Card Reader Fails Wada, Amid Large Voter Turnout
• Audu Commends Exercise
• Motorists Protest Restriction On Movement
• Group Cautions On Fake Results
STOKED by fear of violence that resulted in huge deployment of security personnel, yesterday’s gubernatorial election in Kogi State turned out eventually to be largely peaceful.
The election also drew a mammoth crowd of voters in the major test of wits between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the new opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Apathy was, however, recorded in Kogi West Senatorial District where many registered voters stayed indoors or went to their farms, as children played football on deserted streets.
Some observers attribute the lukewarm attitude to the fact that the area, populated mainly by the Yoruba-speaking people of the state, has not played leading roles in politics of the state.
Also, the Kogi State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Halilu Pai, canceled election at a polling unit in Itaja ward in Ayingba, Dekina Local Council, over an incident of ballot box snatching. Voting was ongoing when some hoodlums seized the box, disrupting the process.
Kogi State governor, Idris Wada, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised alarm, yesterday, after a card reader malfunctioned, as he sought accreditation.
At Odu Ward 1 Unit 001, where the device failed to authenticate him and his wife, Wada expressed disappointment that the glitch could still occur after much touted preparation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A visibly worried Wada, who warned that the development could disenfranchise many voters, said: “For a simple isolated election in one state in an entire country, we still have card reader incidence after INEC gave assurances that they have perfected their acts, even with back-up card readers. Look at the massive turnout of people that are going to be completely disenfranchised.”
He wondered why there were very few incidence forms and no photocopying machine at the unit, adding: “This seems to me like a deliberate effort to frustrate the entire process.”
Appraising the build up to voting, Wada said: “Most Nigerians were looking up to this election and I personally believed that the process would be free and fair, given the massive security deployment, yet we are hearing of incidences of thuggery, of people in fake military uniforms, of people snatching ballot boxes at Iyanyo Ward in Ibaji Local Government. I also received reports of thumb printing and ballot box snatching in Anyigba. It is completely unwarranted in this type of election.”
He noted that after all the campaigns, people should not now be denied freedom of choice, even as he expressed optimism that if the election is free and fair, he would win.
“The incidences I am hearing are troubling. But I will not rush to make judgment. I hope, however, that the authorities are listening and they will take immediate action because this election is a litmus test on Nigeria’s democracy,” he said.
The wife of the governor, Hajia Wada, regretted that if the card reader failed to authenticate her person, it meant many people would equally be deprived.
She said: “They (INEC) should do whatever they need to do to let our people vote. This is our unit. And, here, we have massive support. We have reports that this is what is happening all over the wards. Observers have reported that this is the situation all over. We cannot allow this to happen. Are we going to tell these people to go back home?
“These people left their homes since cock crow and yet they are stranded? The same thing happened during the presidential election. I am spending more than 10 minutes to be accredited. This is not a good omen.”
In Idah Local Government, accreditation of voters commenced at 8:45am, amid a heavy presence of security personnel in many of the polling stations.
The candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Abubakar Audu, however, expressed satisfaction with the election.
Audu, who spoke shortly after casting his vote at his Ogbonicha country home, nevertheless, expressed concern over incidences of ballot snatching in Anyigba, Etiaja and Ajetachi.
He was accredited at 12.18pm and voted at 1.40pm at Ward 010, Ogbonicha, in Ofu Local Government.
Labour Party candidate, Dr. Philip Salau, said, but for malfunctioning card readers and late arrival of materials, the exercise was orderly, adding: “We had reliable information that a political party would jam the card readers to justify the use of manual accreditation, so that they can thumb print the ballot papers. We petitioned INEC on this and it seems our prediction is right.”
He said information reaching him indicated some armed persons planned to invade polling units, chase voters away and compromise the process.
As Nigerians wait anxiously for the result of the polls, the Civil Society Situation Room, a body comprising more than 60 civic groups, warned of the danger of peddling false election results online.
Ezenma Nwagwu, who is the Executive Director, Partners for Electoral Reforms, said, yesterday, that reports flying on social media are replete with deliberate falsehood, aimed at misleading the general public, and called for caution.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen trailers, yesterday, blocked the Ajaokuta-Itobe-Ayingba highway in protest, following directives by the Inspector General of Police curbing their movement.
The police, on account of the election, had advised travellers passing through Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, and other towns in the state, to suspend their journey or find alternative routes.
The action by drivers of the trailers, which included those of Dangote Cement Company, caused a sever gridlock that impeded the movement of persons on election duty. It took decisive effort by the military to force the drivers to give way.
But for few reports of card reader glitches and low turnout of voters, particularly in Kogi West Senatorial District, the election was conducted peacefully, amid very tight security.
Voting started as scheduled in almost all the polling units in the urban centres, as personnel and materials had been promptly deployed to various units the day before. There were, however, reports of lateness in commencement of voting in some rural communities.
At Iyara, headquarters of Ijumu Local Council, adhoc officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were seen collecting non-sensitive materials as at 7pm Friday evening. By 9 pm, they were conveyed to their respective units, flanked by security operatives.
According to the police, 16,000 men and women were deployed to the 21 local councils of the state. These were supported by an unspecified number of personnel drawn from agencies, like the Department of State Security, Customs and Immigration Services, as well as soldiers and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Voter apathy was observed in many polling units visited by The Guardian in Ijumu, Kabba/Bunu, Adavi and Lokoja Local Councils.
At Sanko Unit 003 of Odolu Ward in Kabba, only 93 voters had been accredited of the 636 registered voters, an hour to commencement of voting. As at 20 minutes to the exercise, 174 had been accredited out of 503 registered voters at Okekoko Ward, Unit 007, close to the palace of the Obaro of Kabba.
INEC Presiding Officers in the two units, Aruwayo Samuel and Blessing Obaje, expressed satisfaction with the behaviour of voters who waited patiently for commencement of the exercise, although they voiced concern over low turnout.
APC Chairman in the state, Hadi Ametuo, described the election in the Central Senatorial District of the state as peaceful.
“There is no cause for alarm; things are moving well. And at the end of the exercise, parties will be satisfied with the arrangement,” he said.
Voting materials arrived on time in the polling units visited in Okene, Adavi and Okehi Local Government. Accreditation started at 8am as scheduled, amid a massive turnout of voters. There was, however, low turnout at some polling units in Okene town.
A corps member who spoke with our reporter at Ogboroko Ward 1 unit described the exercise as very peaceful.