A Democracy Defiled



Fola Ojo

By the time you are reading this treatise, the race to electing the successor to Rauf Aregbesola as the Governor in my State of Osun must have shifted from being ‘inconclusive’ to either ‘conclusive or ‘conclusively inconclusive’. Whatever becomes the Independent National Electoral Commission’s shifty choice shibboleth, what I am cocksure will not be declared concluded for a while are the donnybrook and argy-bargy that will follow. Brabbles and brawls in both the court of public opinions and the court of law will drag on.

On Sunday, September 16 at around 4pm, I predicted the political dramaturgy in a social media post. It was a one-liner that read: ‘I sense a shocker in Osun guber on Saturday”. Supporters of the ruling party All Progressives Congress who read the post disagreed with the summation. They resolutely believed that for their candidate, the election would be a free and easy strut and swagger into the Government House. They also believed, like many people, that defeating a party in power is like rowing the boat against a fierce and fiery tide. A defeat or something near a close contest would be an impossibility. Adherents of other challenging political parties were encouraged by the prediction, but they weren’t sure where the shocker would come from.  And indeed, by themselves, the razor-thin difference between the winner and loser shocked many.

Those who believe that the present administration in the state had been stellar in its performance were shocked. Those who thought that free meals to Osun students, the spiralling roads around nook and cranny of the state, and the beautiful school edifices built by exiting Governor Aregbesola would determine what the people would do in polling booths were shocked. Those who thought that the dream of an integrated South-West region and a bundling up of Yoruba creed and credo in one unified political form and fashion could become a nightmare were shocked. But, I was not!

Although I am not a politician and Nigeria has not been my dwelling place for three decades, I understand the scientology of politics, and my fingers are on the button of how the game is played in my country. Performance is not an automatic ticket to victory.  People do what they want to do; and you don’t know what they do until they do it. A performing party in power can come close to losing an election or fall flat short outright.

You may not know what a hungry son will do even if he is in love with his father without a shred of doubt. No one is certain what a famished daughter will do even if she is head over heels with Mama. There are no assurances as to what impoverished workers who have not been paid for months will do even if they are card-carrying members of a political party. With accuracy, no one can predict today’s behaviour of helpless pensioners who helped build yesterday and today toiling for the government even if it’s their kith and kin in power and authority. You don’t know what even loyal and committed acolytes will do if they feel shortchanged by men elected to help change their stories. There are a few raggedy writings on the wall about the Osun election; and only the wise can read them. By the time the inconclusive is concluded, one person will occupy the office of the governor; but in Osun, throughout this process, democracy has been defiled.

In truly democratic nations, voters freely make their choices even if their preferences are sometimes obviously foolish. In Nigeria, however, they are coerced into taking sides based on which candidate bids the highest. My friends, the Osun election was just that and worse; and it further confirmed that democracy in Nigeria is in a dreadful dungeon. Anytime money changes hands for the purpose of thwarting the wishes of the people in an election process, democracy is shortchanged and consigned into the dungeon with no possibility of parole.

We all observed how heavy the influence of cash was. Party representatives hounded hungry voters with money. The price was between N2,000 and N10,000 to voters. Depending on the clout of the voter in the community, it could have been more.  Hungry and dying folks who believed they had to do what they needed to do to save their families surrendered to the baits of mammon. Democracy is in the dungeon in my country; and Nigerians are unable to set her loose.

By the time this opinion is published, the man who came third in last Saturday’s contest, the beautiful bride in an ugly process, the man in bed with untrusting and untrustworthy suitors, would have bid good bye to the honeymoon. The SDP candidate, Iyiola Omisore, was desired by all; and we heard also that bags of money were moved from all around Nigeria; from Kwara and Adamawa, and from Lagos to Abuja, to appease the bride in his Ile-Ife home. But at the last minute, the bride decided the bed he would be sleeping on for the rerun in Osun. The APC must have paid the biggest dowry. The SDP and the APC then teamed up to put the PDP’s Demola Adeleke on his dancing toes.

No election can be truly free and fair in a system where the hearts and minds of leading adults are shackled in stench and draped in injustice and unfairness. The Osun election clearly shows that democracy is weird and wobbly In Nigeria. It has been crippled by the unscrupulous and defiled by desperados for power. In 1947, Winston Churchill described democracy as the preferable worst form of government. With Nigeria as a case study, I agree. The whole political and electoral system in Nigeria is a symbolism of depravity. The so-called “progressives” are regressive in acts.  All our parties are regressive whether they build roads or refineries; whether they serve free meals or offer free education. These vote-buying charades have defiled our democracy. Countries don’t slide into a failed state overnight; they slough off incrementally into despair with assault and battery on the democratic process. Activities such as what occurred in Osun will soon repeat themselves in next year’s elections. This is unfortunate.

All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to sell their votes and leading adults to offer to buy them. For the sellers, biblical Esau did not only sell his birthright to his brother Jacob, he sold his future and his children’s destinies into slavery. When politicians approach you with moneybags to buy your vote and you surrender, your case will be worse than Esau’s. Sell your shoes, you will buy another one. Auction off your clothes, you will purchase something better. You can even sell your house and still not be homeless. But when you sell your vote to politicians, you have sold your soul to the devil; and you will never get it back.

Your vote is worth more than what money can buy. In every election, you only have one. It’s worth a lot more than just a number; it is your voice that must be heard. Nigeria’s democracy is a jejune jocosity and frenzied fraud. Its future doesn’t look good with these present assaults by practitioners. Men who really want things to be different in Nigeria will not sell their votes or offer to buy.