by ‘Damilola Oyedele [@damioyedele]
Yesterday the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made an official statement in which they declared that all materials and logistics were set for the 2011 election. “We are satisfied with state of preparedness for the elections,” said the report. INEC went on to promise that within 48 hours, the results of the elections would be released. All was on track – or so it seemed.
By 9:00am this morning, many Nigerians were awake, bursting with a sense of responsibility and an eagerness to vote in first of the 2011 General Elections, the National Assembly elections. “Heavy security on Abuja roads. Just made it past convoy of heavily armed SSS on patrol. Roads on lockdown,” @bubusn tweeted.
All over young Nigeria there was an air of excitement, even though most polling stations were empty of INEC officials. Within a few hours they started to arrive. “Turnout is good; people are ready to vote. People are queuing up in the sun, process slow,” tweeted @deleibikunle. @Ebuka’s turn in the queue finally came and he tweeted “Accredited!” with a picture of his left thumbnail, stained with blue marker. On Facebook though, other people weren’t satisfied with just getting accredited. They wanted to get to voting. “Now we are done with accreditation but sadly there is no ballot paper yet in my polling station,” said Olugbenro Olukunle.
This is Nigeria, so we weren’t surprised at the lateness or at @MsNemah’s tweet, though we were highly amused at the latter. “Smh they are sharing this in my area ohhhh,” she tweeted. In her tweet was the picture of a bag of rice, branded with the name of one of the candidates for the Lagos East Senatorial District.
Expected too, were the claims that came about the intended sabotage of political minority parties. “Someone is playing dirty tricks with the National Assembly elections in Lagos; Labour Party is missing from the ballot,” said Toyan Adeniji-Adele on Facebook. In BlackBerry world, there were some broadcasts being transmitted to alert supporters of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). “Please inform people that on the ballot paper there are two parties, AC & ACN and both having the broom as a symbol. It’s a ploy to confuse people and reduce the votes of ACN”.
Fast-forward the drama a couple more hours.
A few minutes after 12noon, INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega announced in a live television broadcast that the day’s elections had been cancelled. “A vendor was supposed to deliver the items latest by late Thursday afternoon… They did not deliver… I take full responsibility,” he said, and then blamed INEC’s vendors for not delivering the election materials on time. Jega revealed that the ultimate fault was with “the problem in Japan” and “relief materials to be delivered Qatar and Libya”, for which reason the vendors’ flights had been cancelled. The election materials did not come into the country until 9:00am this morning, he said, and today’s election was now postponed to Monday, 4th April.
The anger, irritation and frustration could be seen and felt at polling units and on timelines across the nation.
According to @234next: “ACN leader, Bola Tinubu left his polling unit in Ikeja in anger after being hinted that the election has been cancelled. “OMG! JEGA blames the postponement of NASS election on Japanese earthquake,” @naijatechguide tweeted. @IYgold said in her tweet: “All I want in the future is to be able to tell my kids that their mother is from Nigeria! Is that too much too ask? *sigh*”.
People like @skilful_laykon sought a more humourous side to the situation. “Jega wan do April fool for 2nd? 9ja ti ga ju,” he tweeted. Sadly this was no joke, though nearly an hour after the INEC Chairman’s announcement, some Nigerians still carried on voting, oblivious to the agitation that was going on. According to @wconnors: “Many people still voting in #Ibadan. Clearly the postponement news hasn’t filtered down”. Tweeps like @greggihenyen helped spread the news. “End of discussion all should go home JEGA has spoken on National TV. Elections postponed to Mon April 4th,” he tweeted.
Within a few minutes of the INEC boss’ announcement, ‘Jega’ began a worldwide trend on Twitter, as tweeps lashed out.
@aninoritse’s mind was clearly made up on the INEC Chairman’s character. “2007 and 2011..not much difference..Iwu was just a dirty rogue and Jega on the other hand is an honest Rogue,” she tweeted. @aalmasri had his say as well: “A horrendously corrupt government can never appoint an honest elections head. Fact.” And so Nigerians continued a rain of insults on the man who found himself in the middle of a failed National Assembly election.
However, not all were ready to nail the INEC Chairman to the stake. @bubusn tweeted: “I have more confidence in #Jega now even. I know he will rather look bad that give us fake elections.” @toluogunlesi shared his sentiments, saying: “Till tomorrow, Maurice Iwu will not admit that he messed up. Jega is taking full responsibility”.
Still, some were miffed at Jega’s statements. “Please can we not blame our lack of preparedness on God,” @ritaUdominic tweeted at a someone who quoted the INEC chairman saying: “It should not have happened but what can we do? Man proposes, God disposes.”
“So will they make Monday a work-free day?” tweeted @SenamiApple. We wonder. We also wonder whether to believe in the conspiracy theory that the election cancellation is part of a grand plot by the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). “Election postponed ba? As long as PDP is stl at large, notn wil go straight in nyja. Write dat down,” tweeted @mmusbee. @obatunde seems to be more sympathetic. “I just listened to President Jonathan’s speech on the postponed election. He looks so worried and visibly disappointed,” he tweeted.
Nigerian artiste @BankyW and US journalist @purefoyCNN had some practical concerns on their minds. “What happens to the ballot materials that got to the polling units? Who watches them? What about votes that have already been cast?” said Banky. “Confusion at polling stations #Nigeriadecides… who is watching ballot papers and boxes?” tweeted the latter.
@howyourday says we should all focus on the bright side. “It’s more time to pray for this country. Nigeria must prosper!” he tweeted. We don’t know what side @slimtee09 is focused on, but we know he refuses to be daunted. “No matter what Jega does, I’m still going bak 2dat polling center on Monday to vote,” he tweeted.
To that, we say #Gbam.