It’s been 20 years that Nigeria has had her democracy and have been conducting elections every four years, bringing us to the total number of 6 elections at the federal level and at most of the states in the country, but yet our elections (everything that happen pre, during and post them) still cannot present Nigeria’s election processes as free and fair. Elections were supposed to involve processes that give the people the opportunities-cum-rights to choose their own leaders, as that is what makes a democracy democratic, and apart from the rights to be able to critique the government and protest against it or its policies that the people have (which by the way the current administration do not know how to respect), the major thing left that shows that the people of Nigeria participate in their assumed democracy is their participation in the electoral processes—especially voting, but unfortunately, the people are not even allowed to have a countable vote anymore.
Our elections are always shows of violence, killing, sporadic shooting at polling units by civilians and the armed forces, stealing of ballot boxes, and the use of the security agencies to do what they were trained and hired to fight against; all because someone paid the pipers, and the pipers must play the payer’s tunes. In this light, the electorates are either discouraged to come out at all to vote or afraid of coming out to vote (which explains the low turnout of voters we are always having compared to the number of people who registered to vote). When the electorates try to come out to practise their political rights of voting, the physical torture they go through in the processes that would help them be able to vote, the mental torture they go through thinking there may be gunmen coming to shoot at them so as to be able to steal the ballot boxes, the thought that their votes would not count anyway; all these don’t allow our democracy be people-centric as it is supposed to be, as the people don’t actually get to take part even in the election of their own leaders. The winner of the elections are determined by how fierce and menacing the supporters of the candidates are, and also on how much giveaways the candidates and their supporters could do to buy the few people’s votes, and how much of multiple votes a person could have. These don’t speak well of us.
Considering the just concluded Bayelsa and Kogi States elections (which by the way should never be referred to as an election without a clause like this), one only needs to be on the social medias and on a couple of hashtags like #KogiDecides, #KogiDecides2019, #BayelsaDecides and #BayelsaDecides2019 to be convinced that what happened in these states aren’t really elections but some kind of democratic coup d’état. The saddest part of it all is seeing the members of the Armed Forces stealing ballot boxes and aiding the stealing of ballot boxes. One would expect the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to react to that and frown at it—even if considering an election unfree, no so fair and worthy of cancellation is not his job. But to God be the glory, at least the President tweeted something about the Bayelsa election: “Violence during elections vitiates our commitment to demonstrate to the world and upcoming generation that we are a people capable of electing leaders in a peaceful and orderly manner”. Whether this tweet is a genuine expression or not should be left alone first to focus on the mind-stirring message it passes.
Obviously, the major or even only thing our elections say about us is that we are not capable of having a peaceful election, to add to that, we also are not capable of conducting a people-centric election. Which all settle around the truth that our elections are never free or really fair. Do we get better or worse in our political ways? Are we advancing towards when we have an election and no one is shot dead, no ballot boxes are stolen, the results are not delayed and rigged and no one sees a need to go to the tribunal after the election? These questions should be reflected on.
Olusegun Peters is a businessman, an investor and a scholar. He is the founder of primerinfotech.com and pec-ng.com. He is passionate about contributing his knowledge to impacting as many people as possible one person at a time. Read more about Olusegun Peters here