If not all, almost all Nigerians are much aware that the political atmosphere of Nigeria has always come with a tense, fear-inducing experience. One does not need to say again that Nigeria’s democracy is a governance system of the swiftest, as against the fittest. Almost everyone is conversant with the scorching realities that define our electoral process as well. It does not matter who anybody is — whether amongst the few privileged or the ones tottering between being privileged and not, or even the ones who are nowhere near the edge of being privileged; everyone knows that there is no true representation in our politics or, more precisely, democracy. Likewise, also, there is only a very little percentage of what could be termed real voting, since money has consistently proven to own the electorate’s thumb.
I, being a part of the electorate in the recently conducted Osun State governorship election, can categorically say that the election process did not run on a pure platter. Votes, which are ideally supposed to be democratically sacred, pitiably became objects of merchandise. Votes were sold; negotiations were carried out on them. Although this issue of vote-buying is not unusual, the criminally innovative way by which it was perpetrated marks an unusual nature about it. Certain party agents stood very close to the polling booths, as they confirmed whether some voters with whom they must have earlier negotiated truly voted their parties. Once an agent realised his party had been voted, then the deal was done; the concerned voter would receive his/her wages for ‘a vote well-done’. In fact, I wondered what the essence of the security officials around was. I wondered if the acclaimed thousands of the deployed military officers, reported to have been paid N50,000 each at least, was but merely meant to establish an aura of military swag and nothing more — no enforcement of electoral sanity!
Further appalling is the fact that, as I could observe around me, quite a number of the electorate were even ready to negotiate their votes, equivalent to their time, their future, their children’s hope, their society’s welfare, all for the ephemeral money. I could hear a particular voter beckoning on someone whom I perceived to probably be a ‘money-handling’ member of a particular political party. The said voter was persuading the suspected party member to pay him so he could vote his (the suspected party member’s) party. That party member however pointed at someone, as he described the person, and said that the person was going to attend to the voter after the voter had done the needful (i.e. voted their party). The said party member left and the voter finally muttered some curses and abuses against the man, as he lamented, using the Yoruba Language, that he should have been paid at that spot. What an indeed appalling electoral anomaly fast becoming normalised!
The various eyesores of occurrences that have played out in the recent Osun State gubernatorial election have definitely been a streak of ominous insights as to how the 2019 presidential, general elections will most probably be. Much more money will be in circulation as a result of the need to procure thumbs to vote. The presidential election will, perhaps, even cause a temporary rise in the minimum wage beyond the contemptible N18,000, as a matter of power greed and the urgent need to outsmart or rather ‘out-spend’ whoever the opponent(s) might be. One might begin to doubt the plausibility of this claim; however, the fact that such an amount of money like N10,000 was paid as ‘vote wages’ in the Osun State governorship election is a tenable prove as regards the claim.
Sadly, even INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) is not exculpable from the guilt of the nation’s foreboding electoral, political and democratic doom. I have noticed that some Nigerians have recently begun saying that Nigeria’s election is now getting free and fair with no fear of violence or manipulation. Maybe this shares a semblance with the truth. It is however not so true. What only occurs is that INEC, as much as I can deduce, only plays its dirty electoral games in a subtle, latent, difficultly understood way. Nonetheless, we cannot feign pretence to the fact that our elections have really improved on the surface— such that voting and accreditation are done almost simultaneously unlike before. But still, we know that the independence of INEC is a mere nominal which is, in fact, more often than not dependent on the government’s inference and manipulation. If the Osun election had been sincerely free and fair, INEC in collaboration with the military and police forces would have hindered any form of political gimmicks at the polling units.
The corroboration of the foregoing is a recent report by Premium Times concerning a statement made by an election-monitoring body known as the Centre for Democracy and Development. Part of the statement reads: “In the light of these anti-democratic acts, which have undermined the sanctity of the ballot, therefore, we hold strongly the view that the re-run poll of Thursday, September 27, 2018, does not meet up with the minimum standards for free, fair and credible elections.” It now becomes glaring that a hell of democratic blots largely awaits the 2019 general elections. Many, including I partly, have been thinking that Nigeria’s electoral process has risen beyond violence and manipulations. But right before us is a huge threat brazenly flexing its muscles.
Definitely, the hope of free and fair general elections can only be a dazzling mirage. All we can hope for is simply that INEC will raise the ante of their efficiency, that the government will keep the electoral commission truly independent, that the military and police forces will honestly ensure electoral sanity, that the political leaders will not become vote merchants, and that the electorate will be rational voters but not emotional or money-driven ones.
Yusuff, Uthman Adekola is a student of English and campus journalist at the University of Ibadan. He is also a passionate poet. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org or 08166599760.
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