When the news report started trickling in, some of us could not believe it. Although there was the corroboration of what you’d been feeling and sensing, that your state, your much-loved country, and your ward’s political landscape will change. It is not just about change but much to do with the way and manner of this change. Suddenly politician’s performance in office doesn’t count again. What now counts is the person in authority at the collation center. The very vote democracy holds sacred is now relegated to the back burner. It is no longer how many people voted for you but who counts and collated your votes. Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, in an interview with Daily Independent published on April 21, 2003 succinctly put it as follow:
“It is always very smooth at the polling centers. But moving away from the voting centers to the collating centers, that was where the problem was last week.”
For the first time in my memory, people are talking openly and boasting about an election that change the status quo albeit in the southwest, irrespective of the performance of the state governors performance in office. How do you explain an election where the opposing party acknowledges the sterling performance of the governor of Osun state, particularly his rural developmental programs and yet that governor still lost? In the words of Dr. Ahmed Kusamotu
“Governor Bisi Akande, I believe is the most effective governor throughout the country and there is no doubt about that but he took the Yoruba people for granted.”
It is as if all that matters now is your relationship with the press, performance no longer counts. One can concede the fact that the governor in question alienates the civil servant in the state by his refusal to toe the line of the state NLC goons. But the civil servant is less than 1 percent of the population of the state. The answer to PDP sweeping victory in the Southwest can be found in this innocuous interview Governor Bisi Akande had with Newswatch Publications before the election:
“Newswatch: That reminds one that you have not arranged any fund-raising dinner so far. Other governors have done that, what are you waiting for?
Akande: Because I don’t have any contractor friend. Even if I arrange one nobody will donate, so there is no point wasting time at all.
Newswatch: So, how are you going to fund your election?
Akande: That’s what I am telling you. The other time when I became governor I didn’t spend more than N50, 000 of my own money and what I did really, I used it in fuelling my vehicles or to give Coca Cola to friends who came to greet me. To become governor I didn’t spend more than N50, 000 of my own money. But I got some gifts from friends and the totality of my election I remember could not have cost more than N2.5 million and all these were donations from friends because when they gave me the money I paid it into the party. But since then, many of these friends have not been lucky to get contracts because the meaning of contract in this part of the world as people understand it, is give out the job which nobody will do and you share the loot. This is not possible under my governorship. So, because of that I don’t know how many of these friends I have lost and I can’t remember if I created new ones. So, because of that if I waste my time to do launching and it costs me some N500, 000 to rent the hall and other things and nobody comes and even if they come, they don’t give me up to what I spent, why am I wasting my time?
Newswatch: So, how do you intend to fund the election?
Akande: It won't cost me much. My election will not cost me much because it is a division of labor. Some people are now struggling to become councilors, they will be spending within their wards, others struggling to become members of the House of Assembly, local government chairmen, House of Representatives, Senate, they all will be organizing their people. There are political party leaders who will be going round to ensure these things are done well so it will not cost much. But in a country where only the rich can buy the police or INEC officials, where do you place people like me, who cannot get such money to buy anybody? If buying people is what you meant by funding, it means I am not going to fund the election.”
It is foolish and stupid for any politician in the democracies of twenty first century to imagine that he will not spend his money on election. But the underlying issue is not just about campaign finance, it also has to do with programs, performance and record in office. What do you do with an intractable underbelly of uneducated populace weaned in and around poverty, violence, drugs, corruption, and looting and now electoral fraud? The other day, I exchange email with a friend on his way to monitor Nigeria election, we all agreed that it was fraudulent for INEC to have counseled Nigerian voters to leave the voting area after they casted their votes, because in Nigeria, it is not so much about right to vote and voting generally, it’s got a lot to do with vote counting. You can vote whatever you want, but are those votes going to be counted. We concluded our short discourse with a determination to ensure we emailed and called as many people as we can to get them to either stay back after voting or come back for the counting. With a benefit of hindsight now, I think we failed. With the result coming in from Southeast in particular, the wholesome fraud perpetrated in the name of democracy would not have happened if voters had stayed back to ensure that their votes were counted under their “korokoro” eyes.
Now to the arrogance of the winners, 3 days after the National assembly election, our dear president went about the southwest, chest beating, about the feat of his party in coasting home to victory particularly in the southwest. Let me quote This day reports here:
President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday told the six governors of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to start packing from the government houses, as they would be defeated tomorrow. Obasanjo spoke in Ilesa, Osun State during his whistle-stop campaign across the six states of the Southwest.The president who addressed rallies in Akure, Ado-Ekiti, Ilesa, Iwo, Osogbo, Ibadan, and Abeokuta before retiring to his Ota farmhouse also praised the courage of Yoruba people for voting for change in last Saturday's National Assembly polls.In Ilesa, Osun State, the president advised AD governors in the South-west to start preparing their hand-over notes instead of intimidating the electorates."The last elections result shocked them. They were seriously frightened and they should start packing now," he said.Obasanjo said the affected governors should know that "a good wind of change is blowing through the South West and nobody can stop it.""Those who are planning violence would meet their waterloo, they would be made to face the wrath of law."Don't be scared. Nobody can harm you tomorrow, go out en masse and cast your votes for PDP."I was a soldier, nobody can protect Nigerians more than I do. Those who are threatening violence are only fishing in trouble waters" he said."Those who are telling you not to vote for me are jesters, because they lost elections, they are just messing themselves, what God has done, nobody can change it."I will lead you aright, I will not mislead you, Nigeria will be better for it," he added.He berated governors of the AD for their bellicose response to last Saturday's election results.Said Obasanjo: "They aint seeing nothing yet!"
Indeed “we aint seeing nothing yet”, what we need to pray against is the worst. Maybe the next thing is to sing the “nunc dimitis” of Africa’s largest democracy.
The arrogance and pugnacious nature of the statement is telling indeed. Coming from someone who had an alliance with the same governor to ensure that the period of election is violence free. Now take this and add the fact that when he was told about the problem with the election in southwest, all he has to say is that at least the people are not protesting. I mean do we have to wait until the whole of Nigeria is engulfed in fire before our Nero we know that this election is a farce!
Please do not get me wrong, this piece is not about the good deeds of Alliance for Democracy governors, nor about APGA’s protest, it has a lot to do with the arrogance, rape and fraud being perpetrated in the name of democracy, and if we don’t cry out now our hard won freedom will be lost.
Someone said recently that we need to keep quiet so that military will not come back, and my retort is no way. Let them come back, they will meet their match. After all, we send them to barracks not at their own volitions, the people that spoke then, need to speak out now, and if they come back we need to speak more.
The saddest part of this charade is that the opposition parties in Nigeria are as bad as the arrogant PDP, if not worse. The truth is democracy can only thrive where there is competitively genuine opposition, and not the present crop of charlatans parading the corridors of our opposition party’s headquarters. Imagine an ANPP, which cannot find any other candidates other than a religious bigot like Buhari. If Nigerians really want this democracy to thrive, then we need to speak out now, we can’t afford to put our collective destiny in the hands of Abulkadir, Ogbeh, Chekwas Okorie and their likes.
Postcript: Since I wrote this piece we have had numerous elections in Nigeria and the latest presidential election is mired in controversy once again: and the problem, you guessed right is: Collation of Votes!