…Demonstration of craze
If it no be craze
Why for Afrika?
As time dey go
Things just dey bad
They bad more and more
Poor man dey cry
Rich man dey mess…
-Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (Teacher don’t
teach me nonsense – 1986)
Last weekend, elections were held in two states of the federation – Kogi and Bayelsa – and the exercise once again brought to the fore the fact that 33 years after the late Afro Beat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang those words in his hit tune, ‘Teacher don’t teach me nonsense’ not much has changed in this country when it comes to voting. In fact like the musician, who died on August 2, 1997, unerringly predicted then –the whole process has even gotten worse with the major actors taking part as if they are fighting a war! Sadly the “field marshals” have found willing foot soldiers in the small minority of people ready to subvert the will of the majority for a pittance. These people are ready to carry guns, axes, planks and other dangerous weapons to be used to terrorise the law abiding majority who troop out to the polling booths dotted all over the place to carry out the civic duties.
Unfortunately for them, these “army generals” along with their marauding “troops” do not give a hoot about the hopes of the people, and instead unleash terror on them in order to ensure that either their candidate wins or their opponent loses – as long as the outcome, whichever way, suits them. And this is what played out again last weekend, with reports of at least six people being killed in Kogi State, one of the victims being Olorunjuwon, the nephew of Senator Dino-Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who is battling hard to retain his seat at the expense of his All Progressives Party opponent, Senator Smart Adeyemi.
The senseless murder of Olorunjuwon and the others shows to what extent our politicians will go too in order to triumph in an election – for them life means virtually nothing so long as at the end of the day they are declared winners. Incidentally a new scare tactic was introduced in Kogi State over the weekend with the reports of a police helicopter swooping on a polling zone to disperse those who had lined up to cast their votes and allow unscrupulous elements make away with the ballot boxes. Of course the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu had a defence for what happened insisting that they (police) had waded in to stop confrontations between opposing supporters of the two main candidates.
He also argued that those in uniform seen in multiple videos first shooting to scare away voters before carting away the ballot boxes were not his men but imposters decked in the uniforms of the Nigeria Police and Army, also driving vehicles associated with them.
As is the tradition, despite the widespread incidences of violence and intimidation, the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) carried on with the exercise it was supposed to midwife and announced Yahaya Bello as the winner in Kogi State, while APC’s David Lyon defied all odds to finally end the PDP’s 20-year grip on Bayelsa State by trouncing Senator Douye Diri of the PDP. As has become the pattern in the country, the winners were full of praise for the exercise insisting that the outcome was a true reflection of the wishes of the people, while the beaten candidates cried foul! The PDP’s Musa Wada rejected the Kogi results, describing the election outcome as fictitious and false.
He spoke at a media briefing in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, while INEC was still announcing the results. Wada said he won the election and described the result from the Okene Local Government Area, where INEC said the APC polled 112,764 against PDP’s 139 votes as fictitious. The PDP candidate said the results as announced by INEC represented a dark day in the history of democracy in Nigeria.
He also alleged that the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, who is the candidate of the APC, used state apparatus to compromise the outcome of the election. “As I speak, results were being written all over the collation centres. I think they just allowed people to come out just to tell the world that elections were holding. To me, it was just mere formality to rob the people. As I speak, the wish of the people of Kogi State is not what is prevailing in the so-called collation going on. “A situation in which the Commissioner of Police in Kogi State would have to go to the collation centre in Dekina, my own LGA, to stay in the collation centre from 11pm till this morning, his mission was not known. He was going into the collation centre and coming out with his car. I think his mission was not unknown, of course he was there to do the wishes of the power that be.”
On his part, Yahaya Bello, on Tuesday said the just-concluded governorship election in the state was free and fair despite damning reports to the contrary by election observers. The re-elected governor insisted that a level-playing field was provided and that it was free and fair. “In every election, there is bound to be one issue or the other and you can’t take a pocket of issues to judge the general conduct of the election,” he said. Down south the same scenario panned out with the winner hailing the exercise while the losers condemned it. Unfortunately this has been the pattern since Nigeria’s early forays into the democratic process in the 60s with the West going up in flames courtesy of the infamous “Operation Wetie” in which politicians and their properties were set ablaze with petrol. The “operation” was only finally ended when the military took over on January 15, 1966. In normal climes the politicians should have learnt their lessons by the time the “khaki boys” finally returned to the barracks in 1979.
But of course Nigeria is not a normal country and the intolerance and winner takes all mentality again continued in the Second Republic with the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) coining the phrase “moon slide” after it won a very contentious election in 1983.
The inability of the political actors get their acts together prompted a return of the military in December of ’83. The Fourth Republic kicked off in 1999 with the same age-long election malpractices still being prevalent and even getting worse at every election. One can only appeal to the major actors to sheath their selfish interests and think of the overall good of the country. Because despite the battle for control of elections, things have only gotten worse for the millions of Nigerians, the so-called politicians are claiming to be fighting for. There is also need for the majority to decide enough is enough and demand for elections to be conducted in a proper manner so that at the end of the day the will of the people will actually count. Until this happens, this is the kind of election cycle we shall be witnessing every four years – characterised by sorrow, tears and blood!