Nigeria’s Voter Registration Fails Expectations and Here’s Why

On January 15, Nigeria kicked off its registration period, with the high hopes of registering close to 76.5 million eligible voters. Still, this is Nigeria, and I am familiar with how things work in my home country. So though my friends and I were supportive of the Independent National Electoral Comission (INEC) Chairman Dr. Attahiru Jega’s well intended effort to register everyone, we knew it was impossible and set out to document the whole thing.

We set out to film a number of video diaries, getting young Nigerians on their journey to voter’s registration. We initially thought we could tape one person per day and it wasn’t until we got to the registration site that we understood the challenges we would encounter. The brandless and explicitly inexpensive PCs worked at a snail’s pace holding up the process of registering the estimated 500 voters per center. By the end of the first week, it was understood, that it wasn’t sufficient to arrive on time for registration, it was necessary to get there hours early. We witnessed people camping out at registration sites overnight, determined to be one of the lucky few during the day. The overestimation of the data capturing machines were undeniable leading to a one week extension of the process.

The resilience and determination of the people was apparent, young Nigerians stepped in to volunteer at sites, to see through some form of organization, providing supplies to the registration centers, and food to the youth corp’ers responsible for administering the process. By week three we had received accredited observer badges, enabling us to throw our weight around at registration sites. How was our time spent? Chastising police officers who were willingly receiving “lunch money” from the “Big men” who had other things to do, and could not possibly spend a day waiting in line; also providing supplies to the youth corp’ers, that should have been doled out by the government.

Saturday, February 5, marked the last day of registration. And though citizens came out in record numbers, 8 million Nigerians would be cheated out of registering. At the moment, the Independent Electoral Commission has called for volunteers to give up two days to extend the registration as it is obvious the initial dedicated two week period was absurd, and has proven ineffective in the registration of 76 million Nigerians. One can only hope this has been a lesson to Independent National Electoral Comission (INEC), so that better measures will be taken for the 2015 Nigerian elections.

– Nosarieme

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