By Muyiwa Adetiba
This time next week will find many of us at the polls. I hope the turn out will be large. I also hope we will do everything possible to make our votes count.
Rigging, unless we want to deceive ourselves, is inevitable given the high stakes, the nature of our politicians, the nature of our security forces, the state of preparedness of the electoral body, the greed and lack of professionalism of many of the electoral officers, the terrain, and ultimately, the state of mind, or purse, of ideologically barren and financially pulverised voters.
But it can be contained if the voters are determined to protect their votes, and if they see the importance, beyond the moment, of whoever emerges. Rigging trend has shown that, with the exception of state coercion, politicians rig in their areas of strength. This is where the minority must stand its ground. It is the very least our fledgling democracy demands.
A few things have characterised this electioneering period for me. Some of them positive. First, is the use of money. We have had a fairly subdued campaign in that direction. I think we have the incumbent to thank for that because he could easily have opened the door to the treasury like his predecessors. It would then have become a race of whoever has the deepest pocket. Instead, whatever has been done, on both sides, has been a covert rather than in-your-face use of money. Second, has been use of language.
The two front runners have tried to avoid personal abuses. Although we cannot claim the same constraints from their lieutenants, it is a welcome departure from the personal abuses of 2015 which even involved the spouses. Third, is the failure of the use of race and religion to cause disaffection and division. The cry of Islamisation did not gain traction. Maybe because the two front runners are of the same race and religion. Fourth, is politically motivated deaths. Despite the worrisome security concerns in the country, mysterious deaths of top politicians, which were prevalent in the past especially during Obasanjo’s tenure, have been on the wane. Osinbajo’s air crash would have changed the narrative had it been fatal.
Now to the negatives. First, is the use of the social media. This medium of communication came to its own during the campaign. But it did not acquit itself. It became a medium for all kinds of distortions, abuses, hateful and divisive narratives and downright lies.People post and repost without feeling the onus to check the veracity of their posts. It is obvious the social media is exacerbating the fault lines in the country and has to be checked before it does incalculable harm. It also became a veritable tool for faceless political manipulators. Second, is the lack of depth of the campaigns. Four years down the road, APC is still campaigning more on the integrity of its flag bearer than on concrete achievements. Perhaps it feels there isn’t too much to show. The fight against corruption is important. But it should not be the main peg to hang a second term campaign on given its success rate and perceived lopsided nature.
PDP on the other hand refused to rebrand itself. Even subtly. It carries on as if we have all forgotten that 16 of the 20 years of the current democracy belongs to them. It therefore shares a huge blame in whatever the state of the economy is and in whatever the state of the infrastructure and social services has become. Its flag bearer was in charge of the economy 20 years ago where multi-billion naira companies were auctioned for peanuts. Where are those companies today? His talks about fixing the economy can therefore not be taken at face value. But what is perhaps most disheartening is that neither of them has shown a serious desire to change the rent seeking system the country operates. Just look at the people surrounding the two of them and see if there is a chance things will be different.
The third negative is their refusal to debate. To be fair, no incumbent has ever taken part in a presidential debate. But that doesn’t make President Buhari’s refusal acceptable. As for Atiku, he got to the venue and drove away because Buhari was not in attendance. That was patronising. It was also disrespectful to the other contestants. Besides, it was erroneous of him to think he was there to debate the incumbent.
He was there to present his views and to answer tough questions if necessary about his programmes. No job applicant walks away from an interview because the incumbent is not being interviewed. Atiku though, has shown more alertness on the podiums and Town Hall meetings than his rival. Atiku seems to connect more naturally with the people unlike Buhari who always seems aloof and uncomfortable around people. Yet his cult followership, especially in the North, is unprecedented. While Buhari has been found to be incoherent and disorientated at times, Atiku has been found through fact checks, to fall short of the truth in some of his assertions.
Another negative is the constant attack PDP makes on INEC. Every move INEC makes is attacked even before it has been properly understood. There is no sportsmanship in suspecting and undermining an umpire at every turn.
INEC is all we’ve got to work with and destroying its integrity is not going to help anybody. PDP should work with what it has. That was what the opponent had to do to oust it after many attempts. Besides, it’s rich for PDP to shout so vociferously about rigging. It hadn’t been so pristine in past elections and is unlikely to be pristine even now. The constant reference to rigging seems like trying to prepare an alibi in case of loss. Unless there is a different, more sinister motive to it all.
Finally, my take. I believe the system of governance we have been operating is retrogressive. It needs an overhaul. You can call it restructuring if you like. Whoever wants to do it has my sympathetic ear. I believe a decisive move against corruption in high places is overdue. Whoever wants to do it has my sympathetic ear. I believe top appointments must not only reflect competence, they must be sensitive to ethnic and religious diversities in the country. Whoever realises that has my sympathetic ear. I believe the remunerations of our top political office holders have to be massively reduced. Whoever wants to do it has my sympathetic ear.
As you go to the polls, think of which of these two is likely to provide a level playing field for you to excel. Reflect on the sincerity in their voices when they made political promises. Then reflect on their antecedence. Their past is an open book. Think about it and don’t suffer from amnesia. Otherwise, you would be sold a dummy.Again.