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OPINION: Election as blood sacrifice



OPINION: Buhari’s presidency at Nigeria’s expense [1]

WE, the ordinary Nigerians, have done our job of casting votes this year in our fouryear cycle of rituals. The total number of those who voted in the March 18th governorship and state houses of assembly elections was not out at the time of writing this. However, since the general observation was that the latest round of elections was marred by aparty, voter suppression, greater violence and bloodletting, it would be safe to assume that the turnout would be less than that of the presidential and national assembly elections of February 25th .

Yes, as we said in the preceding paragraph, Nigerians have discharged their duty of attempting to determine those who should rule them for the next four years beginning from May 29th. But have we really chosen our leaders? Going by law the answer will be yes. But is the law everything? No. In the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ said that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath [Mark 2:27]. Our understanding of these words of the saviour of the world is that the Sabbath day of [rest] was meant to be a blessing rather than a burden to those who observe it.

In Nigeria our laws have become scarecrows in their intendments and applications. When things go wrong, blatantly and glaringly wrong, those ‘we’ entrusted with the management of sensitive public institutions no longer make any attempt to mend their ways and course correct. They dismissively tell us to “go to court”. The comparison may not be entirely proper, but it is now like the scriptural story of Pontius Pilate who sat in judgment over Christ. When the chips were down, his courage failed him. He could not acquit and discharge Jesus Christ whom he had said after the trial that there was no blemish found in Him. Rather Pilate washed his hands off the case and passed the buck. The Chairman of the ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission [INEC], Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, is the 2023 version or reincarnation of Pontius Pilate. He had always been, anyway.

As we said earlier, less than 25 million of us have ‘chosen’ our rulers at the federal and state levels for the next four years effective end-May. Nigeria’s estimated population is 200 million. We have to estimate because we really do not know how many we are. In May, Nigeria will, hopefully, conduct another census but at the end of the exercise we will still, sadly, not know how many we are. Previous headcounts in our country had at best been controversial and at worst inconclusive. The May exercise on which we will expend close to N1trillion of donated and borrowed money is already rigged and the outcome will be worse than the preceding headcounts postindependence. And probably worse than the 2023 elections. Apart from gender and residency I do not know the questions that would be in the census form that would be administered to me in May- two months hence. Already in Lagos, some non-indigenes are vowing not to allow themselves to be counted here since they have been told that they don’t belong and forced not to vote their preferred candidates in the recent elections in Lagos. But this will be a story for another day.

Of the 200million Nigerians, almost 100million allegedly were captured in the voter roll and over 80million collected their permanent voters cards and so were eligible to vote on February 25th and March 18th general elections. Barely 30% voted in the presidential election. What does this tell us? Loss of faith in the ballot box. What does the declining participation of citizens in determining their rulers portend for the deepening of government of the people by the people for the people? Peril. Conventional wisdom is that many democracies die after about 200 years. Here, we are barely 20 consecutive years into our own brand of democracy and failure with potentially catastrophic consequences stares us in the face. Nigeria was under the jackboot of military dictatorship for many years since 1966. That disruption of the growth of democracy has haunted us since then. Civilians now think and behave and rule like the erstwhile military usurpers. The temperament of our extant rulers has been inherited from the command and control disposition of the military. By the way, except for between 2007 and 2015, at the top of the rulership of our so-called fourth republic had been retired Army generals- Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari. Their garrison mentality could not be hidden in spite of themselves.

Whenever we conduct elections there will be tension nationwide. It is for the gladiators a do-or-die affair. We shut down the country. We impose curfew. We restrict movements. We violently suppress votes in the stronghold of the opposition. We kill. We maim. We destroy limbs and livelihoods even days after the election. We label citizens resident in parts of the country other than their home states as migrants as the INEC resident electoral commissioner was alleged to have said of the Igbo ahead of the February election.

READ ALSO: ELECTIONS: EU bemoans ‘systemic weaknesses’ as protests trail polls

Everything that is wrong with Nigeria which had been hiding below the surface was in full display this past month. The bile was concerning if not frightening. It was not just verbal violence but physical attacks on the Igbo and other nonindigenes in Lagos which reached a climax. There are reports that the attacks are still ongoing days after the election. Some Yoruba who were mistaken for Igbo or non-indigenes had their own sad stories of attacks to tell. What happened was not Yoruba on Igbo. No. I live in a gated community in Lagos inhabited by various nationalities of Nigeria. I do not fear for my life. When tragedy befell my non-Igbo neighbour my wife and I were the first responders. When a bus and a train collided in Lagos in the period between the two recent elections, the emergency services did not decree that non-Yoruba blood donors should steer clear. So the vote suppression and bloodletting in Lagos during elections are not necessarily the display of enmity between the Yoruba and the Igbo. It’s the handiwork of politicians, the fallout of the weaponization of poverty and the orchestration of hateful narratives for personal gain by those who want to rule us by all means or ‘by fire by force’ in our local lingo . The last time I checked Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti are states in Yoruba land with sizeable Igbo and nonindigenes populations, yet we do not have do-or-die politics in those areas. The few bad actors among the Yoruba in Lagos will readily justify their hostility by claiming that the Igbo declared Lagos ‘a no man’s land’. That’s not entirely true. And they know it. Yes, there are a few Igbo and non-indigenes who have constituted themselves into echo chambers for that phrase. But the truth is that the phrase had existed for years and there is no evidence it was created and orchestrated by the ‘migrant’ Igbo or non-indigenes in Lagos. Indeed it has been established that a Yoruba man of Kwara extraction who till today remained the best and undisputed former governor of Lagos state in spite recent attempts at revisionism, the venerated late Lateef Kayode Jakande [Baba Kekere] used that phrase at his inauguration about 45 years ago. It will be fruitless to be drawn into the correctness or otherwise of that phrase. Every naturally occupied land space must necessarily have indigenes.

Sadly, the Yoruba, Igbo and non-indigenes in Lagos have allowed ourselves to be used by a few selfish politicians to magnify their differences and exacerbate the country’s fault lines over ephemeral political offices which final determination may be in the hands of political judges. Our ballots are important but experience should have thought us that our votes sometimes do not determine who wins what office. For instance, the Supreme Court created the governor of Imo state about three years ago in spite of the vote cast during the election. Judges will soon determine the rightful governor of Osun state and it may not be in accord with the expressed will of the voters in that state. In Nigeria the equivalent of the United States’ electoral college is the Supreme Court with about nine justices sitting as a tribunal. Whatever they decide trumps the votes of thousands or millions of voters. Think about this when next you set to kill a fellow citizen during elections or for whatever reasons for that matter. Meanwhile, in spite of my gut feeling l don’t want to believe that Bayo Onanuga, Alhaji Bola Tinubu’s campaign spokesman has fired the first salvo on the tone and tenor of his presidency, if it happens, when he [Bayo] in a tweet on Sunday warned the Igbo of dire consequences if they meddled in Lagos politics and elections in 2027. It’s a pity that Bayo appears not to know the make up of an Igbo man.


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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