See ehn, if I don’t write about my experience during this election, posterity will not be pleased. I didn’t plan to write this as I had something different on my mind before but the temptation to share my experience was too much to resist. The political atmosphere before the election was already charged but that isn’t even my point. I’m here to talk about the election itself.
THE DAY BEFORE
So, I arrived the INEC office where we were supposed to take off to the RAC on Friday. I got there around 11am. Being a very familiar face there, I quickly got to work. I wasn’t just an ad hoc staff; I knew some workings of the commission. I helped with the postings of electoral officials (and no, I didn’t influence mine) & some other miscellaneous activities. By evening, I helped with announcing the postings. Election materials were still being sorted & corp members were just loitering around. Some voters also came for their PVCs though. The security personnel comprising of the military and the police provided security. Corp members & other electoral officers were asked to pack the non-sensitive materials outside. My SPO told me to stand guard over the sensitive materials. Yup, we were close laidat.
The location of the office is such that one can’t get food to buy nearby. So, majority of us battled with hunger and weariness. In fact, by 9pm, what I had in my stomach was the bread & tea I took before leaving house in the morning. By 11pm, we all left for our RACs. Mine was the town hall which was just less than 5mins from the office. At the RAC, all the materials were allotted to their respective PUs. Sleeping spaces were limited and I had to make do with the seat inside a bus, when I decided to sleep by past 1am.
The noise from the megaphone woke me by 3:16am. My stomach was still complaining. Peeps have started getting up to have their bath. The SPO, with some folks had kept vigil distributing election materials to their respective PUs. I later joined and it was discovered that some materials (non sensitive) had been taken to another RAC. We arrived the PU by 7:23am. A female police officer, female NSCDC and male FRSC officers were assigned to the PU. After settling down, the first challenge was that the Voter Register in our possession belonged to another RAC entirely, while they had ours. A voter volunteered to convey me on his bike to the location.
A journey of about 7 mins. After retrieving it, I returned only to discover that the card reader was acting funny- shii wasn’t ready to accept the password. It later stopped the joke and accepted the password. Accreditation that should have started by 8:00am started around 10:00am. The accreditation went on smoothly until sun pursue us comot our location. I had to remove that fishnet they call jacket. Oru n mumi mehn! Did I say that my stomach still hadn’t entertained any food? Everything went as planned until the card reader started its hide and seek again. It resumed after about 15mins though. Accreditation ended around past 3pm when it should have ended by 1pm. Stomach was still grumbling o! At that moment, I just told myself that I was going to have ulcer. No way i was gonna escape it. I’ve gone without food for more than 24 hours. One category of people you see at a PU are those who claim to have been voting since the 19th century; so they try to dictate how to work to he electoral officials. There are also the elderly who despite explaining how the voting should be, in Yoruba, are still at a loss at what to do with the ballot papers. See ehn! If a political party wants to rig, it’s easier done in rural areas where the illiterates and elderly abound. There are some of those elderly who ask electoral officials who to vote for. Because consideration has to be given to the elderly (they aren’t expected to join the queue), those on the queue started grumbling. My job description during the voting was to make sure that ballot papers are dropped in the appropriate boxes. Thus, I was one my feet throughout the period. More ballot papers were brought to complement those available. Boom! The sky thought that the land was dry and decided to make it wet a lil bit. The downpour was frying pan to fire. The arrangement was disrupted. Now, I was battling with fatigue, hunger, shouts from angry voters, elderly voters and ensuring the ballot boxes didn’t leave my sight. After about 45 minutes, the sky in its wisdom, thought the land was wet enough and stopped its supply. What a relief!
‘Oga, ballot papers don finish o!’– came the voice of the APO III. Shet! How come? I called the SPO who promised to bring more. The time was past 6pm and the crowd was already restive. Someone even threatened to beat me because I giggled when he said INEC was conniving with some people to rig the election, hence, the ballot papers allotted was small in number. The dude was already planning with his goons on how to deal with me. Haha! Shey someone cannot giggle in peace again ni? Abi izzit your giggle? The senatorial candidate of APC visited but stayed in his car throughout. Why did you now come abi you wan show us your G-Wagon ni? You cannot even drop something for awon boiz. *rme* Your motor is fine sha. That was how one policeman who followed him told me to leave the place because party agents shouldn’t be near the ballot boxes.
‘Haha! Officer, shey you no see INEC ID card for my neck ni?’
I no talk am o before we hear stories that touch.
When the SPO brought the ballot papers some minutes to 8pm, it was exactly the amount of people who were on the voting queue. See how people swarmed him like Lagosians swarm a bus on a Monday morning at Iyana Oworo. This man hasn’t seen a minute of sleep in the last 30 hours or so. I con dey pity am like a malaria patient in a hospital pities someone who was just rushed in; temporarily forgetting his own predicament. Voting sha resumed and it ended like an hour later. Did I mention that we, the electoral officers didn’t know our names? It was awkward. Calling each other by job title.
Ehen! Another work don begin. Ballot papers have to be sorted before counting. The seals on the ballot boxes were broken. The headlamps of a Hilux van belonging to one of the parties provided illumination for us during the counting. We were now actors on stage with eyes focused on us. Stomach was still complaining though. After sorting (HoR to Senate to Presidential), counting began. All these on our feet o! The dude counting hadn’t also had anything since morning, thus, his voice wasn’t audible enough. Those around still heard to effrontery to ask him to speak louder. Are you guys nuts? After everything sha, the winner was declared. It’s a funny scenario because if a party you support doesn’t win (or wins), you gotta keep a straight face.
Back at the collation centre, all materials had to be returned intact. That one na another task on its own but we sha surmounted them. That was when I got to know the names of those I worked with. Time was already some minutes to 11pm. I had to appease the gods in my stomach mehn! Later found a roadside joint where noodles was sold. If I hadn’t, I might not have seen the following day. When I returned, one parole was already wai…. nvm. Peeps were now finding it difficult to find where to sleep. See corp members just dey dorikodo dey sleep on top plastic chairs. Some even go sleep for bus. I also slept inside a bus the day I arrived. Me, I just spread my blanket jejely on the bare floor. Not everytime mattress, sometimes floor. One girl sha come to share the blanket with me. Because oju lon roju shanu. Eyan le need help any fucking time mehn!
Finally closed my eyes around 2:00am.