we must check for the pimples on the face of our nation and deal with them carefully
THERE is no ignoring the fact that the Electoral Commission messed up in Kampala and Wakiso Districts on voting day, and this here is not in their defence.
Even as the delays were fueling the anger and frustration of voters skeptical and vocal, I put my head into the jaws of an angry social media platform and suggested possible explanations for the delays.
I have worked in logistics before, and know first hand how a small error can snowball into a massive disaster – just the same way a short tweet can spiral into a lengthy tirade of an argument.
My guessed suggestion, such as it was, came close to the Electoral Commission’s explanation – which was valid, even though some thought it was ‘just an excuse’.
Neither was welcome under the heat of the sun and animated tempers – and I realised after a few salvos that my perspective was different from most for good reason.
See, my wife and I were the second and third in our first queue, while it was still dark. Actually, we organised the queue, when we noticed that people were bunching up behind and around us. Eventually the officials stopped aligning benches and chairs and joined in the creation of order – identifying each polling station by Register.
At seven on the dot there was grumbling as the materials had not yet arrived, and I was pleasantly surprised that as a society we appeared to be developing a consciousness of time. It always irks me to be sitting in a meeting room minutes to the start of a meeting and finding nobody else agitated that it wasn’t going to start on time.
When the materials arrived, three minutes after the hour, they were piled atop a pick-up truck underneath a group of determined police personnel and other officials.
We went through the transparency process, opening boxes and checking everything was in order in full view of our public. By that time we were fourth and fifth in the queue, and the first two people went through having ticked their names on the FDC register rather than the EC one. The overall EC supervisor, a young lady I’ve known from childhood, quickly caught the anomaly and brought them back to the front after they had voted.
Even as I type this my thumb is thick with that indelible ink, because when I got to the end of the queue there was no-one focused on making us take the mark so I made a loud show of doing so, and some amongst the masses queued up applauded. Otherwise I would have made it past with clean fingers.
By half past eight in the morning I had driven through eight different polling stations and was in the office following field proceedings.
An apologist for the Electoral Commission could argue their case in a number of ways: mathematically, out of the 112 districts of Uganda, two had serious problems – a failure rate of 2.24% – the same could be worked out using the number of polling stations (out of the 28,010) unserved by four o’clock.
One could even plead their case after they ‘extended’ voting till late enough for everyone to cast their ballot – but I won’t do that here.
Instead, there is a silver lining in how angrily people took the delays, all other factors aside, because we can hope that this marked the beginning of a national tidal wave of seriousness at work, if not at everything we do.
As one would tell an apologist doing the mathematics aforementioned – even 98% is not good enough! Aim for 100%, because the impact of that two percent can be VERY damaging when seen from a different perspective or if it gathers momentum and picks up other stuff along the way.
It’s how a pimple develops from something minuscule but could turn into a pus-filled orb hanging off your face – made up of much more than what started the pimple, as Uganda is seeing now.
If you treat a pimple properly, carefully and early enough in its development, there will be no need to go into surgery or wrap your face up in bandages or to hide away from the public in shame.
But if you approach it in a random, careless manner then you could end up with a bad wound or much, much worse in the place everybody notices first about you.
Hopefully we will spend every day of the next five years in this country studying our faces carefully in the mirror every morning for pimples developing, scrutinising affairs more strictly so that we totally eliminate mediocrity and inefficiency – however small those mediocrities and inefficiencies may appear to be – so we address them properly before they turn into large, gaping, life-threatening infections.