By Oludayo Tade
POST colonial realities in Nigeria and the ascendancy and sustenance of political merchants in corridors of power have sustained the reproduction of similar faults and errors. In the area of election shifting, it has progressed from weeks to month and the latest one came like a thief in the night. It was similar to inviting people for wedding ceremonies with the bride and groom only sending text messages to inform guests at the venue that the wedding had been shifted because the officiating pastor cited unfulfilled rites.
I won’t talk about the investment losses of Nigerians who had planned to make some profits from selling goods on February 16 or the billions of naira spent by political parties on agents, accommodation and security. Let me not mention also university lecturers who were mobilised as collation and returning officers. They left for their assigned locations on Friday to enable them have free movement because INEC could not get sufficient election duty pass for them. What about the National Corps members, the future leaders who historically have been treated badly? Their inhumane treatment as worthless bodies perhaps confirms the proposed name change of NYSC to ‘Now Your Suffering Continues’. With Nigeria’s insistent that her young deserves slavish existence with low quality and zoo-like hostels, glorified Hooverville as NYSC camps and rough sleeping while on national duties, how do you expect them to put Nigeria first? What about those who postpone their wedding and other social engagements or suspended their lives because of February 16 and March 2 and have been forced to do it again on February 23 and March 9? Consider migration costs and losses; think about the implication of a shut-down Saturday economy in Nigeria. As usual, no one is guilty, no one is punished. The worthless treatment of Nigeria and Nigerians is to continue.
As we all prepare to move past the inefficiencies and failures of state bureaucracies and technocrats, following the declaration of the ‘maradonic’ INEC chairman to fix his ‘logistic’ problems within a week, the converted democrat and President of our Federal Republic reportedly ordered security agencies to be ruthless with ballot box snatchers. He would also extend the ruthlessness to ‘local champions’ who think they can lead thugs to disrupt elections. Rather than impress it on law enforcement agents to ensure that the treatment of electoral offenders must follow the provisions contained in the electoral Act, Mr. President would prefer to borrow the caustic tongue of the man in Khaki. Consulting thesaurus, ‘ruthless’ also means ‘cold-blooded’, ‘merciless’, brutal, cruel, callous, pitiless, unfeeling, hard-nosed to mention but a few. It is not only the order of Mr. President that is scary, the acumen of the security to properly interpret and/or convert this order in dealing with the ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’ remains a greater fear. Perceived enemies of the incumbent may face ruthless treatments. Areas where the incumbent’s party are unpopular may witness hardnosed security men designed to unleash cruel treatment to law-abiding civil populace. The ruthless treatment of voters in Ekiti and Osun in 2018 is still fresh.
Experience with Nigeria’s 20-year old democracy has shown that ex-military men and their relatives in power are likely to reference constitution in their dealings with the people. During the Obasanjo era, official pronouncement declared the reign of the ‘do or die’ politics. The declaration had untoward consequences on hapless Nigerians and many became victims of ruthless ideological State apparatuses. In 2015, the national leader of the ruling broom party in the southwest was most popular for His ‘rig and roast’ threat. There was another leader who feels no one should question him: after all, he is the ‘constituted authority.’ He treats people without reference to law but wants people to reverence him in relation to what the constitution bestowed upon him. Recall the ‘go and die’ pronouncement on that poor woman on the street by a former labour leader and Governor in faraway Edo state, and now Chairman of the 4+4=8 party?
Mr. President needs to know that such pronouncement further emboldens the already dreaded security agencies in Nigeria. Our security men are daily accused of human rights abuses. Trigger happy police, army, customs and immigration people are killing for pittance. An executive order legitimises official cruelty and brutality. Furthermore, the directive paves way for the extortion and exploitation of voters at the slightest opportunity by the security during the coming polls. Snatching ballot boxes is a criminal offence and there is administration of criminal justice that must be followed. We have languished too much in the wilderness of slavery that those in power see their pronouncement only from their own point of view without concern for the spiral and multiple interpretations to which it can be reconstructed. Did the President order ruthless treatment to the thugs who unleashed terror during the declaration of Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos state? Virtually all politicians have contracted thugs in their campaign. They move side by side with law enforcers and never get arrested. They smoke Indian hemp while the law enforcers look the other way. These principalities are allowed to live with us because they are useful for the parasitic elite in power. Local warriors and intimidators are contracted by politicians to terrorise under the watchful eyes of law enforcers. Even when they are arrested, a phone call gets them back on the streets where they continue to reign supreme.
Mr. President must learn to talk within the spirit and letter of constitution; not outside of them.
No doubt, the postponement of the polls has affected both the ruling and main opposition parties in their victory calculations. They are now more desperate than before and will continue to utter accusation and counter accusation. These are signs that both are not certain of victory. All actors must therefore watch their tongues. Security agencies are already known for brutality. While INEC must ensure that the processes leading to the outcome remain clean, free and fair, the security agents must not do the bidding of candidates. They must protect Nigerians who come out to legitimately cast their votes. We must treat all persons mobilised to participate in the elections as humans and not slaves. This is how they will be shielded from infiltration. If Mr. President wins, the next level is to use the constitution which he is finding difficult to work with. If it is Atiku, Nigeria must work again by upholding the rule of law, and fundamental human rights of citizens.
We need ahead one who would not worsen the situation from “do or die” or “snatch and die” politics. We want a peaceful atmosphere for people to speak with their votes.