Day 1: March 28th 2015
I woke up anxious.
A curfew had been imposed from dusk to dusk across Nigeria and with the sort of trepidation which lingers under the skin, it felt as though everybody I spoke to reluctantly waited for news of disruption or polls postponed or an outbreak of significant violence.
However, by midday, it was evident that Nigerians were on the move. #Nigeriadecides rapidly began to swell with “live” commentary and random images from across the country. Images taken by mostly anonymous Nigerians, armed with smartphones, determined to retain a souvenir but also I suspect, as a tool to record anything suspicious as votes were cast.
As the 28th drifted to an end, I scoured feverishly through the feeds- the realization hit first -then the relief. The unexpected had happened. The all-consuming, hurly-burly predicted by so many simply did not come to pass.
Millions of Nigerians had come out to vote and by and large the first day had been mostly free of violence and intimidation.
As Nigerians shared their thoughts on social media, many seemed pleasantly unprepared for this outcome; somewhat surprised that it was all going well.
It seemed to me that we had somehow underestimated the positives that were possible. We wished it, we desired it, we prayed for it but on the day, we simply assumed it would be impossible!
Was the first day just the calm before the storm or something else? A good omen perhaps? An indication of the protracted change already taking place in Nigeria?
Day 2. March 29th – Voting continues.
Twitter was buzzing with an interesting cocktail of pride and surprise. The four letter abbreviation featured in almost every other tweet. INEC.
Nigeria’s electoral college had promised an organized affair, it had promised practical efficiency , it had promised a thorough job; by all accounts, it had mostly delivered.
However, a greater victory was afoot.
On the ground, on the streets, in the towns and cities of Nigeria, Nigerians continued to deliver something quite spectacular. Pictures of voters of all ages, patiently waiting to cast their vote, some amid technical glitches and blackouts, images of visibly exhausted but determined electoral officers and observers all plowing together to keep the process moving- come what may.
As the 29th dimmed, votes were counted, results verified, reported and shared via public and social media. Tweets were adrenaline- fueled, oozing nervous energy and an unbelievable sense of pride and expectation. We could do it. Nigerians could show the world that “your vote counts”!
Day 3 Monday 30th March- Gasps and groans galore
As the anouncement of results seesawed into lunchtime, the margin that mattered narrowed perilously, it was too close to call and Twitter was close to cyber meltdown. The tension was palpable. This was the sort of battle which forged heroes from ordinary men; the stuff of epic folklore with the battle lines drawn in numbers.
Day 4 Tuesday 31st March- The day of the newly converted.
The deciding votes dripped in from the last few states and for most on Twitter, God was the focus. The prayer warriors were out and took over in the eleventh hour.
And then the news. It was over. Done. A new president-elect. A time for new heroes. A chance to chart an alternative narrative in the telling of Nigeria`s great journey.
Nigerians I hail thee.
We have overcome our own deepest fears, we have shown ourselves and the world that change was here all the time; quietly waiting in the wings to make it`s grand entrance. Change was in the heart and civil actions of every Nigerian who overwhelmingly refused to be derailed amid the high tensions of these elections.
These elections have also shown that we must have greater faith in ourselves. Greater faith in our own institutions- some of which are capable of delivering results if manned and piloted by Nigerians of great integrity.
Through our voices and considered choices let us continue to demonstrate that faith again and again.