In February 2015, the unthinkable was about to happen. A band of nominally fringe politicians was about to cause one of the most surprising political upsets in modern Nigerian history: All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a non-mainstream political party, buoyed on by widespread grassroots support, was set to win almost every seat up for election in Abia State. We were excited; we were upbeat; we were hopeful. But most of all, we were naïve. They say it’s not over until it is over, and we were about to learn that first hand.
On election day in Nigeria, there are two main stages to winning: voting, and the announcement of results. Bar the occasional violence, the first stage is relatively easy. The second stage on the other hand, is where the Nigerian politician shines in his unrivaled manipulative glory.
For any election result to become official, it must be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through a Returning Officer at a Collation Centre. Depending on the level of election, this Collation Centre goes from the Ward, all the way to the National level. Simply put, no matter how many votes you garner at the Polling Units the admissibility of those figures depends on what happens at a Collation Centre. Now, this is where the Nigerian politician performs his magic.
Back to 2015. As the results filtered in from Polling Units all over the State, we were ecstatic at our impending victory. We had done it! However, those more versed in the art of Nigerian politics warned us to shift our attention to vigilance at the Collation Centres. But we didn’t listen. Not until it was too late. At the Collation Centres, behind a wall of armed thugs and stern-looking military and police personnel, the People’s Democratic Party, our rival in that election, went to work changing the Polling Units results. A harmless ‘1’ here and a careless ‘0’ there changed ‘20’ to ‘120’ and ‘15’ to ‘150’. And just like that, with the strokes of malevolent pens and a willing INEC, the APGA revolution in Abia State died like a whisper at the dead of night. With it also died the hopes of many for change and the trust people had in the sincerity of the Nigerian State to conduct free, fair and truly democratic elections.
But there’s an opportunity to change all that now. With the proposed Electoral Law amendment, the National Assembly can hand power back to the Nigerian people. All they must do is remove the need for different levels of results collation, and make it so that whatever result is announced at the Polling Units are official and unalterable. This way, people can troop to their Polling Units and vote, knowing fully well that this time around, their votes will count. This is how we solve voter apathy and encourage the right candidates amongst us to stand for election. Perhaps that revolution might happen after all. Hopefully, I’m not being naïve all over agin.