As Kogites, Bayelsans go to the polls today

Today, the people of Kogi and Bayelsa states will go to polling units to elect the governors that will govern them in the next four years. While Governor Yahya Bello of Kogi is seeking a second term under the banner of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State is a lame duck having served two terms allowed by the Constitution but he will have more than a passing interest in today’s contest.

Apart from the governorship election in Kogi, there is also a rerun election for Kogi West Senatorial District between gadfly Senator Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator Smart Adeyemi of the APC. Sadly, in the two states, the fierce battle will be between the APC and PDP.

I used the word sadly because the outcomes of the elections will not reflect that our democracy is truly a multiple party system. There won’t be a third force that can spring a surprise in today’s elections. We have tied ourselves to the apron strings of the APC and PDP as if they are the best since sliced bread. We had seen a candidate who did far better during a debate for the governorship candidates in one of the Southwest states and obviously had better ideas of how to turn things around yet the electorate could not trust him with their votes on election day just because he didn’t belong to one of the dominant parties. It was a case of a right candidate in a wrong party, a wrong notion built on fixation on the APC and PDP.

The same thing will pan out in Kogi and Bayelsa today. Ballots will be cast based on party affiliation, vote buying, religion and other primordial considerations. It won’t be a case of the best candidate for the job. This has been the pattern since the return of democracy in 1999.

Nothing will change in today’s elections because we have failed to learn from history. One can only hope we will get there one day, I mean a day when election will be won by candidates who don’t belong to popular parties or even independent candidates that truly can deliver.

There’s nothing wrong with the political parties but obviously something is wrong with the electorate. After 20 years of uninterrupted democracy, there’s nothing to show that we have attained political maturity that will make us see the evil in selling our votes for a pot of soup. In today’s elections, people will vote based on what politicians have to offer in monetary value. The dominant parties will outdo each other. The other parties are mere participants to give a semblance of multi-party system in an ar-rangement that is just a two-party system. If party A is offering N5,000 per vote, party B will raise the bar. The electoral officials will be compromised. Security agents will look the other way when thugs come around to snatch ballot boxes or stuff papers with predetermined ballot boxes and they won’t have the courage to chase away vote buyers. They may chase some vote buyers away yet tolerate some depending on the briefs they are to work with.

The first step to successfully rig an election is to have the support of security agents. It’s for this reason that commissioners of police are often redeployed when elections are around the corner. Those who are trusted to play the ball are often retained while those that cannot be trusted are kicked in the groins. Since the Inspector General of Police exists at the mercy of the president, the party at the centre is usually at advantage in this circumstance. If you think that will change today, it means you will believe that a grandmother is a virgin.

There’s poverty in the land. So, the electorate whose purchasing power has been diminished by politicians who foist on them egregious policies that have unleashed poverty on the masses, will be at the Beck and call of the same politicians today in Bayelsa and Kogi states.As Bayelsans and Kogites begin another democratic journey today, their choices are limited in terms of quality candidates.

They will vote but there is no guarantee that their votes will count. The masses will be in the majority when it comes to voters’ outcome. The elite will stay glued to their televisions and choose to watch football instead of going to vote and those who are not sport enthusiasts will choose other frivolities ahead of going to the polling units. Yet, they will be voiceferous when it comes to criticisms. The outcome of the elections is predictable. If things are not going the way of the politicians, they will subvert the will of the people.

They will be emboldened by the fact that they had done it overtime without getting their fingers burnt. As it is now, there is no clear cut political ideology that has evolved over the years and this is tragic for our country at a time that the country is in dire need of strong political leaders. This democracy is no longer nascent after 20 years of no military intervention.

We ought to have outgrown teething problems associated with the nascent democracy. The elections in the two states provide yet another opportunity for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to convince Nigerians that the future of democracy is bright in Nigeria. But there won’t be much difference between what will happen in those states and what we had in the past. INEC won’t be coordinated, some of its officials will connive with politicians to subvert the will of the people, the electorate will sell their votes, security agents will take sides, there will be violence and bloodshed.

Losers will always have reasons to complain. But how genuine will their complaints be? Elections provide yet another opportunity for people to vote their choices into elective posts without fear and intimidation. They provide opportunities for people to vote and not to fight.

There cannot be peace and progress in an atmosphere of violence and conflicts. Inspite of the obvious downsides in our democracy, the elections today provide yet another opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. For those who have made up their minds to sell their votes, they should honestly ask themselves how well those who sold their votes about four years ago are better off today. Selling your votes is a case of:”you can’t have your cake and eat it.”

However, it is in the interest of the politicians not to truncate this democracy because of their desperation to hold on to power. They are the greatest beneficiaries of the system and will be the greatest losers if anything goes wrong with this democracy.

Whatever the governed get from the government is like crumbs compared to the ostentatious lifestyle of some of these politicians. Politicians know what is at stake for them. This is why elections in Nigeria is characterised mostly by tension and violence. Getting elective posts or political appointments are like automatic escape from poverty.

The electorate cannot afford to feather the greedy nest of politicians. This can be done if vote buyers are rejected. As for INEC, it had made costly mistakes in the past. But its image can still be salvaged if the elections today are free, fair and credible.

Credible election can be relative depending on the world view of politicians, their supporters and political parties. But if an election is credible, the world view of losers will not really matter. We did it on June 12, 1993. So, this should not be a one off thing. We can do it again if the atmosphere is right and we are determined. Bayelsans and Kogites should vote and not fight as they file out to exercise their franchise.

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