The nationwide registration of voters, which kicked off at the weekend, has continued to witness some hiccups despite the large turnout of people who are ready to get registered.
Some of the first notable casualties of the exercise are former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and David Mark, the Senate president.
Mr. Obasanjo's finger prints could not be captured by the Direct Data Capturing Machine (DDC) after two attempts, while Mr. Mark and his wife, Helen, could also not be registered after two attempts.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to correct the anomalies in the days ahead.
Mr. Obasanjo, who arrived at the Ita-Eko registration centre, in Abeokuta, alongside his wife for the registration, could not be registered for the over 30 minutes the registration officers tried to capture his finger prints. The mild drama occurred in the presence of the Ogun State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Martins Okunfolami, and the administrative secretary, Mr. Fakorede.
Ironically, all those who came after Mr. Obasanjo got their fingers accepted by the machines. The former president tried the two centres located in front of his private residence, but none captured his fingerprints.
Reacting jokingly to the development, Mr. Obasanjo said, "you know, if that is the case, I will scrape some of my skin. May be blood no dey in my fingers."
He said that he would be travelling to Cuba, and would ensure that he returns to register before the expiration of the exercise. He added that on his return, "I will come and sit down here until I am registered."
Mr. Obasanjo said INEC should not be castigated over the hitches being experienced, expressing optimism that all will soon be well.
"Whenever you are starting new programmes like this, it's likely to have hitches until everybody masters it. Today is the second day. I believe that by the middle of this week, both the people who are carrying out the registration, the technicians, the INEC at the highest level, will be able to make this work smoothly.
"So, I don't believe that we should now start to castigate and to condemn. If by the middle of the week it's not working as it should be, we will all see and then those who designed it would have to advise us how we go about it. But for now, let's regard this as the hiccup of a new process," the former president further said.
On the other hand, Mr. Mark, who was unable to register along with his wife in his ward at Oturkpo, Benue State, because the DDC machine was not working, was incensed over the poor start of the project. Mr. Mark and his wife arrived at the registration centre at 10am and waited in vain till 1 pm when he was advised to go home and return later. He returned at about 4pm with his wife and made efforts to register, but the machine still malfunctioned. Visibly embarrassed, he said, "I have made spirited efforts to register to no avail. INEC must put its house in order otherwise this whole exercise would be in jeopardy. We cannot afford anything that would threaten the conduct of the forthcoming elections. INEC must sit up and save us this embarrassment."
Some other Nigerians have also complained about the exercise. There have been reports of from Abia, Lagos, and Abuja of malfunctioning machines. In social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, many on Sunday complained of both the absence of registration materials and officials and other related issues. Others complained about the time it took to register one voter.
Lola Shoneyin, a poet and novelist, complained on her Facebook that it takes about 25 minutes to register a voter in her ward and that she spent four hours to get registered.
In Abuja, especially the suburbs, both registration materials and officers were absent in most of the schools designated for the project. Many people, especially in Lugbe, Kuje, and Gwagwalada, returned to their homes without getting any registration points.
A promise to tackle challenges
However, amidst all the complaints, the commission has promised to immediately address them. In a statement by Kayode Idowu, the media aide to the INEC chairman, said, "The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has taken concrete measures to eliminate the bottlenecks in the voter registration process which were noticed at the commencement of the exercise nationwide last Saturday."
Chief among the difficulties is a rigorous finger-printing procedure that has resulted in prolonged attention on a registrant, and consequent queues. By Sunday afternoon, many who visited the polling units for the registration reported either a failure in their finger print being captured or queuing up for hours, and eventually leaving to be attended to another day.
In Ibadan, two fake corps members were arrested yesterday, validating the fear that politicians might want to manipulate the registration procedure. As at the time of filing this report, detail of the arrest was still sketchy, but the fake corps members were reportedly apprehended by vigilant security operatives while participating in the registration at Odo-Ona Elewe area of Oluyole local government of the state.
Ayodele Folami, state's INEC spokesperson, said he is yet to be informed, but said that the officer in charge of the area will make appropriate report on the happening around there concerning the exercise.
The exercise was gradually gathering momentum yesterday after a wobbly take off on Saturday. Many people retired to the centres to register their names after church programmes on Sunday.
Former Oyo State governor, Rasidi Ladoja, has cautioned against using the hiccups experienced at the beginning of the registration to jump to conclusion on the readiness of INEC for the 2011 elections. The Accord Party's governorship aspirant in the state, who registered his name on Sunday, said the electorate need not be worried about the little crisis, adding that it is too early to castigate the commission on account of that.
Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, led over 5,000 indigenes of the state on a rally to sensitise people on the need to get registered.
He personally distributed leaflets and educative materials to motorists, market women, traders and passers-by, advising the people that massive registration and strict insistence on one man, one vote are potent weapons to fight electoral fraud.
The rally, which meandered through the major streets of Akure, the state capital, was witnessed by an unprecedented number of people.