By Tonnie Iredia

When social scientists of the Elite theory persuasion contend that society can best be understood through the preferences of the wealthy and privileged class, they merely underscore the fact that other groups particularly the masses are inconsequential. According to one of them-Thomas Dye-the masses of the population are inept, docile, dormant and always seeking direction and guidance.

It is therefore a wasteful exercise, in the view of elite theorists, to take the activities of the masses into consideration in public events because whatever they do is always the bidding of the elites who manipulate them accordingly. There is therefore some rationality in focusing on only the activities of the elite while trying to understand an entire society. How applicable is this to the 2011elections in Nigeria?

In a free and fair election, the crucial element is the voter-a person who is authorised to cast a ballot in an election on condition that he is qualified to vote and that his name is correctly listed in the register of voters. To know who is a voter in Nigeria is however not easy because many persons whose names are in the voters’ register do not vote. Apart from those who are ill and those who have to travel out during voting, the cumbersome nature of our election process is a barrier to voting. During the last registration of voters’ exercise, we were all admonished to register at the centres closest to our homes.

Unfortunately, many could not abide by such a rather convenient instruction because the INEC magical ‘DDC’ machines were inappropriately distributed. While some centres got, others did not. Worse still, the machines themselves wherever they were found, had their own temperament choosing very few instances when not to malfunction. In the circumstance, people scrambled to register anywhere.

On voting day, those who registered far away from their homes were expectedly on their own. They were largely disenfranchised. But how is the resultant low turn-out on voting day, the fault of the elite class? Just as it is hard to answer that question so is it difficult to understand why low turn-out in some centres produced high votes there.

Another set of voters in Nigeria worthy of note consists of persons who through ignorance invalidate their own votes.  In the 2011 elections, an incredible percentage of spoilt ballot papers reminds us of them. It should also be noted that some Nigerians who voted on Election Day were not necessarily registered voters. As testified to by different election monitoring groups, there were many transparently under-aged voters who were either illegally registered or were basically surrogate voters.

Each time I read a graphic on our TV screens describing a respondent as “eligible voter” I wonder if a voter can be ineligible to vote. For me, a voter in Nigeria is someone who is allowed by the elite to vote. By the elite, I mean the powerful political class whose most prominent component is the ‘Governors’ forum’

In the 2011 elections, every Governor knew what to do for every voter to obey him hence they were all re-elected except in a few states like Oyo, Nasarawa and Zamfara where the Governors were rather naïve. In Nasarawa, the defeat of the Governor was expected.

In fact some students of the state university in Keffi had opined to me that no one would vote for Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma. A poorer profile of him now is the allegation that his government has compiled and queried teachers who supported the opposition against him.

Although his head of civil service, Usman Dubagari denied the allegation, the media already have copies of the queries issued by the office of primary Education board and signed by the Director, Administration and Supplies Abdullahi Magaji on behalf of the board chairman, Umaru Mairiga. In Oyo, any Governor at war with traditional rulers especially the Alafin and Olubadan never wins an election.

So, Governor Alao Akala could not have won the 2011 governorship election in the state. We hear he has now amended the law which made his foe, the Alafin, the permanent chairman of the state council of Obas. He may lose there again as a communiqué by the Obas read on their behalf by their vice-chairman, Oba Samuel Osungbade, says the “purported amendment cannot and will not stand the test of time.”

In Zamfara, Governor Shinkafi had more than the structure of his predecessor and former mentor to contend with. He had to contest against his own son in law, Abdulaziz Yari, who eventually won. It is indeed hard for a father to defeat a son as Governor Saraki demonstrated in Kwara.

After the National Assembly and Presidential elections, there were doubts if the ruling PDP would be able to retain the governorship of a state like Gombe but Governor Goje made it clear that it is difficult to defeat the choice of an incumbent.

This was further confirmed by Governor Sheriff of Borno state who after losing his own senate seat bounced back and put everything ‘governmental’ to make his choice emerge as Governor. I suspect that Governor Daniel of Ogun state would probably have achieved the same feat were it not for the fact that throughout the electioneering period, Baba did not stop laughing.

If charismatic Governor Uduaghan was not an incumbent, he would not have been able to face his rival’s threat that was inspired by primordial sentiments of those who think that only their supposed majority ethnic group should permanently produce the Governor of heterogeneous Delta state. Governor Jang of Plateau state would have been out of office now if he did not have what it takes to face sponsors of perennial violence in Jos.

It does not even matter if the opponents are former Governors, all that matters is for one to be the incumbent as Governors Chime and Akpabio proved in Enugu and Akwa-Ibom states respectively. In Kaduna, the overwhelming power of a Governor became irrefutable as Governor Yakowa did what Napoleon could not do. President Jonathan that most Nigerians wanted to vote for did not win in that state in spite of the place being the state of Vice President Sambo. Indeed, enigmatic Senator Markarfi lost his seat.

Yet the PDP Governor was re-elected. In Ondo state, because Governor Mimiko belongs to the Labour Party, everybody in the state is now a ‘labourer’ and as the Governor pleases, all labourers voted for PDP in the Presidential election.  Even in Lagos, Ekiti and Edo states, Governors of the ruling party- ACN- mobilized their supporters to vote against their own Presidential candidate. What then can a Governor not do? So, compatriots, please join me to make my son the Governor of Edo State in 2016.

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