The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they choose their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.
This week’s subject of The Nigerian Voter is Stephanie*, a fashion designer in her late twenties who has served as an INEC official in the 2015 and 2019 elections. She shared her experiences on the job and what next year’s elections for her would be like.
Why did you decide to become an election official?
The money — I didn’t do it for patriotism or anything of the sort. For both elections, I remember I was paid around ₦40,000 for the job, which is some nice spare change to have.
How does one become an election official?
There are people who work for INEC full-time, but for elections you can be trained to become an adhoc staff, which is temporary.
What’s the process like?
You have to register online and follow the procedures like providing your details including your name and phone number. They’d then send a text to let you know the dates for training which normally happens for a couple of days.
Wow, sounds cool. So what were your responsibilities?
I was in charge of voter accreditation for both elections. In the morning, people would come with their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to authenticate their identity as valid voters. There’s a register of voters in each polling unit, and the smart card reader would detect if your name is in the register of that polling unit. The accreditation process usually stops around noon, just before voting starts.
Are there other adhoc positions?
I know we’re four workers per polling unit — there are people in charge of ballot boxes and thumbprinting. NYSC corps members are also used because they can easily retrieve their details. It’s been a while so I’ve forgotten some of the other roles.
Any memorable experiences from working as an election official?
I can’t say I’ve had experiences that stood out for me, but I remember the smart card reader was always faulty and there was hardly ever any power supply or good data connection for it. I also know there were always representatives from APC, PDP and other parties who make election workers feel comfortable with food and drinks.
Can you elaborate on that?
Not really. Their job was to make sure elections and ballot counting are fair. As a rule of the thumb, election officials count their ballots in everyone’s presence for transparency. I believe the party agents might have had ulterior motives like currying our favour towards their side, but I’m not a mind reader.
Did you have any bad experiences?
I can’t say I have, because all I needed to do was voter accreditation, and that’s usually in the mornings. I’d mention, though, that the places election officials sleep in are usually unguarded schools. You’d usually also have to sleep with one eye open, as you are sleeping with strangers and you need to safeguard your property. Fortunately for me, I’ve not suffered any bodily harm or loss of property. It’s mostly just discomfort from mosquitoes and sleeping on a chair or table.
You certainly have a choice to come from home, but it’s usually not advisable because of the restricted movement during elections.
Are you going to be an INEC official again in 2023?
I definitely won’t be, and that’s because I’m scared there’s going to be a lot of blood on the streets with the 2023 elections. Plus, I really just want to vote and do my part as a citizen this year.
Why are you scared?
I’ve seen a candidate who feels entitled to the presidential seat and would do everything possible to get there.
Do you have anyone you’d like to vote for in 2023?
For governorship and local government, I must confess I don’t know who to vote for yet. For the presidential election, it’s most likely Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
Why Obi for president?
I’m just tired of power belonging only to the APC and PDP in this country. They’ve both not taken the country to the greener pastures they’ve frequently promised and the presence of a third force is quite unique. I’m willing to try them and see how it goes. I also believe we can vote Obi out if he doesn’t perform anyway because he doesn’t seem to be power drunk. Let’s make the APC and PDP know we can put anyone in charge, not them. That’s the purpose of a democracy.
What problems do you want Nigeria’s next president to solve?
I would say insecurity. People have been dying from the attacks by Boko Haram and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). I’d like to travel to my nativeland and feel safe.
Poverty is another thing. The inflation has gone so crazy with the prices of food going up daily. I’m so lucky I don’t have kids because the bills I currently shoulder would have tripled. Everything is not okay in general.
Would you recommend that people should be election officials?
No, because I feel it may be risky. With agberos roaming around and causing mischief, it’s not the safest of jobs at all.
Are you encouraging people to vote this year?
Whenever I see anyone complain of the price hikes in transportation and food, I always remind them it was the incompetence of our present leaders that caused the negative change in things. Therefore, they should take their PVC and make a conscious decision to elect the right people into power in 2023.