Edo election isn’t victory for democracy (1)

On 27 February, 1999 when the first general election in the running Republic was conducted, 57,938,945 million Nigerians registered to vote and 30,280,052 million of them voted, standing at 52.3%. 20 years later, 84,004,084 million were deemed potential voters, with only 28,614,190 million, representing 34.75%, showing up to vote. If the drop in enthusiasm, is 18% in 20 years, that is 1.1% per year. Between Mr. Peacemaker, Abdulsalam Abubakar election of 1999, and Goodluck Tepid Jonathan’s of 2015 which he superintended to lose, what could pass for a pass mark would not just pass for Olusegun Obasanjo. The proverbial red biro must come in, for his election scorecard, despite his redemptive moves of late. The coming of the current administration and its perilous handling of elections, would require statistical recalibration to effectively capture the growing voter apathy in the country, despite the dibo ko sebe (vote-buying) culture, which has become so common-place that practically nobody considers the crime a crime again. Yet, voter register at every election cycle bulges. Potential voters, register for purposes that do not include the main purpose. Can we just pause and ask rankling questions before the opiodal rage of 2023 grips everywhere.

How can we carry on as if all is fundamentally well, when more Nigerians were desirous of electing their leaders, when paying party dues, unlike now, that someone, somewhere, is ready with cash on election day to pay for votes? And there is hunger in town. So, why are Nigerians not trooping for what should pass for free and easy money and continually sitting elections out? Please, let’s save the argument about selling their tomorrow. Whether the cash is accepted or rejected in exchange for votes, politicians would still do their thing and whoever has the instrumentality of result coding would own the day. So, if the almighty Naira plus the aroma of election-day jollof isn’t moving Nigerians, what exactly are we celebrating in the outcome of Edo election where more than a million registered voters stayed away, if democracy is still the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Oh, ok, maybe it was considered free and fair because the only noticeable anomaly was the apparent vote-buying which has become the new normal. During the July 14, 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State, British Broadcasting Corporation captured on camera, PACs, supporting Kayode Fayemi, the candidate of APC, distributing money to potential voters in Ado Ekiti and his so-called victory was celebrated by the top hierarchy of his party, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, without anyone being prosecuted for the crime. Under an Akwa Bridge, in the November 18, 2017 Anambra governorship poll, party agents were captured on video negotiating and paying for votes. Again, nobody paid for the crime.

Certainly, no one who committed electoral offences in the Edo election including the Ibadan thug arrested in Ubiaja on election day, Kayode Mobolaji, would pay for anything. Already, there are rumours of police being under pressure from higher quarters, to release him. There is nothing partisan about condoning electoral offences. It has become a class privilege. PDP, shouting today, is as guilty as APC doing it today. PDP would do it again, if returned to power. Another amalgam of power-mongers would do it as new ruling party, except something shocking happens to the political class, God willing.

In Edo, more than a million registered potential voters, out of 1.7 million total stayed away. The apathy is growing beyond the 1.1% per-year and about 4.4% per election cycle. Even if we stay with the conservative estimate, it means less than  10% of the registered potential voters, would be showing interest in actual voting, in another eight years. That would be sad.

However, the jarring cymbals and roaring timbrels in the style of the Hebrew women led by Miriam in Exodus 15:20, being done by many Nigerians over the Edo poll can be understood in the context of those women alongside Moses and the entire nation, celebrating one-of-a-kind miracle of crossing the Red Sea and the ultimate destruction of stubborn Pharaoh and his army. How I wish the real testimony of that miracle would hold true for the nation in the bid to make its elections credible again. In Exodus 14:13, Moses had assured the nation of Isreal before the miracle,”Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today, for the Egyptians you have seen today, you shall never see again”. I offer the same prayer for Nigeria.

The widespread déjà vu before the conduct of the election was the correct sense to make of the build-up. Since 1999, elections had neither been free nor fair, whether general or outliers like Edo, Kogi, Ekiti, Anambra and Ondo.

Despite the constitutional power conferred on INEC to conduct elections, today, the commission is almost irrelevant in outcome of polls. Presidency using security agents and judiciary, has assumed the full responsibility of who wins the poll on the field when you add kudi mai yawa, which the seat of power controls in billions. Abuja also has a way of ensuring you don’t get into money competition with it, as an opposition. Since presidents get to appoint INEC chairmo, guess, they are just putting their mouth where their money is and playing who pays the piper. Such disposition would be fraudulent though, because it is everybody’s money being held in trust.

This sad reality is responsible for the halo always dashed presidents when election results appear to be against the run of play as was the case in 2015 and with Edo poll. When the president’s men or party don’t win, the Villa man suddenly becomes a hero of democracy, when how he feels about any candidate should not be anyone’s concern in the first place. He should be entitled to his partisanship just like any other Nigerian of voting age if it is a working system, and should be able to support and campaign for candidate of his choice in an election, just like any other Nigerian, but not the outcome depending on his mood and desire.

By calling Buhari a hero because minimal bloodshed was recorded and his party didn’t win the Edo poll is the greatest tragedy that has befallen the electoral system. What we have succumbed to as a nation is that a viable candidate can become a casualty if the president woke up from the wrong side of the bed. When poll outcomes depend on the whim of one man, democracy can’t be government of the people again. So, why do we bother voting?

…to be continued.

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