When someone made a public remark some time ago that the downfall of this our beloved country would be caused by the carelessness of some breed of politicians the county is witnessing I did not understand it then.
I am beginning to digest that remark; it is sinking in now as one witnesses the brouhaha over a simple civic duty such as registering to be on a voter register.
The clash of the titans, the main general election itself, is not next week or next month. We have at least 4 months to go. Yet, a civil exercise which would give voters the passport to elect our leaders when the time comes has already been fraught with tensions, with political violence scaring people away. Are those supposed to be coming events casting their shadows?
Four weeks into that registration exercise for a voter passport, as it were, I had been debating within me since day one, whether it was worth the risk to defy all the odds and go and register. I had been reflecting on the rise of Covid-19 case counts across the country and the recalcitrant behaviours of some citizens defying the safety protocols.
Then also is the case of reported violence at some registration centres said to be orchestrated by some few politicians. I had concluded that my life was more important and would not risk it.
Every now and then, a friend will ask me, “have you registered?” as they themselves go and do the same. Then I got convicted. On one of the church group WhatsApp platforms I belong to, a member advised that everyone must go and register because it is a Christian duty to exercise one’s franchise. I went out accordingly earlier this week to observe registration in my area and decide on my options.
Having gone around four registration centres, I patted myself on the back for stepping out. I was amazed to observe at all the four registration centres that the queues that characterised the first fortnight of the exercise had died down considerably. The maximum number of people I counted at two of the centres was 25 or a little less. I settled on one centre in an airy open space. There was order and the COVID-19 protocols were being observed. Within a matter of 30 minutes, I was out of the centre with my new voter ID card.
As I came out happy with myself, I thought I would be an ambassador to campaign for everyone, especially those of us over age 60 who have not registered as yet to go and do so. I needed to debunk any negative talks and fears so people would go out there to register.
I thought that relying on what was happening in the news and the social media space had the potential to poison people’s minds. Stepping out and seeing for one’s self was a different thing as I concluded that the pockets of incidences across the country were not enough grounds to dismiss the registration exercise.
We have seen on television and in social media, the noises and commotion that breaks out at some of the centres. We have been shown the confusion that had characterised people presenting themselves as guarantors at some registration centres. We have been told and have actually seen videos of violence at some centres where law enforcers step in and registration gets suspended. Those are far from what I witnessed in the four centres I visited.
From my experience, the queues are getting shorter and orderly, the protocols are in place and the good advantage is that senior citizens are given topmost priority where there are long queues. What I did not see done at the centre I registered at was the sanitization of the machine used for fingerprints. With so many fingers going through the infra-red machines, registration officials need to complete the protocols by wiping those machines after each use.
With just a couple or so weeks to the end of the voter registration exercise, let us encourage one another to get registered.
Those harbouring fears, perhaps as a result of media reports should brave themselves up and go and get registered. We are building our democracy and this is a crucial part of it. We owe it a duty to be citizens and not spectators, come December 7.
You can reach the writer via email: firstname.lastname@example.org