ELECTIONS AND UNHAPPY NIGERIANS

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Victor C. Ariole writes that Nigeria should get its politics right

Africa is yet to present a brand on leadership and Nigeria must do that for Africa. Africa, in general, has problems in believing in elections as most of the people still see culturally or traditionally propped-up leaders as sacrosanct, while the current leading civilisation expects leaders to be those elected through the ballot boxes. In Africa ballot boxes as a means to end do not count; fabricated results do. Illiterates who are the majority in Africa could possibly not figure out when results are fabricated but they are made to come out to show that they, indeed, participated in reeling out such results.

Nigerians that are supposed to be better than other African people with their human and material resources, GDP wise, seem to be failing Africa. No fewer than 80million people registered to express their choice of leadership as two heavy weights stood for the contest; both not necessarily hereditary traditional leaders but leaders of modern Nigeria as military and business commanders. Unfortunately, their approaches made Nigerians more sub-humans, as death toll continues to rise in the bid to assert that their preferred leader emerges on mere emotional grounds, as against how the leader works to better their lives.

Rivers State, Borno State, Kano State – and they harbour together, about significant 10% decisive votes – are contending on which state wins the dehumanising crown. For three consecutive elections it has been seen that results from Rivers had always shown that the ballot boxes do not count. The current Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi exhibits well that notion as reported on STV by an analyst on “Nigerians Vote” programme.

Fake results sheets could be made available to the presiding polling booths’ officers but the real result sheets could be found elsewhere, like the reported results sheets meant for Enugu found in Kogi. As a returning officer you are just handed a ‘do-or-die’ result sheet to announce and so be it. Just like the whole world knows that Borno State is currently a war zone and within 10 minutes of stating 2019 elections bombs were exploding in different directions of the state and people were still asked to come out to prove that they were part of an election to usher in a winner in a state that carries more the dehumanising nature of Nigeria. You ask IDPs to come to vote as well as commit themselves as human shields in Borno State where some great powers are exploiting African resources close to them with pride – Chad and Niger are close to them. Why not sympathise with their ignorance and protect them as weaklings instead of exacerbating their pains by setting them out for bombardment? A place that ought to be declared emergency zone like Al-Bashir had declared selfishly Sudan for the interest of his foreign acolytes in the exploitation of Africans.

Note also that Paul Biya came to power recently without counting on elections in the northern part of Cameroun where Cameroun shares border with Nigeria and Chad. Note also that Chad sees the zone as emergency zone and can deploy French military to crush any suspected insurgent group as it did recently crushing a group it suspected as coming to overthrow Idriss Derby Itno. In effect Borno ought to be exempted from Nigeria’s election till the state is stabilised. Kano State was known to have taken the life of the entire family of its electoral officer in the last election and it is still a contending base for dehumanising Nigerians as politicians throw the poor of the state to kill themselves for their selfish goals. Going through the market of Sabo in Lagos, where I buy commodities from certain people from either Kebbi or Kano, I discovered that most of them were not there and I was told that they travelled to the north to vote and I wondered at whose expense. How is it that they could ignore their means of livelihood and, indeed, part of informal trade that sustains Nigeria’s GDP for mere unfriendly election? The hopelessness and desperation could tell on Lagosians when they come back, if they decide to unleash their pains on the state as it is happening with the tanker drivers and child beggars who are daring the devil in their bid to get to the seaport and slow traffic, respectively.

Fortunately Nigeria still shows some humanness or should I say adroitness in approaching the election issues. Ladeinde of STV reported that on Ahmadu Bello Way in Victoria Island where a polling area had a number of about 1060 listed that only about 116 turned out to vote. The same goes for a polling area in Shomolu where only 100 voted out of 700 listed. That is a low turnout but will it show at the end point of the returning officer? It is either sold out card readers or mature way of protesting. Victoria Island, especially, is an area where the rich people live and, even, where they decided to come out they covered the place with their vehicles with ease not fearing any upheaval. If they can come out in their big cars it seemed they know in advance what is expected. It could be interpreted to mean that whoever wins is bound to face the hard job of being challenged by their adroitness just as the current governor found it difficult to execute the tax regime he wanted to introduce or even the ‘LAWMA imbroglio. That is how government is made competitive or not and any elected post becomes a target for those who opted out to prove that it was their own way of protesting for the rejection of the politicians who presented themselves for the post. Check France where the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ are protesting; they are mostly those who opted out against the two main contenders – Marine and Emmanuel – though their protests are getting the confused support of those who voted for Marine, the far right.

Lagos has so far shown a relatively more mature approach to the elections as I also saw in Festac where names are displayed in hardcopies to avoid any misgiving of card reader failure or not. Except that in Lagos logistical issues still remain pronounced as both polling booths presiding officers and collating officers still do not understand that timeliness in executing their own side of the bargain matter most. Transportation to their places of assignment is not easily procured or made available. Again the assumption that a given area is no go area because it is not in contention with any rival is quite unacceptable as it is reported that even journalists are advised not to venture into such area by security officers. This is where ballot boxes could be burnt to avoid any witnessing or even card readers could be bought in advance to stop any unwanted voter to be in such designed area as no go area. In effect you are asked to surrender your card and take a sum as preventive measure against exposing yourself to danger. There are, however more to the Lagos case than meets the eye. The important thing is to keep it to less dehumanising process; that is, acceptable to Lagosians.

Africa is interested in having Nigeria get its elections right; and the processes must show that Africans are also human beings that know what is good for their livelihood as against animal instinct of ‘what can I get to eat now’. Food and shelter are basic things any government should strive to provide for its citizens so that they can overlook, or attach less emotion to, whoever intends to rule over their affairs. Like they say, every electoral mass killing justifies a recolonisation intent and it is seen as African youths troop to Europe or America on do-or-die basis. And mind you, for every 30 Africans on the street or amidst other races in a cluster of 100 humans, as representative of 7.5 billion humans on earth, six are surely expected to be Nigerians. So, wake up Nigeria.

Ariole is Professor of French and Francophone studies,

University of Lagos