Sitting quietly in front of her small shop as youths in the area excite themselves in the ayo oloponlocal game few metres away from her, Mrs. Deborah Afe was no doubt enjoying the moment, as they traded banters. Time was 1:23pm on Thursday in Ayegbaju, Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
It was barely 48 hours to the governorship election slated for Saturday (today), and as one could imagine, the issues around the candidates, the parties, the promises and even the expectations from the incoming government formed part of their discussion.
But, from where she sat, she only observed from the distance and laughed at their chat intermittently.
Asked if she would also like to participate in the voting exercise, with deep confidence that could only come from a determined mind, she said, “I must vote since I’m still alive.”
Not done expressing her desire, Afe, who appears to be in her 80s, said, “The good thing is that the polling unit is right there (pointing) under this tree, so I don’t have to go far. Even if it’s far away, I would go, because it’s my civic responsibility. Why won’t I vote when I’m still alive?”
Expressing optimism that the election would be peaceful so she could participate, she said, “I have always voted in all the elections and by the grace of God, this won’t be my last. I want Nigeria to be better and my children to also be better, so I want to be a part of governance myself by voting. So, I will vote.”
Leaning on the door of the shop for more comfort, the octogenarian stressed that as long as there would be no violence, her PVC was ready for use. She pointed out she only brings it out during elections.
Her humour as she segued from one issue to another was interesting, but with much emphasis on the point that she wouldn’t miss the exercise for anything. “Make sure you also vote so you too can have a say in how your country is being governed,” she said.
Gauging the comments and the anxiety that had mounted in the build up to this election, residents of the state said it would no doubt be one of the keenly contested elections in the history of the state. And not even the elderly citizens want to be left out.
Several kilometers away, Mr. James Ogunleye, who appeared to be in his late 70s, leaned on the wall of his small hut where he takes rests from time to time. The question as to whether he would vote or not came to him as a surprise. Perhaps he had a lot on his mind.
Adjusting his cap from one end to the other, Ogunleye said even though there had been little or nothing to encourage him to vote, he would always vote because it was his civic responsibility.
Bringing in historical perspective, he said, “There was a time in the past when Christians were encouraged not to vote or even participate in the process, but it was later realised that it was better to participate than run away from the process. Since that time, I have decided to always participate in elections. If everybody stays away, who would be left to fix the rot? So, with prayers and human efforts, like voting, we can move this country forward.”
His new belief and conviction was interesting, but he had a caution to add. “However, I will only vote if the atmosphere is safe enough. If there is violence, I will stay in my house. Like I said, already, there is no motivation, so why should I endanger my life because of that? I won’t.
“My other concern is that if they channel the bulk of the money some of them are throwing around now into development, we won’t be where we are now. We can only hope for a better life for our children.”
The funniest and most interesting response our correspondent got from these senior citizens was from Mrs. Asake. She wouldn’t give more than that and she wouldn’t allow our correspondent to take her picture, but was ready to talk.
“I’ll vote. As long as I’m still alive, I will go out and play my part,” she said.
The nonagenarian, who is a yam seller in Ifaki-Ekiti, Ido Osi Local Government Area, said she had always voted in past elections and that this would not be an exception as long as she was still alive.
Asked for her Permanent Voter Card, she said she always kept it safe in her house and she only brings it out when there is an election.
At her age, one could presume that she would barely know who to vote for. But she dismissed such notion, saying since her ears were working, she followed what people said about the candidates and that she would make her decision known based on that.
“The only thing that can make me not to vote is if there is violence, which we don’t pray for. I’m too old to run, so once I hear that there is violence, I would either stay in my house or go to the farm,”she said.
The senior citizens who spoke to Saturday PUNCH would seem more than ready to participate in this election.
Also determined to participate in the governorship election is Mr. Idowu Olayiwola, a retired soldier, who now spends most of his time reminiscing on the past and keeping hope alive.
He told our correspondent he looked forward to the election with keen interest because he still wants a better Nigeria.
“I’ll vote if God spares my life. I’m still a citizen of this country as long as I’m alive. By God’s grace, there will be no violence because that is one thing that can discourage people from going out to vote. For me, I know there will be no violence in our polling unit because we know ourselves. As long as there is strength to move around, I believe one should be a part of the process. Let us play our part by being part of the process, even if we have nothing to show for it.”
Across the length and breadth of the state, there has been increased anxiety towards the election, with many expressing their readiness to vote.