April 7, 2011

Where is Jonathan in Kebbi?

FROM Birnin-Kebbi to Jega in Kebbi State, the battle song on  everyone’s lip is ‘Sai Buhari.’ Even little children playing in the sands would, in moments of hysteria shout the slogan. It is phenomenal. Right from the first day (Friday, April 1) when the reporter hit the town of Birnin-Kebbi  through Niger State, the sign that this ancient part of Othman Ibn Fodio’s Sultanate is  the domain of the  opposition is palpable.

The posters of President Goodluck Jonathan and his vice Namadi Sambo are rare. On Saturday, before the accreditation of voters began in Birnin-Kebbi, the capital of Kebbi State, irate youths took to the streets and tore down the few posters around his campaign office located in Badariya area of the capital, just by the Independent Iational Electoral Commission, INEC office.

Right through the labyrinths of Koko, Besse, Jega, Kalgo, Bunza and Birnin-Kebbi towns, the PDP is stripped. “The PDP has nothing to offer to our people. Our Governor (Saidu Dakingari), who is PDP is known for uncompleted projects,” Rep Muhammed Umar Jega, said on Saturday.

The anthropology of the Northern people is interesting. In Kebbi, as in every part of the North, most children bear the name of the hamlet or town they hail from. My guide through the warm state, Mr.Murtala Ubale, says the practice began with the advent of Arabic Education in the North. “Because of similarities in names, every student had to register with their father’s name, plus the name of his town,” he said

The monotony in naming culture is however, hardly the problem for the average ‘Kebawa’ (People of Kebbi). The problem appears to be squarely PDP.

As the reporter walked the streets on Saturday to observe the voters’ accreditation exercise, a gawky youth on sighting the press tag swinging on my neck, ran across the narrow road, mounted a ledge opposite the Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Abdullahi Fodio Palace, and shouted: ‘Anjerida Sai Buhari’(Journalist, vote for Buhari).

Across the narrow paths, women, beautifully clad in hijabs made long and windy queues for accreditation. The queues for men were far apart, but the lines were to melt away in a few hours, the moment the men with their radios clung to their ears heard the news that there would be a poll shift.

We drove to the Gingi area in Jega Local Government at about 11:09 am, and electoral officers were nowhere to be seen. Same for Basaura, Langido and Masallaci Zaria, all in Jega. “This place is a stronghold of CPC, that is why they deprived them of materials,” a local radio man told the reporter.

We were at the INEC office at Jega, at about 12:00am to enquire from the electoral officer why materials for voters’ accreditation were absent in more than five polling units.

The lanky and calm EO, gave a wry smile, tilted his head unfazed to the left side and said we lied.

“As far I am concerned, materials for accreditation were sent to those areas you mentioned”, he insisted.

Efforts by a heavily bearded man who sounded like an agent of a candidate to pull the frail EO along to the areas he claimed he sent materials, proved abortive. The EO insisted he would go at his own time.

We left at about 1:00pm. We were in the Basaura area, and yet no materials. An old man, way above70 stood barefooted on dry reeds and murmured curses at government, he then raised his head, gave us a teary look and walked away.  He was just one of the many registrants who could not vote on Saturday.

But on Sunday, a government supporter, told the reporter that most of the “so-called supporters of CPC are not registered voters,” according to him, “it will amount to illiteracy if the government of Nasamu (Gov. Dakingari) is accused of trying to rig when obviously he has nothing to fear.”

On whether the PDP could deliver the state to President Goodluck Jonathan, he said “Wallahi, that is not what we should be talking about now.”