Today’s edition of our weekly digest, is an an informal conversation with Nigerian voters. I will be as colloquial and loose as possible in order to drive home the message of this feature.
Low turn out of voters is progressively becoming a cherished tradition among the masses, a dreadful nemesis of our checkered democratic experiment. And undeniably guilty of engendering this unfortunate phenomenon, are the political elites — those who unduly exploit the gullibility and beggarly social status of our people. They are (in their various pseudonyms) responsible for making voting an unenthusiastic enterprise to eligible voters. Their insatiable appetite to grab or perpetuate holds unto power made them entrench the habitude of strangulating the legitimate will of the people expressed through ballots, by unholy acts of election rigging.
Political historians blame widespread rigging which polluted the 1983 general election masterminded by Alh. Shagari-led administration as the immediate reason for December 31, 1983 coup d’ etat that brought in General Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State. General Ibrahim Babangida who was pivotal to the intricacies leading to that coup would, twenty months later, take over power, on August 27, 1985 and presided over a general election on June 12, 1993, which was adjudged the most credible and fairest in our clime, but his lack of political will to allow it stand further dampened the morale of the people to electoral enfranchise.
Upon return to democracy in the heydays of this century, there was high hope of a revived civic enthusiasm among the citizens. There were massive turn out of eligible voters on election days. But incessant use of thuggery, manipulations and other unconventional forms of beguile exploitation had continuously discouraged them from having the zeal to go out and vote on subsequent polls. And it keeps getting worse as the days go by. Each incident of rigging pours cold water of apathy on people’s patriotic zeal to cast votes at each election cycle. Statistically, there has been frightening percentage decline in masses’ patronage of voting, according to Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) https://www.idea.int/data-tools/country-view/231/40
The event, three weeks ago in Kaduna calls for concern. There was pronounced voter apathy in the just concluded local government polls in Kaduna state. No less a political personage than the State Governor himself (despite his applauded innovative drive at employing technology in the election process) was on air to confirm and regret it. People are steadily becoming disinterested in participatory democracy, since politicians are in tireless desperation to thwart their valid mandates in broad daylight robbery.
But then, we have to accept that it is also cowardice on the part of the masses to allow the egregious will of these selfish politicians dominate their collective preeminent desire to enthrone a just leadership in the society. Should we fold our hands and helplessly watch people who are supposed to be the custodians of our democracy desecrate it?
This was also what obtained in the aftermath of the off-season Osun governorship election on September 22, 2018 which was marred by irreconcilable irregularities. After that election, many Nigerian youths took to the social media to castigate the use of Permanent Voters Card (PVC). In their words “PVC is a scam”, “Your votes don’t count, INEC does” etc.
In summary, they urged us not to risk our lives going to the polling units to vote since rigging is the order of the day.
Well, I shared in their frustrations. It’s sad to see election marred by reprehensible scandals, which flippantly demean people’s valid leadership choices in civilian rule. But then, the advice that people should disenfranchise themselves is laughable. That year, I made painstaking effort to correct the error in their submission thus: “So you guys mean we should allow the greed and avarice of the politicians go unchecked?”
“The other day robbers burgled into our neighbourhood and carted away property and cash valued in hundreds of thousands of naira. The next morning the owner of the house, after reporting to the Police, immediately hired brick layers and welders to mend the broken walls and fix the burglary proofs. Does it mean if you guys were there, you would have advised him not to worry himself reporting to Police or re-fixing the burgled apertures since the police, the walls and the iron bars were there when the thieves broke through? You would have discouraged him that those protectors don’t work since they could not stop rogues?”
The only counsel that would sail through in such instance is that the best of the materials be procured to fortify the building and tighten up security more. Heighten the barriers and plug all suspected loopholes, while police carry on their investigations.
We don’t put doors in our houses to ward off robbers. We put them to make it difficult for thieves to enter. Car trackers were not designed to eradicate car theft. They were made to help make car theft uneasy, traceable and uninteresting.
Likewise in electoral process, we don’t vote to avoid rigging. We vote to make rigging hard, unfashionable and unsafe. Even the current advocacy for electronic voting is not to make rigging impossible, but to make it extremely difficult and easily detectable.
If Osun people hadn’t voted en masse in their last governorship election, how would the US consulate in Nigeria have known and declared the election “not credible” to the hearing of the world media?
Senator Adeleke and Gov. Oyetola fought their way to Appeal Court, challenging/defending the result simply because the people voted. Same fate applied to the recent Gov. Douye Diri vs David Lyon of Bayelsa in February 2020, Amechi vs Oneya in Rivers in October 2007, Oshiomole vs Osunbo of Edo in November 2008, Peter Obi vs Ngige of Anambra, in March 2006.
Think of what could have become of Gov. Akeredolu of Ondo, if his people had not come out to vote. In about 518 days time, Nigeria will be going to the polls to decide who becomes her next president. Every eligible voter owe it a duty to come out and cast his/her vote.
In the end you will find out that there’s no substitute to PVC and casting of votes. Remember, “bad leaders are elected by those who do not vote” said a sage.
Even before 2023, we have Anambra guber election in less than 45 days time. And the pulse emanating therefrom is not encouraging, more especially with IPOB and their implausible propaganda.
The only weapon in the hand of a commoner in a fascist environment like ours, is his/her voters’ card. Screw it and you would have screwed your future and that of your seeds.
We have to keep playing our own part diligently no matter how insignificant it may seem. In the final analysis, you will be surprised at the difference our little efforts would have made. According to Clement W. Stone: “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
May daylight spare us!
A Columnist and Public affairs Commentator.