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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guest Blogger: Is it my right? by Chihurumanya Felly-Njoku




vote

[voht]noun, verb, vot·ed, vot·ing.
–noun
1.
a formal expression of opinion or choice, either positive ornegative, made by an individual or body of individuals.



I FINALLY turned eighteen (18) on the 4th of February. During the few days that led up to my birthday, I was excited about a lot of things: I could finally go about telling people I was eighteen.(its odd for a girl to say that),  I could pitch the I think its high time I learnt how to drive lecture to my dad once more. I dont drink or smoke so, anything remotely related to that was of no interest to me.  I could do a lot of things (or so I thought) but most importantly, I could VOTE.


This was something I was rather interested in. Not because of the wide publicity this was given on twitter and other social networks; thanks to Eldee, DBanj, Naeto C, P Square and the other celebrities,(kudos to them for that by the way)  or the various rumors that went round my school. (E.g. without a Voters card, it will be IMPOSSIBLE for you to even smell the shores of The Republic of Benin or to do your NYSC).

I did it because I always had this picture in my head about an election. Once I got the hang of it, I became really excited about the whole process. It just has this Im an adult air about it. Like, you were wise enough to come up with a good choice as to who would rule your country and everyone knows how much teenagers love and crave for a chance to show how wise they are.
So you can understand how happy I felt thinking about how I would line up and be recognized as a voter.

I couldnt go to the registration centre on my birthday because I had an exam on that day (Yes, I know, tough luck). I decided to go the next day (The 5th) and get registered. I pictured that it will be a simple process:  stand in line, fill a form, get to my turn, and have my horrible passport photograph taken (they tend to be horrid), get registered on the database, get the card printed out, hopefully have it laminated and Id be done. I calculated everything in my head and I thought that it wont take up to 3 hours.

A warning bell should have rang in my head when my roommate came back  to the room that morning announcing that although it was past 9 am, the officials hadnt come and people were busy writing their names down on some list and the number of people had reached a hundred.

I quickly rushed to the centre to find PEOPLE (notice my use of  all Caps) standing and waiting and in the usual Nigerian way, complaining about the lateness of the officials and relating it to other issues. I wrote my name down and waited.
Looking at the crowd, I guessed that it would be more than one machine registering us. After all, we were many.

You cannot imagine the shock on my face when I saw just three people with one machine. I stared at the bus that brought them hoping that another team was going to come out.  One team to handle almost two hundred people? I thought as I shook my head. Nigeria.

The man in charge (to be called bossman from now) was a short man who had no problem in announcing that he was in charge. He looked as us and said, we are starting from yesterdays list. So if you were here yesterday, please listen to your names. Those of us that came on that day, looked around and whispered List?! They hadnt finished dealing with people from yesterday? WOW!

Procrastination. Dare I say that this is a habit popular with most Nigerians? All of these people could have been handled yesterday, I was sure. Why couldnt we just deal with our issues and problems as they come instead of shifting it to another day or pushing it onto another person?
That aside
The people that wrote their names down the previous day, stood to hear their names while I watched. Patiently. Some people, who came with me that day, joined the group of people that came the previous day answering to any random name the 'bossman' called out and joined the line as their friends cheered them on.

Integrity. That is another issue. Why couldnt we just behave ourselves? Trust me, I considered doing what the boys (yes, boys) were doing but I was not ready to lie to you guys so I decided to wait it out. Integrity, another important ingredient that must be added to the Lets make Nigeria better mix. I would not lie. I do not always toe the orderly and honest line but I try. It wont be a bad idea if our politicians decided to pick up a little bit of the integrity trait. Just a little bit and we would all see a change in the day to day running of Nigeria.

Truth be told, the lies we have heard from them (the politicians) are becoming tiring and old. We have to applaud them though. To possess the clout to lie to people who know they are lying already and still do it with a straight face and repeatedly saying that they have facts backing them up.

Apparently, Nigerians spent 94.3 billion Naira to register just 65.2 million people. Yes, just to Register. (Remember the budget released for Nigerias golden jubilee celebration? I dont want to bring that issue up but just remember the amount announced and how it was used.)  I cannot remember the exact amount but I know Bangladesh used a lesser amount of money to register a larger number of people. Mind you, this amount was just spent for registration. Lets not think about how much the main voting process will cost. GOD, HELP US!

Integrity should also be practiced by ordinary people. The little girl that has been given too much change by a shopkeeper. People lining up to get something. Little drops of water make an ocean. We are not left out of this.

We (my friends and I) went to complain to the 'bossman' and he said (his exact words): My dears, you should go back to your rooms and come back tomorrow, you wont be able to register today, you hear? Come back tomorrow. I did not need to ask any other question. I left the centre. Planning to come back the next day.
 Walking back to my room, I recalled this statement:
Your Vote is not for Sale.

I have heard this sentence/statement a couple of times in political jingles/adverts. This statement will have an effect on a literate person, on someone who is an optimist. This statement will echo in the minds of people who have seen/believe in the effectiveness of a vote.

On the other hand, this statement would merely roll off the back of a pessimist. It would fly past the ears of an Illiterate.  After all, what had the government done for them? They were still hungry, still crying, still struggling to put their children through school. They had given up on the government. And here was someone offering to give them MONEY to just put their thumb on a designated place. Easy money. Easy easy money.

This is the exact picture painted in Nigeria about elections.  We all sit down and watch the politicians throw money about, organize big conventions, rig their primaries before our very eyes, badmouth each other, encourage us to vote for them (by using EVERY means possible), organize back up plans to ensure their wins (enter political thugs and other dubious means) and all of that. Meanwhile, the common people are just interested in living through this election period. They are interested in protecting their children from the ritual killers that are so rampant during this period.

Yes, power is addictive but when did it become so addictive that men and women are prepared to kill themselves and other people just to have a whiff of it? If this happens now, what happens when my generation gets into power? Thats a scary thought.

The politicians this year are preaching change in their manifestoes. Vote for me for a better Nigeria they say but will this years election be different?

Will people leave the polling stations knowing that their votes have made an impact?  Will they believe that a change has been made? Or will they even bother?

To cut my Long rant short, I went back there for 2 consecutive days (the registration date was extended for us) until the registration team packed up. You got it right. I COULDNT COMPLETE MY VOTERS REGISTRATION!

I planned to publish a picture of my Voters card alongside this post but alas, I sit down here typing and listening to Vectors I Luv you Nigeria without a card and pondering about Nigeria and Nigerians . I worry about our future, where we are heading to and the price of fuel in the next five years. I paused for a while after typing the line before this. I had to think. A part of me feels Nonchalant, A part feels worried. With the unrest and the crisis here and there, can we still stand as one? Can we still stand as a country? With the diversity and the eccentricities that each tribe in this country brings to the plate. iSigh.
Yet, theres still that part of me that wont give up. I dont have a voters card but my voice will still be heard nonetheless. A part of me still sings Ile, Ile, Ile…’ This is my country. My HOME.

2 comments:

  1. I'm tired of people generalising about Nigeria's politicians. A large number of the ones we have actually do try to stamp out corruption and all.
    This is well written anyway and I can imagine your frustration; not being able to register.
    I figure there' ll be change soon enough. I'm optimistic that with our generation Nigeria'll improve.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bennie Efemena Ben-IririMay 18, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Interesting site. Great material. Keep it rolling in brotha

    ReplyDelete

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