to go and see “what’s going on”. Elections are serious business, not Silverbird Galleria. Stay at home!
Before you leave your house to go to the polling unit, hopefully, just a couple of streets away, be sure you eat breakfast. Time for accreditation is usually about 8am, however most units should be up and running by 9am… in Nigeria, that could stretch up to three hours behind schedule. Keep some snacks about you, anticipate that a good eight hours may be sacrificed for the sake of a quality transition process. Remember, only those accredited would be opportune to vote, and your search for food during a prolonged process of accreditation and voting may cause you to forfeit your chance to complete the process.
Secondly, if you must eat with your hand before going to the polling units, ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly so that the BVAS capturing does not query your fingerprints. And for those in love with make-ups, be sure that your cosmetic application does not confuse the BVAS, such that it is unable to recognise your facial appearance, especially if your picture with BVAS has a copy where you used little or no make-up. Some men sometimes are unable to recognise their female partners who undergo serious make-up strokes. If you can, do not dress as if you are going to an Owambe party, or redesign your hands with henna. You hardly can blame BVAS for your fashion mishap – be modest.
Then, at the end of voting, and you feel a compelling need to await the collation of votes, the announcement of results, and the immediate transmission of results to INEC portal, do not use the intervening moment to conduct a mini-campaign of how to vote right “for the sake of our children”, or the need to use faces of presidential candidates on the ballot papers, instead of only their party logos which may not be familiar to uneducated voters, and all that. Such a “campaign” is illegal. Do not harass or harangue the INEC officials without cogent evidence of malpractice or fraud. Even when you do have verifiable evidence to support your claims, do not turn yourself to a member of the intelligence security forces to “correct an unjust action”.
A word for our energetic and change-hungry youth: those still under parental care should listen to their parents who have passed these valleys a couple of times…those who are themselves parents should hearken to this suggestion. When confronted with actions that brazenly offend established regulations and your understanding of the tenets of democracy, do not seek to “get justice” by self-help. Do not, for the sake of the future you so vehemently campaigned for, up until the day before the election, rush to effect instant justice or “jungle justice”.
We all know that there are deputies of the devil who are thirsty for blood and are quick to shed blood – waiting in the wings for just such opportunities to escalate and explode your protestations to irresponsible levels beyond your aspirational imaginations. Do not provide ant-infested firewood for the rampaging appetites of shadowy arsonists and narcissists whose goal is anarchy, whose charge is the abrogation of rule of law, and whose endgame is the cessation of democracy. By the way, ant-infested firewood is brittle, incredibly inflammable and burns rapidly. By all means, let us make those firewood scarce in our communities: Nigeria must deal with her distortions and agitations with calmness, civility, common sense and the belief that the day after a challenging day would most likely be beneficial if handled with wisdom, firmness and contextual understanding.
Finally, if your candidate, or political party eventually wins your polling unit, either by a landslide or marginal votes, kindly celebrate modestly. And if you are on the losing side, simply shrug your shoulders, and let the loss slide. In life, as in every human activity, you win some, you lose some. After all, you are merely one polling unit out of several thousands all over the country – in fact, 176,846 units, at the last count!