With the election day finally upon the entire country I find that the reality is a constant oscillation between the much prophesied days of thunder and well....a whimper. For instance my trip to the polling station began with quite a dash of cold water on the face because of the heavily armed military troops stationed at well known points of intense activity around Ajah.
I wonder if this is right. I am like most Nigerians very sensitive to the subject of the Military getting involved in any form in Nigerian politics.Like a lot of people I know, the fiction that the army has been our only "unifying force" since independence is annoying. This untruth is the province of the army's spin doctors and apologists for whom the continued practice of a painful aberration equates to immense profit. If anything, having entertained the army for so long and failing to confront it or at least engaging it in some robust dialogue has helped to not only impoverish us but also devalued every moral system we used to have.
I realise that there is still confusion about whether the Army's initial outreach to political power was an act of patriotism. The fact has however been that at the end of it we were not better off than when they had begun. Reams and reams have been written about the Army's talent for mismanagement and naivety, greed and barbarism and childish spite and brigandage. However it is easy to see that these traits came to light usually when material possesions seemed to be the bait. But then these things couldn't have been great losses since they could with some little effort be recovered. In my view they perhaps injured us most by revealing to us our smallness as a people and our almost total complicity as a community. By the time the army had finished with us(and of course our common wealth) we the people who were not in any way opportuned to be in high places where high crimes and misdemeanours were easy to perpetrate had begun to lust after that same heinous possibility.
We dreamed of such opportunities. We sold our souls and our mothers' to boot. We stabbed our brothers in the back, lied, cheated, betrayed, lied again, clawed-anything, just to enjoy the epicurean ease we discerned them to be enjoying. It was made clear to us that we were no different than they were. And whatever they were, whatever they are capable of, was just an innoculant taken from the pool whose integral part we solidly were.
I did not witness the violence, rape, beheading and the general talabanism a lot of otherwise intelligent people I know had made me promise them I should be on the lookout for.
The second dash of cold water came from the tardiness with which the electoral body carried out its duties after years of planning. First of all everyone had to mill around for close to a couple of hours or so before some sort of action was registered from polling agents. And then when they finally unfurled their lists, a legion of people seemed to have had their names expunged from the them.
Then there was confusion as to whether the later could vote using just their cards. Even the agents seemed to be ignorant of the INEC injunctions. And we all imagined these people had been immersed in a serious training regime! It all begins to give credence to the views which, to be honest, I had imagined were overly pessimistic, that the whole exercise was programmed to fail.
I got home and stuck myself before the TV to begin to hear the bad news swirling in from across the entire country. Explosions in Port Harcourt, a near war in Sagamu, disturbances in the North, no voting in Anambra and Enugu states. It was all getting too much until I looked myself in the eye and asked me if I had really imagined that we were going to get it right?
I mean, never mind that as a good, patriotic citizen who was brought up right by his parents to think only what is good and to practice faith and hope and all the other nice things - did I really believe in a reasonable, unimpeachable, verifiable manner that we were going to get it right?
Let me take it all one after the other.
First of all an election in a country like ours with lousy transportation systems and a telecommunication system that is off and on, with infrastructure crumbling to pieces, is not like a bowl of okro soup. We number close to a hundred million plus. With the proverbial sixty per cent eligibility we are looking at say anywhere between 40 to 70 million voters. We have a long history of fractious politicking largely fissured along ethnic lines. We have a lousy police force that is under paid, without morale and poorly trained. We have a work force whose education has been fitful where they have not been non-existent, from which these electoral bodies can only harvest their employees. This work force was nourished in a culture of dishonesty and malfeasance, their degrees are largely purchased. When they do get employed they receive just enough to pay transport fares to their work places for the next thirty days before another new entrapping payday. They are slaves rather than partners and are quickly open to illegal inducements. The planning for the voting, beginning from the registration to verifications, to the printing of votes and other stationery, catering to the welfare of staff, appointment of key election officials and other logistical elements, have been characterised by a nauseating ineptitude. There has been seeming interference in the electoral body's activities, or where this was not so, very strange and confusing steps taken to throw all reasonable people off track.
Stack all these against what we have going for us - that we really, really want these elections to succeed,;that we have prayed hard in church and massalachi, for there to be success in the entire exercise. We have enough faith that there would be success?.
Let's come off it. Everything I know makes it clear that good things usually have to be worked for. Anyone who believes it all came in the twinkle of an eye was probably asleep the whole time while other good people worked their butts off.
Another good side? Maybe the only good side. It's our first time so we are bound to get it right at some point. I am willing to take a long shot, and therefore a long view on this. I am willing to play this like a real contenda, with a lot of class. The next time will have to be better. I am not saying this in the manner of people who will tell us that what happened is an act of God and we should let it all be. That attitude is immediately despicable to me. What is important is to note the shortcomings of the current exercise and memorialise them for the future as armour and guide against their reoccurence.