The Election Morning
As early as 7:02am on the 25th of February 2023, I walked down my community to observe how people were exercising their franchise, upon arrival at polling unit PU030, I noticed a small crowd of people waiting for the INEC officials to arrive, they were coordinating themselves and even sharing number according to who arrived first. The men were forming different groups, as the patient wait began.
As I looked at their faces I saw a mixed reaction, a feeling of sadness as well as calmness, they are living in an illusion of change, they believe and think when their candidate wins this election, everything will change and life will be better for the ordinary man on the street. And I smiled within myself…I had a brief nostalgia of the same illusion most of us had during the 2015 general election, our hopes were high, with a lot of expectations, most of my people were singing praises of the then elected president. Food will be very cheap, education will be free for all, jobs will be in abundance, the feeling was as though a miracle will happen overnight.
But times have revealed the reality, I can tell our security architecture isn’t any better, we are overwhelmed by persistent level of insecurity, our children were not safe in schools, kidnapping is the order of the day, ungoverned spaces are visible and frightening, we no longer trust our neighbors to a larger extent even our family members.
I looked at the street, the youths were playing football on the road, they were happy and free of any distress about voting or casting their votes. It occurred to me for the moment that these youths don’t know what four or eight years of their lives meant, how these votes affected their lives, and I was in a state of Deja-vu.
I remembered what Michael Obama said about elections; “I am sick of all the chaos, and the nastiness of our politics. It’s exhausting. And frankly, it’s depressing. So, I understand wanting to shut it all out, and just go on and just try to live your life. Take care of your family in peace. But here’s the problem. While some folks are frustrated and shut out, and stayed at home on election day, trust me other folks are showing up. Democracy continues with or without you. They are voting in every election, from city council to governor to president. Because the folks who are voting know the impact that the leaders that they pick can have on every single part of our lives. When you don’t vote, you are letting other people make some really key decisions about the life you are going to live, the place you are going to live, how it’s going to work out for you. You are saying, you do it. And you may not like what they decide. You might not like living with the consequences of other people’s choices. But that is what happens when you stay at home. You are essentially putting your future in the hands of others“
Yet, I am thinking in the context of Nigeria, I am trying not to think of the United States or other advanced democracies. Some 25o years of democracy and 24 years aint the same.
We are evolving and we are progressing, at this point I heard a lot of noise shouting, sun iso… meaning the INEC officials have just arrived, I checked my watch and it clocked 10:17am, the officials set up the cubicle, arranged their materials and faced the crowd to explain, to enlighten them about the voting slip and the ballot boxes, people are now trooping to the polls, the BVAS was giving the officials some difficulty, after some minutes of trial, the officials took the BVAS back to the office. After an hour the INEC officials returned with another functional one.
It is exactly 12:17pm and it is glaring that the people are tired of waiting and are losing their patience, the crowd started shouting at the INEC officials making it hard for the lady among them to bear that she busted out in tears, the security officials have to take some time to make the people calm down and allow the process continue. I took a deep breath and tried to meander my way to a sea spot that would allow me to observe and see from all angles.
6 hours later, I am asking myself several questions about morality, on belief, on who we are and more. Those who came to the polling unit by 3:00pm were casting their votes while those who were there since morning couldn’t cast their votes, the people were practicing favoritism, and nepotism at the poll, you cast quickly if you know someone at the poll, the crowd could not coordinate and follow a queue, the youths were agitated. Most women don’t even know most of the contestants, the party agents were dominating the process, community stakeholders were interfering with the official work on INEC.
It dawned on me that most of our people are thinking of governance in a top -bottom approach, not the other way round, we are not demanding governance at the grass root level, my neighborhood is an example of an area where there is total absence of governance. The roads are terrible, geographically the place is densely populated with high levels of illiteracy, high levels of crime and criminality.
Most people are still living with the illusions that any president elect will transform my neighborhood after he takes power.
At 6:30pm I decided to go back home, with many questions on my mind, is democracy really suitable for our African context? What kind of democracy are we practicing? Are we practicing aesthetic democracy as someone said?
I reached home with the feeling of anhedonia. But I have to bring back a hygge feeling around me for the sake of those in the house, and because I do not want to be questioned and my thoughts interrupted by them.
*Sumayya Abubakar is a development worker, she is an educationist, and peace builder. She runs a schools system for marginalised populations on the Plateau and environs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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