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EDITORIAL

2019 Elections: Why Nigerians Are Not Celebrating

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Elsewhere in developed democracies, preparations for elections are seen by the people as periods of fun, more like carnivals. Candidates meet the electorate in a relaxed atmosphere to explain why they are in the race. On the part of the people, they welcome their prospective leaders with hope, relate with them freely and extract commitments from them on what they expect to get in return when they vote for them – good governance. Some even contribute to the financial expenses of the candidates as proof of their acceptance of them. That also serves as a warning to the candidates that they will be held accountable while in office.

The people, during the period, are proud to flaunt the nation’s symbols – flags in particular, convinced that they are part of a process that will further the growth of the nation in all its ramifications. In those climes, participating in the democratic process is seen as a civic, patriotic duty

Such cannot be said about elections in developing nations in Africa and, especially, in Nigeria because of the belief that democracy is nascent, young and is still forming. Sadly, we dare say, that perception of this system of government is giving the political operators the temerity to do the unthinkable and explain it away as part of the learning process. It is also only in this part of the world that the electorate take promises by the politicians with a pinch of salt.

That perception, in our view, could be the reason behind voter apathy which begins from the unwillingness on the part of the people to register at all. They wait to be prodded before they can see the need to participate in the exercise. And even when the voters register, they don’t see anything wrong with selling their voter’s card for a pittance because, in their thinking, that may be all they expect to get from the candidate or even the party when elected.

For the political class who sees getting into a public office as not a chance to serve but as an opportunity for self-aggrandisement, the near passive attitude of the electorate serves their purposes well enough. They are averse to voter education that will enlighten the electorate on the benefits of democracy. That will truncate their intentions for seeking public office which is, essentially, to lord it over the uninformed populace. They prefer to exploit their ignorance by buying their votes which they see as an investment that will, eventually, yield returns in multiples. And in all cases, it does happen, as a politician who goes into office without a clean pair of shoes comes out with mansions, fleets of exotic cars and fat bank accounts. Unfortunately, in our opinion, that has been the experience of Nigerians and their elected leaders.

Tomorrow, Nigerians will troop out again, in their numbers, to cast their votes in the long awaited general elections that will produce the country’s leaders for the next four years. As that day arrives, feelings of trepidation are palpable. The people are not too sure of what to expect from a process that has countlessly failed them. That feeling is not in any way assuaged by the shenanigans of the average politician and his cohorts who, in actual fact, are planning on manipulating the exercise regardless of what the voters do at the polling booths. Already, some of the politicians are promising to deliver millions of votes far in excess of the number of registered voters for their preferred principals. For them, democracy is a game of numbers; it does not really matter how those numbers are amassed

In Nigeria, we dare say, subterfuge, deceit, lies and resort to benign neglect of the people are some of the tools that come in handy in the race for political office. Furthermore, the non-political actor is made to accept that politics is a dangerous game in which the faint-hearted are excluded; those without heavy war-chest are scared off and the lily-livered are crushed mercilessly. These are what the electorate get away with from political rallies, find on campaign posters, listen to in jingles and other electioneering materials. Instead of edifying the mind and arousing interest, they frustrate and discourage the people who look on as spectators in their own game as nitwits and misfits are foisted on them as leaders. This is why Nigerian voters are not celebrating a system in which, under normal circumstances, they are not only kings but also ought to hold all the aces.    

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