2019: Baring ballot mischief, our votes will count, By Chima Nwafo

Posted by News Express | 27 October 2018 | 1,094 times

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•Chima Nwafo

We will have elections in 2019. I read the papers. I watch the television and listen to discussions. Who is talking about education? Who is talking about nutrition? Who is talking about basic health? As a country, what are our priorities? We don’t have enough money for education. We don’t have enough money for health. But we have N1 trillion or N2 trillion to spend on petroleum subsidies… - Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II.

As the storms gather towards the 2019 general election, the electorate is expected to come out and use their voters’ cards to choose their leaders for the next four years. Such appeal is both rational and patriotic; based on the assumption that our votes will count, as obtained in civilised climes. For example, as Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Justice of the US Supreme Court, after what AP described as “a wrenching debate over sexual misconduct and judicial temperament that shattered the Senate, captivated the nation and ushered in an acrimonious new level of polarisation,” the Democrats accepted the defeat, with hope.  Reacting, Democratic Senate leader, Sen Chuck Schumer of New York, affirmed: “Change must come from where change in America always begins: the ballot box.”

Fellow Americans, including Republicans, knew what Schumer meant: they have an election culture and an enviable history of the voter as king, dating back to 1776. This was possible because the US Constitution derives its power from the people, unlike ours. Besides, the US birthed as an egalitarian society; and has remained so to date. Americans go into politics to SERVE, not to share the nation’s wealth and manipulate political power for selfish reasons. Neither their president nor governors and legislators impose their will on the electorate.

Although a wealthy nation, poverty was not officially in induced - ditto in other developed nations - as in Nigeria, where less than 2 per cent of the population controls the nation’s patrimony. This is not by dint of hard work, but by corrupt distribution of contracts, waivers and allocation of oil blocs. To keep the people in perpetual subjugation, leaders employ religion and ethnicism to create tension and insecurity, which keeps the masses mutually antagonistic and systematically impoverished. This is not a state or regional phenomenon, it is a nationwide malady and prevalent in the two major political parties. 

Ours is a democracy where the President assumes extra-constitutional powers over the judiciary and legislature; state governors dictate for state houses of assembly and control both the local government chairmen and their finances. The National Assembly maintains a strangle-hold on their members’ emoluments and self-serving constituency projects and other allowances.

During the primaries, many states roiled in the murky waters of candidate-imposition. Although Imo, Lagos and Zamfara stood out, but since the godfather never sleeps, not even the President, party chairman nor delegates could save the beleaguered Gov Akinwumi Ambode. Rochas Okorocha is yet to hit same level, and so could not impose his son-in-law. In Zamfara State, with 92 per cent poverty rate, innocent folks died in various parts of the state during the primaries, because a political dynasty that has terribly under-developed the state insists on retaining power. It’s the governor’s choice or no primaries, hence the stalemate. And Senator Shehu Sani - despite assurances from President Muhammadu Buhari and the national executive - had to quit at the last minute because Governor el Rufai has the final say in Kaduna State All Progressives Congress (APC). Results of local government polls nationwide confirm the foregoing scenario, especially since 1999:  It’s not the voter, but incumbent administration that determines results. That is why state governors and party chieftains assure incumbent President of absolute victory at the polls, even when records of under-performance are so glaring?

 For example, Lagos - a melting pot of cultures and ethnic nationalities - is guaranteed total victory; because, according to the godfather, “PDP is dead in Lagos.” Really? Including individual party members and other parties and their members too? 

Given that extant socio-economic and political realities do not support such asinine self-confidence, one wonders if the APC chieftains are not secretly assured of the complicity of security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), since not much is being done to change the situation, except recent cash handouts to petty traders, corruption-ridden defunct Nigeria Airways staff and other pensioners.

Maybe, history is on their side. What happened in Osun and Ekiti states was not different from what happened in Abia in 2015 and Imo in 2007. One had expected that by now Chief Martin Agbaso would have written his memoir on how Imo people’s mandate delivered to him as the aspirant of choice by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was snatched by the electoral umpire and given to Ikedi Ohakim, of innocuous Progressive People’s Alliance. And that marked the end of discussion.  After all, this is Nigeria!

However, one consolation is that the two major contestants are partners-in-crime of electoral manipulation and abuse of security agents and electoral umpire. The only difference now is APC’s power of incumbency, which could equally be broken in 2019 as PDP’s was shattered in 2015. Truth is President Buhari has led Nigeria to the teetering edge of a precipice. As pointed out by ex-CBN governor and Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II, 2019 general election is around the corner, yet no one is talking about issues and prolonged failings in governance that has brought Nigeria to this sorry pass.

Notwithstanding, PDP should not take things for granted. A University of Ibadan sociologist, based on his extra-time analogy, postulated: “We are going to rerun the Osun State rerun in the 2019 elections, because of the similarities between the local and the national.” On what transpired during the ‘extra-time’, he noted: “Political scheming, increased value of voters/PVC, promises and alliances, intimidation of voters…. State apparatus looked the other way as opposition voters were intimidated and chased away.”  

That familiar feature of African politics birthed elected dictators under whose watch Africa morphed from the “Dark Continent” to the habitation of the world’s poorest. Naturally, Nigeria leads with gigantic wobbly steps, according to latest reports of credible global institutions. Perhaps, conscious of the paradox of African democracy, former President of Liberia, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leading an observer team during the July presidential poll in Zimbabwe, according to AP, tweeted: “The election today provides an opportunity to break with the past. The lines and voter enthusiasm we are seeing this morning must be matched with an accurate count; and their choice must be honoured.”  From the same Harare venue, AP also captured a tweet from leading opposition candidate, Nelson Chamiso - who “was greeted with piercing whistles and cheers” when he came to vote outside Harare: “Minus ballot mischief, victory is certainly certain.”

Five months after, one may ask: Did “the long lines” and “voter enthusiasm” translate to their choice being honoured? Not at all!

However, despite our unenviable past, unwholesome atmosphere of insecurity and introverted politicking, if Nigerians can count on the unquestionable integrity of the President, INEC boss and Inspector-General of Police during the 2019 polls, our votes can still count: maybe, barring ballot mischief.

•Nwafo - Writer and Consulting Editor, News Express Online, Lagos - can be reached on: chi_dafo@yahoo.com; 0802 933 4754.

Source: News Express

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