Tension and fears stimulated by the 2019 general election have been consumed by the workings of history. But the footprints left by the process stare at us, begging for assessment. Waving them away as petty would not check the evil it holds for our democracy. It’s ideal to do an assessment of events, including twists and turns, the roles of political parties, the election manager, citizens and security agencies and how we arrived at having below par polls.
The 2019 election fell short of expectations. Informed commentators rightly identified the process smashing records. Standards dropped! We had to deal with having too many political parties on our ballot. The electoral manager INEC presented 91 parties to us. Some 73 presidential aspirants, an unprecedented figure in the history of our democracy, expressed interest in leading the country to greater heights. Some of them withdrew, thus could not complete the race. Validation of the elections now rests with the court.
Of the 29 states where gubernatorial and state houses of assembly elections held on March 9, six of them – Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto – had to go through supplementary elections. Now, we know that rerun are trajectories for intimidation, suppression, inducement and violence. Ballots were burnt in Benue. Thugs attacked journalists and disenfranchised voters in Kano. Voters were induced in Bauchi. Lawmakers and the executive should get equal share of blame for disagreeing on issues and legislations that would have made the elections credible.
After dealing with arson and postponement, more challenges lurked around for INEC. Apathy came to dine with our electoral process. Apathy ejected its host, INEC and ate to its fill. This affected votes recorded at the polls on February 23 and March 9. It appeared citizens had lost confidence in the process initially scheduled for February 16 and March 2. Their minds were made up.!
Questionable figures influenced victories against the wishes of the people. Results were declared at gun points. But again, we have ourselves to blame for not showing up at polling units on Election Day. Although we can’t feign ignorance of conspiracy at collation centres, apathy fuels and prepares the ground for the enthronement of compromise.
Cash determined the winners and losers. ‘Secure the bag’ rose in ranks at the expense of contesting to serve the people. Bullion vans moved freely on our streets. We saw no wrong in this yet we answer the title – propagators of modern democracy. We helped politicians to strip and banish democracy and its principles in the scheme of things.
Transactional politics wrestled with ideologies. One may suggest it did not just start now but it has come to stay. Dibo ko sebe (vote and cook) toppled rationality. Cash coupled with brawn and impunity threw ideological politics out of the ring. Cash chose leaders for us. And we saw nothing wrong with that. Those that got some naira notes should realize they have no moral right on fellows who offered them money to secure electoral victory.
Politicians yelled orders to our security agencies. They had them wrapped around their arms to fulfil selfish objectives. We wished and prayed for neutrality. And then we found we could not trust those entrusted with the task to preserve peace and maintain order. Security of lives and property withered significantly. Operatives failed to contain polling agents, thugs, most of them youth who saw no reason to engage in stuffs that would improve their lives. They succeeded in frustrating peace and progression.
We lost promising men and women. Killings engulfed the young and old. Dreams were shattered. The death of first time voter Daniel Usman in Kogi is one I wish we could have shooed away. Corps members on duty were not left alone. Do you remember the picture of the selfless corps member that saved his colleague from the heat of crisis in Rivers while policemen stood aloof? Or the ones that came under attack in Anambra during the presidential and national assembly elections?
Can we make a promise not to colour the way things played out? INEC failed to justify the funds it received for the elections. The electoral umpire skidded on the ladder of standards. What we have in 2019 did not match up with Prof. Jega’s 2015 achievement.
Our elections are now fiercer and “more competitive”. We have shut our eyes and ears to making elective positions unattractive. Our elections have become what we can refer to as anything goes. We now know that politicians don’t come to serve us. They come to swindle; to siphon and to serve themselves. They come all out to water the path of their children and their children’s children.
Afeez Odunoye, Lagos