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It’s Over But It’s Not Over

Mercifully, the 2019 general elections pass into history this week. There would be no more killings and the clouds of threats and intimidation will be forced to dissipate, letting in some shafts of sunshine of hope into the future of our country. The elections observers, foreign or local, may give their verdict sooner or later but it would be naïve to expect it to be all thumbs up for INEC, the politicians, the federal government and the security forces.
We should expect a harsh but fair verdict because, once more, we have shown the world to what extent we have made ourselves victims of retrogression. We have failed miserably to acquit ourselves in this simple process of allowing the people to carry out their civic duty of choosing their rulers and representatives in the executive and the legislative branches of government. Some sore points dare us to ignore them, even as the winners roll out the drums and the losers gnash their teeth.
One, the conduct of the elections left ashes in our mouths. It was not unrealistic on our part to expect that this being the fifth time that our politicians in agbada would conduct general elections without our politicians in khaki breathing down their necks, our overall performances, despite some inevitable hiccups, would be stellar. This did not happen. We disappointed foreign and local expectations and sunk deeper in the cesspool of incompetence, injustice and unfairness. And it is all our faults. Each time the brightest among us commit themselves to doing things different to our collective pride, we bring them down to our rotten level.
It invites some inevitable questions: Did we decide or did we decide? How much do the victories represent our collective choices in the two tranches of the elections? It is still politics of the powerful and the rich, the men who strut our political stage riding roughshod over basic rights as citizens. Yes, some won and others lost but this tells less than the true story of how decisions 2019 were arrived at at the various levels from the presidential election down to the houses of assembly elections this week. Money the corrupter-in-chief of mores and morals, makes short work of our high-mindedness. We expected a vast improvement on our past elections but the Nigerian factor dragged us right back to where we no longer wish to be. Few things went right with the elections. Not even the card readers gave us the confidence that we are in the 21st century. It saves us the option of hard-headed thinking and interrogation when we readily offer the stained and unsightly flag of the Nigerian factor as an explanation for our continued inability as a nation to rise above our failures.
Two, the progressive militarisation of our elections has ill-served us. The heavy deployment of forces on election duty was, arguably, intended to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections. It did not happen. The armed police and military forces proved to be a hollow show of state power. Their presence did not prevent the egregious election violence, killings, kidnappings, open vote buying and other forms of rigging. These all went on without let or hindrance. People were killed or kidnapped and ballot boxes were snatched in the full view of the security forces. Their presence was ojoro.
Three, it must be painful to some old codgers like your sincerely that we are not marching towards the sun rise of greatness but are instead sliding backwards to the sun set of our past failures as if holding on to those failures must always define us as a nation. I wonder what we shall make of these times when we look back. Shall we smile at the progress we have made in the peaceful conduct of our elections? Or shall we whimper that the lumbering giant of Africa failed to emerge from the woods, ready to take its rightful place in the comity of progressive modern nations?
A nation defined by one step forward and two steps backward will forever face the challenges of catching up with other nations. I thought decisions 2019 would show the world what we have learnt from our mistakes in the past four seasons of our general elections. I thought the lessons learnt and applied would smoothen our path in the current election season. I saw little evidence of that. The electoral umpire was not to entirely blame. The greater blame lies on our politicians are still not committed to doing right by the people. Blame it on the lure of power. It tends to bury the sense of national service. Our elections have been turned into wars by another name. I regret to say that the road to our electoral success is still strewn with thorns and rocks, hindering our progress.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has described the elections as the worst in the history of our country. He probably exaggerated for obvious reasons. He is now in court to prove his case. We thought that the 2007 general elections were the lowest point in the conduct of our general elections up to that point in our history. They did not even meet the regional standards. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua, the greatest beneficiary of that do-or-die policy of then then President Obasanjo, all but repudiated it at his inauguration, hence his decision to reform the process and make our elections credible. Sadly, the Justice Uwais committee report on the electoral reforms is gathering dust on government shelves while those things that prevent us from conducting fair and credible elections still haunt our elections.
Yar’Adua could not implement the reforms he initiated because the forces retrogression prevented him from doing so. President Jonathan would not touch them because doing so would not serve the vested political interests of his acolytes and those who own the country by default. President Buhari would not even bother to spare it some thoughts because he too would rather stick with what we have, warts and all, rather than engage himself in reforms that might ill serve his political ambition and interests. Pathetic instances such as this are legion in our country. And we continue to grope, moving and unable to break out of the circles.
On Monday this week, a friend of mine called me from the UK to tell me people were watching the conduct of the elections and laughing at us. How sad. Nigeria is the only country on the continent whose elections cause concern globally. The final verdict on decision 2019 will eventually come piecemeal from the election tribunals. There, the elections would be finally won or lost. But here again, we are dealing with a corrupt system in which the presence of the ubiquitous Ghana-must-go bags ensures that wherever you turn in our elections, the deep pockets shall trump the shallow pockets. Money politics it was, money politics it is and money politics it shall be. You can say amen to that.

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