Many Nigerians woke up in the morning of the 11th April, full of apprehension. Their apprehension could be explained because on that day, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was scheduled to conduct the governorship and State House of Assembly elections in 29 of the 36 states of the federation. Reason being that the tenure of seven governors was yet to elapse. With palpable tension in the air, the electorate trooped out to elect candidates of their choices. The 2015 election had generated so much tension in the country. Politicians campaigned from ward to ward wooing the electorate with promises, food items and even money. The campaigns had been long mainly because of the postponement of the general elections by six weeks due to the security challenges experienced in the northern part of the country.
Abians were also turbo-charged for the election. They eagerly awaited the arrival of the day to cast their votes in other to elect representatives of their choices. In Arochukwu, the story was not different as people came out of their respective abodes early to be accredited. Accreditation proceeded smoothly as INEC ad hoc staff arrived early and conducted themselves orderly. After accreditation, voting proper commenced. About t10 minutes later, rumour spread like wild fire all through Arochukwu and its environs that materials deployed by INEC were fake, especially the result sheets. Voting immediately stopped while many made calls to candidates contesting the elections to ascertain the truth. As if that wasn’t enough, agents of the two main parties in the state accused each other of foul play.
As confusion reigned, many of the already accredited voters who already were on the queue to vote, left for their respective homes and didn’t return after normalcy returned. In the midst of the bedlam, I made contacts with some senior colleagues in Lagos and also informed some electronic media about what was going on. My senior editor furnished me with the phone numbers of Mr. Kayode Idowu, spokesman to INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega. I put a call through to him (I must commend Mr. Idowu for making his line available at that time) and after pleasantries, I told him about the confusion. His reply was, “how can you differentiate between an original and fake result sheet?” He advised that election should go on, that the issue of fake result sheet was a wicked rumour.
Armed with that information, I spoke and convinced many people to go ahead and cast their votes. At Atani Hall and Mgbana Ekpe, I was also able to convince people to go ahead and perform their civic duties. At Mgbana Ekpe, while I was speaking with the INEC staff, I was accused by an aggrieved party agent of being an agent of a rival party. After a while, tempers were calm and voting recommenced. Meanwhile, several who left in the ensuing confusion didn’t return to cast their votes. I was also shocked by the attitude of some “top party officials” who were supposed to educate the electorates better.
Rather than do that, they retired to their respective homes and even asked some of the electorate not to cast their votes and even helped to spread the rumour. I confronted one of them on why he asked that voting should stop; his explanation wasn’t tenable. I then reminded him that accreditation had already been done and the card readers has captured the number of voters in each polling booth, if voting is not done, results can be written based on the accreditation already done.Due to the hiccups, voting didn’t end at 3pm; it extended well into the evening, after which the votes were counted and results announced.