EVEN more important than winning the election is governing the nation. That is the test of a political party; the acid final test.
“When the tumult and the shouting die; when the bands are gone
And the lights are dimmed; there is the stark reality of responsibility”-Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)
Even where it is not in our character to over use a particular quote, we still find it necessary to start today’s piece with the view expressed by Adlai Stevenson as far back as 1952.
This view is as valid today as it was then. Stevenson was a great orator and, perhaps, one of the greatest presidents that America never had. He was two times the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party and both times, he was defeated by his Republican rivals. After the second defeat, he gave up and wrote a book titled How to come second. Are the Buharis listening?
By the time we shall be counting the cost of that election, let no one forget the Ologbo boat tragedy in which three police personnel and one ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, perished. Human life is a terrible thing to lose. If a man must die, he must die with dignity; not like a poisoned rat.
It may be too much to expect INEC to procure its own speed boats but it is certainly not too much to ask why INEC should not, as part of its preparation for elections, possess life jackets, which should be made available to those on assignment in the river-rine areas. What arrangement is INEC making to contain future occurrence of this type of mishap? In fact, our elections have since become the moral equivalent of war. It will be appropriate to take up a comprehensive insurance cover – similar to the workmen’s compensation insurance – for people on election duties.
We must commend INEC for the speed with which the election results were released. In the past, we saw cases of election results that were not announced even more than four days after voting and in the process, wicked spanners were thrown in the works.
We are still very far in the woods. All those who have claimed that the Edo election was very successful and that it should be used as a yardstick for future elections throughout the country must be under some delusion. For one thing, we wonder if INEC can truly beat its chest and say it has really organised a hitch-free election. In just the same way that you don’t postpone Christmas, these elections come at intervals of at least four years (in the case of Edo State, the 2012 election came after five years and three months as the last gubernatorial election was held on 14 April 2007). Why on earth should we still be having the same old sing-song of shortage of materials and late arrival of materials to polling centres? Why are we not yet seeing the people responsible for this sabotage in prison?
Given that long time, why on earth could INEC not produce credible voters registers? They had enough time even to go and print them in Niger Republic, the same place from where we now import refined petroleum products, because of our penchant for imported goods! What is happening? And in the process, they wrong-footed everybody. For one thing, what is now looking like a low turn-out in the Edo election is purely because of the tardiness of INEC. They disenfranchised a whole generation of otherwise legible voters. It is sad, sad, indeed!
Secondly, we have heard many people accusing Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for hastily condemning the very system that eventually threw him up as the winner of the election. How many people would see what Oshiomhole saw at that time and not be apprehensive? In an election that was supposed to have started at 8 a.m., materials had not still arrived at some ACN strongholds as late as 3 p.m. And in some of those strongholds, photo copies of voters registers were being paraded. What was an appropriate time for Oshiomhole to raise an alarm – after the election, when the evil must have been fully entrenched? Ha! Ha!
Have we really sat down to count the cost at which the Edo war was prosecuted? We are aware that the first consignment of military men was about 3,500. Elementary mathematics shows that in a general election involving the 36 states and Abuja, we would need 126,000 soldiers to start with. We are sure that even the Police High Command has since lost count of the number of policemen that were sent to Edo State. In a general election, the number would have to be multiplied by 37. We are reminded that men of the State Security Service, SSS and other para-military establishments – Immigration, Civil Defence Corps, Customs, Road Safety, Fire Brigade, etc – were all here from other states! Whatever number you have, multiply that by 37 for a general election.
Barring self-delusion, it would be easy to admit that Oshiomhole and his performance made the essential difference in the Edo case. And how many Oshiomholes do we have in this country? They are few and far apart. What we need is a system that works. By the time we have an electoral system in place, any warm body can operate it. When we get there, managing an election will be a routine clerical job of filling in the dotted lines. Election shall cease to be war. Then, the electorate, our professors, the soldiers, the policemen and all the now wasted generation can go about their normal businesses. May the time fly faster!