Abuja Council Election: Democratic election failed by legitimacy.
Introduction: The Federal Capital Territory Area Council election was conducted by The Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday 10th April, 2010.
Within the period leading up to the election, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) a coalition of about 400 Civil Society, Human Rights and Pro- Democracy Groups, applied very early for accreditation to monitor the Abuja Area Councils election to avoid been disaccredited as it was in the Anambra election of 6th February 2010, when the name of the TMG was conspicuously omitted in the list of Accredited Civil Society Organisations.
This time around, the TMG received INEC’s accreditation and a letter to that effect was issued backed by election observation materials. Thus, TMG Secretariat in collaboration with its FCT Coordinator and working with other TMG members deployed and monitored the election in the six Area Councils of Abuja in line with lay down rules and regulations and according to STANDARD DERIVED FROM BASIC PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES GOVERNING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS CONTAINED IN THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATIONS;
The TMG hereby issue the following reports.
ARRIVAL OF ELECTRORAL OFFICERS AND ELECTION MATERIALS.
Our Observers reported that voting commenced late across the territory. According to INEC, voting was supposed to commence by 8am, but this was not to be in most of the polling units covered. The explanation that was commonly given was that Corps members who INEC largely relied upon for the exercise, insisted on being paid before they could move into their respective designated areas of work. INEC subscribing to this demand therefore caused late arrival of Officers, materials and late commencement of voting.
However, in a number of places, voting could not commence until afternoon. For instance, in Waru village Apo, Code 004, voting commenced at exactly 1pm. For this reason, officials agreed to extend voting till 5pm to accommodate voters who have been waiting since morning. In Kutuku area of Gwagwalada, voting materials and officials arrived in the area by 1.11pm. In Lugbe Federal Housing Beggar yard Primary school and King of Kings primary school voting stations, eligible voters gathered but no INEC officials were any where to be seen. Reports from Bwari, Karu, Biaji, Apo and many more areas experienced the same challenges.
Deployment of officials
Corp members constituted majority of the officials used for the FCT Election and they were seen doing their work conscientiously in most places visited. However in a place called Dutse Apo village code 923 only one INEC official was seen attending to a large number of intending voters who were becoming inpatient and becoming a threat to the only official present. Although, there were police personnel in the station, apprehension was becoming rife. TMG officials had to put a call across to INEC officials to send some assistance. It was the same situation in Gwarimpa polling station 24b where our observer reported that INEC officials reported late.
The effects of little or no political campaign, played out, significantly in the low turn out of voters in the election, Voters exhibited little enthusiasm on the election as there was serious apathy, ambivalence and general indifference to the election. The day was used by majority electorate as another public holiday, an indication that citizens did not place any hope on the outcome of the election and subsequently may not be conferring legitimacy on the emerging leadership.
Generally speaking, the voter turn-out in this election was observed to be generally below average with the exception in Bwari where the turn out was observed to be appreciable and a long list of people were found on the queue. Even though the streets of Abuja were empty, it did not turn out into large voters’ turnout in most of the polling stations observed by TMG observers, especially in the urban and Estate areas. Although in some public spaces where there are multiple polling stations, several hundreds of eligible voters were seen waiting to cast their votes, but by the time you cross-check the numbers against the actual number that registered and then the number of polling stations clustered there in, it becomes evident that there was indeed low turn-out.
This is partly because people no longer have the interest or keenness to even take the pains to look for or locate where to vote. Secondly, the aspiring politicians did not bother to spend time to identify with the electorates or even campaign for votes. Another important reason is that people’s enthusiasm to vote has been eroded by perceived lapses in previous elections.
Police Conduct and Security and Safety in the Elections
The Nigeria Police in the FCT leaved up to its bidding, it deployed about 11, 000 police personnel as earlier promised, for the FCT Area Council election. TMG observers generally reported that the police and other security operatives conducted themselves very well and were largely friendly. The distribution was also relatively equitable, but where there are clusters of polling units, more police personnel were noticed. The Police in FHA Nyanya Polling station 020 arrested a voter with fake voter’s card. Generally, no incidence was reported to have occurred in most areas observed.
Ballot papers and other stationery materials required for the voting exercise were observed to be available and adequate; there were no shortages of election materials reported.
There was less disenfranchisement of voters in most of the polling units monitored by TMG Observers, as most people who had temporary voters card were duly allowed to vote. In some other areas it took TMG observers with the cooperation of the Electoral Officers to clarify that such category of voters can go ahead and vote. However, in most polling centres visited, voters who have lost their voters card were legally disallowed from voting. In PW polling station Kubwa however, several persons were reportedly denied the opportunity to vote due to noticeable discrepancy in their voter’s card.
Secrecy of voting
It was observed, that INEC provided cubicles which ensured secrecy of voting in most polling stations. This is commendable.
Generally, the reports from our observers showed that INEC battled hard to do the right thing this time, but a combination of disinterested and disenchanted public who exhibited indifference to exercising their franchise and apathy to their civic duties, raised genuine questions on the legitimacy of the process.