2023 elections and the sons of Barabbas
As the 2023 general elections draw ever closer, Nigerian are palpably excited but also understandably apprehensive. The reasons from the excitement and apprehension are no secret just as the causes of same. It has been seven years since the current administration came into office but Nigerians are still waiting for their full circle. With Nigerians there is little naivety. Few expected the systemic rot institutionalized since independence but especially during the sixteen years of the last administration to disappear as if by magic.
Many understood that even if the APC had a magic wand, it would take some time and a lot of tears. But after seven years which would be eight by the time the APC and whoever it fields in the next election stand before Nigerians for judgment, there is very little doubt that the current administration has flattered to deceive, eventually leaving Nigerians in no man`s land.
The journey has been at once painful, and pregnant with lessons. In 2015, with the APC having skillfully but deviously gauged the political temperature of Nigerians to know that the ruling PDP was destined for doom, its sharks, sensing blood, let loose a fusillade of propaganda. So vicious was the propaganda that practically no one in the former administration was spared the smear campaigns.
It bears note to point out that the megaphones of the APC largely had a field day on the propaganda mill because the PDP-led administration knew to allow every Nigerian free speech no matter how odious in the spirit of democracy. This is unlike the giant gag which currently runs through the country, seeking to silence everyone who holds a different opinion. This gag has manifested itself in ludicrous legislations at the National Assembly, aggressive invitations to dissidents by security personnel, and draconian codes of conduct by state agencies which regulate the media in the country.
The APC rode public disaffection and dissatisfaction to electoral victory in 2015, promising so much along the line. It remains an immutable truth that Nigerians desired more that the previous administration be pushed out than that the APC and its candidate win. The party certainly benefitted from that.
When next year, candidates and their parties stand before Nigerians, Nigerians would have an opportunity to decide their fate for the next four years. Nigerians would be saddled again with the power of choice. But it remains to be seen whether Nigerians would freely express that power given that election in Nigeria is now a question of cash over choice. In this wise, Nigerians have contrived in the past to cheapen themselves and sell their birthright. Some continue to do so even to this day.
It used to be for cups of rice, packets of salt, wrappers and whatever else cheap thing the market could give up to be used to buy votes. It later graduated to paltry sums of money. When during the Anambra governorship elections of 6 November 2021, some rural women in Anambra State thumped their noses at a paltry sum of 5000 naira offered in exchange for their votes, a familiar theme in Nigerian elections was reprised. There is no doubt that for everyone that rejected money during the last elections, someone received money in exchange for votes. It is for this reason that Nigerians must ask poignant questions as the 2023 general elections draw ever closer.
These moneys that are shared freely and meant to induce voters before and during elections, where do they come from? How does money suddenly become so freely available during elections in a country where 91 million people languish beneath the poverty line? There can be only one answer and it is this: Nigeria`s vicious cycle of corrupt – electoral corruption in this wise.
Money wields the biggest megaphones in Nigerian elections and money eventually trumps choice at the end of the day. This makes perverse sense as public office in Nigeria which relies on elections to fill them has itself become a money-spinning venture. Little wonder the battle to occupy them is usually so fierce, so unremitting.
The logic is simple: those who contribute to the electoral war chest of persons running for public office convince themselves that they are investing. As such, they look forward to returns on their investments. Thus, a culture where the entire Nigerian political process is beholden to patronage has been created and those who refuse to feed from its trough simply have no chance.
Those in public office already – especially governors – know how these things work to a hilt. They it is who empty the coffers of their states, twist the politics of same the way they want and remove every impediment until their favoured candidates emerge to succeed them. Once this is achieved, they depart office and then sit back to enjoy the fruits of their labour. However, Nigerian political lore is awash with stories of how quickly the relationship between predecessor and successor can sour when expected returns do not materialize.
For seven years, the current administration has huffed and puffed about fighting corruption but its efforts have yielded precious little. It continues unabated and for everything that has been done to whittle it down, it is poised to lead proceedings in Nigeria`s next electoral season. However, when the sons of Barabbas who plunder the public purse to fund elections in Nigeria begin their march, Nigerians will do well to beware and bewail their Greek gifts.