Nigerian President and presidential candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) Goodluck Jonathan waves to supporters during a rally in Maiduguri on January 24, 2015. Boko Haram fighters have killed 15 villagers near Maiduguri, the epicen ~ TUNJI OMIRIN
Lagos - Nigerians on Saturday went to polls to elect a new president with incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, heavily tipped for victory.
That the two leaders would dominate proceedings was a foregone conclusion ahead of polls in Africa's biggest economy and the continent’s most populous country of more than 170 million people.
Come Election Day on Saturday, elections being elections and Nigeria being Nigeria, the source of dominance came from an unlikely source- the e-card reading machine! Not Jonathan. Not Buhari.
In a comedy of errors that might leave Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) feeling vindicated, if not angered, following its skepticism of the use of such technology in the polls, and the Independent National Electoral Commission as well as the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), for their insistence on the fairness of such technology to curb electoral fraud, with a sour taste in the mouth, the card readers were the eye of a storm that saw the accreditation exercise get off to a wobbly start.
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Eventually, voting in some parts of the country extended to Sunday in what was supposed to be a one-day plebiscite.
Voting was extended in 300 out of 150 000 polling stations in Africa's biggest country by populations at more than 170 million.
Handheld card readers, supposed to detect biometric data such as fingerprints on cards to verify the voter's identity, were mostly functional.
In cases where they were functional, personnel were clueless as how to operate them.
Even Jonathan, until the announcement scheduled for Sunday by INEC of the country president, the man holding the highest office in Africa’s biggest economy, was not spared.
As our correspondent Augustine Osayande reported, he spent a good 30 minutes in a Bayelsa voting unit before he could be accredited to cast a vote in his favour and his party’s.
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Amid what had been projected to be a contest between the APC and PDP, the card reader confirmed it was not human and thus could not segregate along party lines, while dominating proceedings on an eventful Saturday.
APC governorship candidate in Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, among the first to establish a storm brewing, raised concern.
"It is after 10am and accreditation is yet to commence at my polling unit #24 Unguwan Sarki. This is deliberate disenfranchisement," he said.
Amaka Linda, a registered voter in Lagos, said INEC officials had no clue as to bow the card reading machines operated.
“After a protracted argument, a prospective voter convinced an INEC agent to remove his (voters’) card and re-insert it. Eventually, the card reader not only read the cards rejected earlier. It was reading at an even faster response time,” she said.
INEC was scheduled to announce the winner of the presidential the poll on Monday.
While the winner is highly likely to be either Buhari or Jonathan, there is no denying the fact that the card reader has stolen the limelight from right under the nose of the duo, and in the process, etched its way to the memories of Nigerians hopeful for change or eager for continuity, depending on whether they stand for Buhari and APC or Jonathan and PDP respectively.