I voted this morning; and it’s the most peaceful and orderly election I have ever voted in. Godwin Emefiele’s cash crunch and INEC’s technological innovations have helped considerably in making today’s polls so well organised and beautiful to behold.
I commend INEC for the improvements, and I thank the government for the cashless policy that stopped vote-buying. The impact is so enormous that everybody noticed it. “This is like what I have been watching on CNN. Everybody was calm, orderly, and peaceful. We all voted in an orderly manner’’, exclaimed my cousin, Etim Inyang, who voted in a polling unit close to mine. My younger brother, Aniefiok, who voted with him concurred. He chimed, “Buhari has scored a bull’s eye. Election rigging is dead in Nigeria’’. I voted in Primary School, Nung-Udoe, Ibesikpo-Asutan LGA of Akwa Ibom State, the same school where I started my elementary education over half a century ago. It’s always been my voting point, always been crowded, chaotic, and disorderly. But today, it was unbelievably calm. By 10.30 am, the three of us had voted and were having drinks some poles away, celebrating what is probably a major milestone in the annals of Nigeria’s electoral history.
The process was fairly simple and quick. I presented my voter’s card, and in no time, the official spotted my name in the register. She ticked it, painted my nail with some indelible ink and I moved to the next official who confirmed my facial biometric with BVAS. Pronto! I was handed the three ballot papers and I moved to the poll booth. I noticed that Labour Party only has its logo on the ballot paper without its initials. That could be a problem for some voters who are not familiar with the logo. Can this be corrected before March 11?
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INEC has created new polling units, moved some voters there and so the crowds have disappeared from my unit. Voting started around 9.45 am, and 21 minutes later, I had cast my ballot. As usual, priority was given to the seniors and I was at the head of the queue. I still made way for those who appeared obviously older than me, and so I was the eighth to vote. I understand that some persons had decided to boycott voting because there was no chance of cash payments. Early in the day, party stalwarts were heard promising some voters that “I will transfer money to you after this’’. But nobody was persuaded. Vote-buying does not depend on promissory notes. It’s a cash-and-carry business.
Another matter also conduced to the peace of today. This LGA used to be a PDP stronghold, and cash was always flowing ceaselessly on voting days and even the nights before. But, this season, the local PDP henchman has fallen out with the governor, and to prove his electoral worth, he had asked his supporters to vote their choice. The idea is to get the PDP to lose the vote so that his political value would be better appreciated – a clear case of many things working together for the good of our election. In this case, a combination of the cash crisis, internal wrangling within the PDP and the introduction of BVAS making the whole process so unusually calm. The realization by the people that because of BVAS, thuggery, ballot stuffing, and rigging would not help is enough incentive to discourage violence and misconduct.
There are around 2 million registered voters; 31 LGAs; 329 wards and 4, 854 polling units in this state. For the presidential election, many voters I interacted with before the polls opened were planning to vote for Peter Obi. For the governorship election, the race would be tight. PDP, NNPP, APC and YPP are the main contenders. There is still some confusion in the PDP over the governorship ticket. A Federal High Court in Abuja had three weeks ago nullified the nomination of Mr Umo Eno and replaced him with Mr. Mike Enyong, a member of the House of Representatives. It created a muddle and panic in the party. But just last week, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment of the FHC, but did not pronounce Eno as the candidate. Some lawyers are arguing that there is still a lacuna in the judgment; and so, both Enyong and Eno have proceeded to the Supreme Court. “By the Court of Appeal setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court without pronouncing on Umo Eno’s fate, it means that, technically, PDP has no governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State. This is the bitter truth’’, writes Barr. Manfred Ekpe.
For APC, INEC has been clear for a long time that the party has no candidate (two aspirants are slugging it out at the Supreme Court). YPP’s candidate is still under the yoke of a criminal conviction handed him last December. He has, however, appealed the case. These leave NNPP’s candidate, Senator John Udoedehe, as the only trouble-free governorship candidate in the state. He is hoping to cause an upset on March 11.
Although the CBN’s cash-limitation exercise has brought some inconvenience, its salutary impacts on the election as I observed this morning at my voting point, and around Uyo as I drove around, makes the policy one of the most consequential actions of the Buhari administration as far as the election is concerned. Together with the 2022 Electoral Act, this policy will deliver the best election since 1999. Thank you, President Buhari!