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Nigeria: Blogging the historic election (Part 1)

It's election time in Africa's most populous country – Nigeria. Nigerian bloggers have been blogging their sentiments and observations of the election. This round-up gives a brief overview of election reports and views shared by Nigerian bloggers before, during and after last Saturday's gubernatorial election.

Pre-election

Yomi Says blogs about pre-election campaign in Lagos state, Nigeria's economic hub, by President Olusegun Obasanjo (Uncle Sege): “Uncle Sege [Olusegun Obasanjo] and the Elections: Lies and Propaganda

NTA aired the campaign rallies of Musiliu Obanikoro yesterday. Uncle Sege was there to promote his boy. If that was all he did, I would have no problem, but when a person in the shoes of Baba Iyabo lies and gets into blind propaganda in public, it is a shameful thing.

Baba Iyabo said that 8 years ago when the present administration of Lagos came in, he approached them asking that Lagos work hand-in-hand with them to develop its infrastructures; but that Bola Tinubu said, ‘No’. That was an outright, bare-faced, blatant lie.
Fortunately, there were some elderly citizens present, watching the telecast with me. None of these elders are into partisan politics, and all of them are principled, objective individuals. They all spoke up immediately to say that Baba Iyabo lied about that, and they accurately recounted what took place 8 years ago.

He then goes on to list some key areas in which he thinks the Federal government has failed Nigerians.

Musings of a Naijaman seems to have a scoop on the outcome of the elections before the elections even took place:

[…]In Nigeria, the political drama continues to unfold- what with the almighty PDP refusing to field governorship candidates in Rivers and Imo States rather than obey a Supreme Court judgement reinstating the rightful winners of the primaries. Nigeria can produce such bizarre results at times- from all that I hear about them, Araraume and Rotimi Amaechi, the candidates in question are hardly beacons of moral uprightness and yet one cannot help but support them in the injustice being meted out. Speaking to family and friends in Nigeria over the weekend, it seems as usual that Nigerians are resigning themselves to divine intervention- feeling completely helpless before the PDP behemoth. Frequent references were made as to how God intervened when Abacha thought he had his civilian succession sorted. The same mood of “what can we do?” pervaded the panel discussion at SOAS last week with Reuben Abati and Professor Akande- the general consensus was that the elections would be massively rigged but that Nigerians would accept the results. To put the icing on the cake, Patrick Wilmot, the writer and academic who was present at the SOAS event quoted the Secretary of the PDP as having predicted at a forum at Chatham House that PDP would win the elections by about 75 per cent. So ladies and gentlemen, there you have it, the results for the 2007 Nigerian elections, announced well in advance of any actual casting of votes.[…]

Omodudu wants to mobilize bloggers to cover the elections in “Calling Nigerian Bloggers…“:

Can blogging do for Nigeria what blogging did for the American elections? Will bloggers use their blogs as a tool for on-the-ground citizen journalism. Will bloggers post, up-to-the minute reports as the elections unfold? Will bloggers at least attempt to thwart the efforts of the individuals who have planned to rig the gubernatorial elections? Will bloggers take pictures and make videos of the pluses and minuses during the elections? Will we stop talking about our cats and shoes for one day, and focus on an issue that will determine how we live our lives in the next for years?

Snap a picture, make a video, write a comment. God bless you all.

Election Day (Saturday, March 14th 2007)

Ore's Notes is a blog run by a female Nigerian blogger. She shares her experience on voting day in “Voting in Progress …

[…]As I moved closer to the front of the queue (These damned queues – I felt like I was a corper all over again. Even the sun cooperated in recreating the mood by beating down on our heads with cheerful ferocity.) people started complaining about not being able to find their names in the registers. This meant that they were not able to vote.

Na wa! Why is it always one thing after another? Just when we were all commenting that these elections were turning out to be so organised too….

An INEC official was found and she speculated on whether the officials had the complete list of voters’ names. She then went off, accompanied by one of the voters just so she wouldn't abscond, to look for the missing names. In the interim, a new queue was formed for people who had tried to vote, but whose names were missing. I stayed on my queue and when I got to the front handed my temporary voter's card to the official. Fortunately, my name was there and he asked me to bring forward my left thumb so that he could mark it with ink. I moved on to the second official, who marked the inner portion of my voter's card and gave me the stamped and signed ballot forms. I then moved to a side table to select my candidates on the forms.[…]

In a blog post titled “Voting in Lagos“, Chippla's Weblog shares a piece by a young Lagos-resident Nigerian on what it took to cast her vote.

[…]An INEC officialIt would be an understatement to say that I was perplexed by the insistence of the INEC officials to stick to instructions—for I was shocked. But then, whomever it was that gave such instructions must have been myopic! For what was the essence of capturing voters registration data electronically during the registration exercise, if it was not to be used in a smart way? Where was technology being applied in the voting exercise? Why does the system in Nigeria choose to frustrate and punish people on the basis of ‘orders from above’, while other countries seek means of making life easier for their citizens? I was beginning to wonder if I was actually living in the 21st century and if the entire voting exercise would be fair.

The first vote was cast about an hour and a half after the INEC officials arrived. At this time, there were over 500 voters on the queue, which was growing by the minute. One of the male voters commented that it was due to the large population that things appeared unworkable in Nigeria. I chose to disagree with him. Planning, organization and dissemination of information were all that was lacking today. Even if there happened to be only 10 voters on the queue, poor logistics, organization and planning, as one saw in this exercise, would have resulted in an inefficient and complex voting process.

INEC officials setting upIn addition to that, if the INEC officials happened not to be properly trained they would have to work extra hard to get simple things done. This would in turn result in unkind words and insults from agitated voters. On my part, I was deeply disappointed with all the ‘noise’ INEC had made about being ready for the election process. Come to think of it, I dread to imagine what the presidential election would look like![…]

Yomi Says shares some thought about the day's event: “Monitoring the gubernatorial elections

Up till now (11.15am), polling officers are yet to arrive at many polling stations. At other stations where polling has started, there are reports of shortage of materials.

It doesn’t look good. As usual, this leaves good room for malpractices. In the past, this has resulted in a situation where legitimate voters get tired and leave and pre-completed ballot papers are presented for counting at the end of the day.

Whether this delay is deliberate or merely a logistics problem from INEC, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Post-election

Black Looks’ blog post title says it all: “A novel in rotten democracy

Nigeria went to the polls on Saturday for the first leg of the elections – the second leg voting for the President and national assembly is next Saturday. Today the Supreme Court ruled null and void the INEC’s (Electorial Commission) disqualification of Vice President Atiku Abubakar and at least 6 other governors. Nigeriaworld’s choice of headlines “Democracy Rules” is way off mark as violence, rigging and general thuggery seemed to have ruled the day.

Ike Okonta as always does an outstanding job in placing Nigeria’s elections in an historical and political context and asks a number of questions:
Will the elections hold? Will clear winners emerge? Will alleged losers accept their defeat with good grace, actuated by the larger national interest?

Grandiose Parlor asks “Was the Nigerian Elections Satisfactory?

If the reports of the Saturday elections are to be reckoned with – it was a gross display of violence, fraud and total disregard for law and order.Just as political thugs and Niger-Delta militias were hijacking the process, some party chieftains and their goons were seizing ballot boxes, shooting and killing members of rival parties. Even INEC, the electoral agency in charge, omitted pictures of candidates in some states. As several mainstream media sites have reported, polling started very late in several polling stations nationwide.

When there are hard evidence that no state in the nation was free of violence or electoral fraud, yet the President deemed the elections satisfactory. Is Mr. Obasanjo in touch with reality at all? Or maybe I need my head examined!

We end this blog round-up with the entry by Break Of Dawn, in “Gubernatorial Election Results

Finally, the Nigeria gubernatorial elections for the year 2007 have come to an end. There have been lots of mixed feelings about the exercise but INEC has declared the voting to be free and fair. Security was tight as armed soldiers and police were deployed all over the country to check violence and possible disruption. That notwithstanding, lots of issues were still recorded. I'll cover the election process in a later article. Right now here are the [partial] complete results of the 2007 gubernatorial elections.

He then goes on to outline the election results as released by INEC. However, the concluding part of the blog post makes an interesting read.

Suddenly, the real reason for the 2-day unnecessary public holidays seems to have dawned on people. People initially thought it to be a gimmick by the presidency to keep Atiku away from the elections, and they were wondering if public holidays would be declared this week as well. Presently, it has been suggested that this tactic is actually against the AC … because if the court had ruled in Atiku's favour before the governorship elections, it would have been more difficult for the PDP to have rigged or for the INEC to announce inconsistent results in favor of the PDP. Obasanjo wants to have the last laugh and say “I told you” … but Time will tell.

God save our country Nigeria. Long live Nigeria.

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Author's note: The subsequent part of this piece will focus on the up-coming Presidential elections in the same country.

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