Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Forced To Vote

A member of the BBC News website's Nigerian voter
panel, student Donaman Atezan, 25, in Gboko in central Nigeria tells
how thugs forced him to vote for the ruling People's Democratic Party's
presidential candidate.

Less than an hour after I spoke to the BBC News
website on Saturday, relating how I had been unable to vote, my
situation changed.

I was just heading home from a friend's place when I saw
very few people (predominantly the electoral officers and thugs)
cluster around my polling unit in Adikpo.

I hurriedly rushed to the place to satisfy my curiosity
and discovered that, the said late hour election was nothing but mere
eye service as most eligible voters were not even aware of the presence
of the electoral material at this time.

The few that were aware were scared to come near since it was already dark and there was no source of light around.

The thugs were then left alone to vote and each one of
them voted over and over as many times as there were ballot papers

While this was going on, I presented my voters ID card so I could too receive ballot papers.

As an unfamiliar face, the electoral officer reluctantly gave me only two of the ballot papers instead of three.

One was for the presidency and the other for the federal house of representatives.

But that of the Senate for the Zone A senatorial district of Benue was completely absent.

'Two big guys'

As I got to the ballot box with the two ballot papers to
cast my vote, two rugged-looking guys suddenly stood beside me
anxiously watching to see who I was voting for... even though the
election was said to be a secret ballot.

I had voted for an opposition party and immediately the two big guys seized it and said I shouldn't cast my vote.

One of them removed my ballot paper which was already
thumb printed and just made a bigger print in the space for the ruling
People's Democratic Party (PDP) thus rendering my ballot invalid.

Out of fear and intimidation, I asked them which party presidential candidate I should vote for.

The other guy said: "Vote the PDP, don't you want to eat?"

So was I forced to cast my vote for the PDP against my wish to escape their wrath.

This is the plight the Nigerian youth is in, no job, no
food on the table, no light, no water, no accessible roads, insecurity
and even our civic rights; we are denied from carrying out.

I only wish I had the opportunity and privilege to leave Nigeria after my graduation later this year.

I want to go to the West so as to hustle there and start a better life.

Here we, the Nigerian youth, have a very slim hope or none at all.

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