By Ifreke Inyang

The build up to the 2011 has been full of drama. Intriguing sometimes and top class comedy at other times, I have watched it all unfold with utmost curiosity. Just last week, another interesting turn of events took place. There were widespread reports that the Inspector General of Police had allegedly banned the use of camera phones at the polling stations in the forthcoming elections. Following public outrage and condemnation, police sources claimed the Inspector General was misquoted. Several sources, however, claimed that the decision had already been taken by the Police boss and an announcement was imminent before the reactions.

News of the camera phone ban had led to strong criticism on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. It began to raise concerns over the dedication of the Police Force to the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections. One of the prominent voices who firmly condemned it was Professor Wole Soyinka. He termed the directive ‘nonsense and illegal’. “It is stupidity of the security agents to ban Nigerians from taking their cell phones and cameras to polling booths,” the Nobel Laureate blasted. “If they do not go to polling booths, how would they monitor electoral misconducts? People should ignore it because it is contrary to the electoral act.”

It is. And just to probably emphasise it, the electoral commission distanced itself from the order. In a statement released few days after, Kayode Idowu, the chief press secretary stated: “The position of INEC is very clear. INEC has said anyone can bring their phone or camera to the polling unit. Anything to the contrary is not the position of INEC.” Mr. Idowu added that “INEC is trying to sort out things and is consulting with the security agencies.”

In my opinion, there is nothing to sort out. The NBA had gone a great length to analyse the constitutional and legal implications of such unwarranted pronouncements in the belief that in the run up to the elections, it might diminish the quality and credibility of the electoral process. It’s that simple. Whatever it will take to monitor and report the election cannot be banned. Mobile camera phones and other specialized widgets are the contemporary tools of journalism which most observers, professionals and journalists intend to use to cover the elections and check rigging and fraudulent manipulations. With the immense popularity of Facebook and Twitter, reports, pictures and videos of the voting exercise will find its way to both local and international political commentators. It is not even all about monitoring and reporting the elections. In case of emergencies that require the presence of firemen, health authorities or even the Police, the mobile phones can be used to call for help.

If the order had been passed and effected, I’m very sure that Nigerians would have still taken to these social networking sites, which has become an effective medium in recent times, to pour out their angst. If this had been the case, Nigeria and most especially President Goodluck Jonathan would have sent out the wrong vibes. Some politicians have been hailed in times past as ‘masters of rigging’ but the reaction this time around would have been unprecedented. It will be some international embarrassment if countries like Ghana and Niger can conduct transparent and non-violent elections and Nigeria is still battling with the most basic issues.

But now, the denial is official. Let’s ensure we have our phones and other gadgets ready for the elections. Let’s prepare to update through every tool we have, let’s run parallel elections, let’s announce our own results, let’s drive this process over the next few weeks by ourselves. This election belongs to us. Let’s ReclaimNaija.

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0 #1 ABUBAKAR CIROMA 2011-04-03 19:25
let vote for ceadible leaders with, bright ideas of moving our dear nation for greater development.REMEMBER YOUR VOTE IS YOUR POWER TO RECLAIM NAIJA BACK.

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