Counting Between the Votes of the 2023 Polls

by Isidore Emeka Uzoatu
atiku tinubu obi

Though the sound of 2023 general elections appear to have come and gone, the decibel of its fury is definitely yet to abate. There is no doubt that by the time this Easter holiday sidles by, it cannot but come into sharper focus. Yes, though the results, but a few, are now announced, a lot of water still surges under its bridge.

The body at the receiving end of most of these susurrations remains the Independent National Election Commission (INEC). And this is mostly for its shameful flouting of the very guidelines it had set for the exercise. Making it appear as though it came to pass in the magical world of the more you look, the less you see. And such other mumbo jumbo incantations like abracadabra and the like seldom enunciated when elections are the rave.

In fact, so serious has it become that – depending on wherever one is coming from or going to – the 2023 election has been described as either the best or worst in the electoral history of the country. Of course many have argued it to be in keeping with the perennial predilections of our incumbent regime. Run by the All Progressives Congress (APC), they have always appeared to stumble over every other policy of theirs since they were enthroned in 2015.

Most so, as it concerns the presidential diadem being ‘awarded’ their candidate against all odds. To laymen like us, this should ordinarily imply that their candidate needn’t just win the majority of the votes cast in the election. O yes! For, according to our extant constitution, it would have meant that he addedly won a quarter of the votes cast in at least two thirds of the thirty-six states in the federation – AND (emphasis mine) the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

After all, those of us privileged to obtain secondary school education with known classmates could not have made it to the tertiary level – with or without them – sans credits in five other subjects AND English Language. To mention but a few.

Well, this is already the subject of litigation(s) filed before the presidential election tribunal by the ‘losers’. So, lest I inadvertently make myself a guest of our born-again Directorate of State Services (DSS), permit me to take a trip to other trouble zones of the world. It used to be Afghanistan back then. Perhaps somewheres like Ukraine and Russia will do presently.

Or even some places much farther off. Like the unknown trajectory my thought is taking me to this selfsame break of day. This notwithstanding that, as the sun returned from the other side of the horizon, my mind was empty – to say the worst. Not unlike that of once upon a Nigerian permanent representative to the UN who journeyed all the way to New York in a blank state of mind.

Then a presenter on the local FM radio station I was locked on to provided me with a flying mnemonic. The otherwise stale news – and the commentary following it – had touched no nerves. Then the invariably as-bored on-duty announcer set a song spinning. According to the emergency disc jockey, it’s titled Small Axe, and comes from Burning, the studio album recorded by The Wailers, a Jamaican reggae band, in 1973.

As the song spun on, the late Bob Marley’s raucous voice in the mellifluous number came across as plaintive as ever. In a cautionary plea, it first wondered why the evil men about ‘boasteth’ themselves dry by ‘playing smart without being clever’. And how by working in iniquity they could only achieve vanity; admonishing, further, that they harken to the words of his master. To the effect that whosoever diggeth a pit, rather than prosper, shall fall and be buried in it.

On end its oft-repeated chorus warned that even though these evil men are big trees,  the people remain small axes, sharp and ready to cut them down. A truism attested to by no less a persona than Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the USA. In the apocryphal anecdote, he is credited with having said that given a tree to fell, he’d spend three-quarters of the allotted time sharpening the tool he’d use.

Sadly, as I got into the swing of the groove, the deep lines ceased and the song faded into another paid advert. This one sought participants to yet another vanishing youth empowerment programme. Anyway, being no youth by any ramifications, I promptly left the rank of sleepyheads and rose to face the day.

Being aficionado to other musical genres as well, The Wailers’ Small Axe easily had me recalling another song The Trees. Composed by Neil Peart, the late drummer and lyricist for the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, it rocks in both rhyme and reason. A dinosaur of sorts myself, I end up rummaging through my now almost-forgotten CD rack for Hemispheres, the band’s 1978 album, that launched them on the international scene.

In its peculiar pitch, The Trees is a report on once upon the problem in the forest between oaks and maples. On their part, the maples thought the oaks ‘too lofty’ thereby grabbing ‘all the light’ also meant for the rest of the forest. The oaks, on their own, wondered out loud why the maples can’t accept how they are made and be happy with the shade they, the oaks, provided them gratuitously.

However, screaming ‘oppression’, the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights. “The oaks are too greedy,” they echoed, “we’ll make them give us light.” According to the song, that was how the death knell of oak oppression in the forest was sounded. Next, “a noble law” was promulgated keeping the trees equal courtesy of “hatchet, axe and saw”.

Emboldened a la the maples, I hit the road head held high. Indeed, if anything, the matutinal musical distraction ended up serving up a proverb. Attributed to the Turks of old, it concerned a shrinking forest in which the trees kept voting for the axe. Definitely more clever than the evil men in the Wailers’ song, the axe was somehow able to convince the trees that it was one of them because its handle was made of wood.

But deception has a time lag. Like Bob Marley sang elsewhere, ‘You can fool some people some time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’ Of course, there’s also always a first time. It cannot be business as usual forever. Like our elders say, it’s often the tree that remembers while the axe forgets. But this time around I think it’s the axe that’ll have the last laugh after we must have counted between the votes.

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