Remove The Moneybags, If I May Vote…

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

I love national elections. Observing one is like going to the circus, only a few billion naira more expensive. Every election day we’re treated with some of the most entertaining and captivating spectacles known to the modern world. If you don’t believe me, just check out all of the neat things we get to enjoy: We can watch our friends duke it out in meaningless “political” campaign. Admire the ruling party and minorities smear campaigns. Pretend that it’s the anointed One vs. the people’s choice, that INEC is going to do something other than increase state power or that the system is really “representative.” Watch an entire nation get sold on the idea that the mainstream left-right spectrum constitutes the entire range of political philosophy, instead of the tiny sliver so cleverly propagandized and inflated by the state-corporate complex. It would truly be hilarious if the stakes weren’t so high.

The great Nigerian statesman Nnamdi Azikiwe once wrote that every election is an advance auction of stolen goods. And he’s right. People who support what we euphemistically call “democracy” or “representative government” support stealing certain kinds of goods and redistributing them as they see fit. Of course, these supporter-bandits often disagree with one another on what to loot and what to do with it. We call the two main camps of bandits the anointed One vs. the people’s choice. And in our frantic partisan rush we completely ignore that a) voting is economically pointless, b) the great majority of voters are acting immorally when they go to the polls and c) the scope of political debate in this country is pathetic.

The former president and chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has secretly launched a counter-force comprising mostly of his loyalists, with the sole aim of ensuring that all his “anointed” candidates emerge winners at the convention. Known as the G-84, the group is a counter-force to the G-21, a group led by the former Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani, and the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari.

The top players in G-84 prefer to operate in the shadows while political lightweights are given positions of prominence. Rivers State chairman of PDP Chief Uche Sekondus is the chairman of the G-84 while a serving minister and former member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), Alhaji Gusau, is the “leader” of the group. Other members are the members of the NWC that is chaired by Dr. Ahmadu Ali. All the 36 states’ chairmen of the party have also been enlisted. Following mounting opposition over the naming of Ali as chairman of the convention planning committee, the presidency succumbed and announced former minister of finance and a close associate of the former president, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, as the new chairman. Apart from Ciroma, the 40-member committee contains names of many close associates of the former president, thereby creating anxiety and fear in the minds of many PDP members, particularly members of the G-21 about the outcome of the convention.

What we have in Nigeria is a sing-song and dance that Yar’Adua is not as sick as he looks, that he really does have good plans for the country, etc. Yar’Adua and Goodluck should be telling us what they have done all this while in this nation. Anyway, I will not be voting next time because I am not confide to vote. I did not convinced to vote because whenever I passed by the alleged registration centre in my estate before and after work, what I encountered were the electorate and their staff discussing about anointed candidates and themselves. And during the public holiday when people such as myself were supposed to ask, I had a depression to decline. To be perfectly honest, I just couldn’t be bothered. Our ex-president selected his successor, Maurice Iwu took my vote and dashed into the Waste Bin, and I stopped caring about the election.

Economically speaking, you’re wasting your time at the polls. Sure, you can get all patriotic on me and claim some subjective inner fulfillment of your duty as a good citizen and all that mumbo jumbo. Fine. I can’t argue with you there. But your vote is meaningless and it will not affect the outcome. Period. “But wait!” cry the ever-faithful, “if everybody did it, then we could, like, change the world!” This is certainly true, but that doesn’t make it a smart thing to say. Try entering into any serious economic or constitutional political debate armed with the argument that “things would work out if everybody did them” and see what happens. If you prevail, then guess what? You weren’t engaged in a serious debate.

Top in the minds of many voters were quality-of-life issues. Despite years of surging government revenue in a country that is among the world’s leading oil exporters, Nigerians complain that their living standards have stagnated, with rising joblessness and inflation and increasing power outages. Many blame corrupt politicians. It’s difficult to sell because there’s no electricity. Nobody will buy if it’s not cold. Hundreds of thousands of police officers and soldiers virtually shut down cities, barring all but official traffic and inspecting the few vehicles still on the road. Children played impromptu games of soccer on the empty streets. Even with Nigeria’s epic traffic jams gone, logistical snags delayed the opening of polling stations across Africa’s most populous country, with 140 million people and 61 million registered voters. Such Voters in one opposition stronghold in Bauchi grew angry when election materials still hadn’t arrived by 11 a.m., three hours after voting was supposed to begin. When the clear, soft-side ballot box arrived .They bring the ballot box without the ballot paper. This is usually an effort to sabotage the interests of the public.

“What? The majority of voters are acting immorally? What the heck are you talking about?” No, I’m not going to give you the blanket “voting is immoral” argument that my fellow Nigerian peers love to make. For voting can indeed be immoral, but is not necessarily so. For example, if I vote in support of aggression against innocent people, then that’s wrong. I shouldn’t need to explain why. Similarly, voting for a tax increase that affects other people besides one’s self is wrong on the same principle. Since most people do indeed vote for these things, it’s safe to say that most people are voting to increase coercion against others. That, I argue, is a moral no-no. If you disagree, then we’re faced with quite a conundrum! Hmm, perhaps we can settle our differences with a mob vote and then use force against the minority? If that’s not insanity, I don’t know what is.

Graft is as pervasive as ever for any Nigerian who encounters one of the ubiquitous police roadblocks – where uniformed men brazenly demand money for “chop” (food) – or who tries to get anything done in a government office without “dashing” the civil servant behind the desk. But nothing infuriates many people more than the government’s inability to keep the power on. Electricity comes and goes as often as the rain. If you look around, you see nothing has changed. The rich men are in their Mercedes with their generators at home and we have no money and no power. Look at the roads here. Are they better? Look at what happens when it rains. We are up to our knees in water because the drains don’t work. Is that better? It doesn’t matter who runs this country. They are the elites. They get rich, we suffer.

The grievances aren’t limited to the sprawling townships of Lagos. Africa’s most populous nation is among the most divided on the continent. The staid Islamic north, the freewheeling boisterous south and the embittered oil-rich east, which has benefited least from the wealth generated from under its soil, all view each other with suspicion. Each region tends to believe it is somehow losing out though some underhand political scheming that benefits the others. The ethnic and religious rivalries occasionally burst forth with the massacres of Christians in the north or Muslims in the south. But the opinion polls reflect an unusual consensus on what matters in this election, if not who to vote for. Surveys show that across large parts of the country the major issues are corruption, electricity and unemployment.

Ex-president Obasanjo said corruption was curbed and jobs could flow from his economic reforms, contrary to his interview with the Financial Times last year where he acknowledged public frustration over his failure to alleviate the power cuts. When he came in, he didn’t know how deep the rot was.

As always, the contenders for president are promising things will be different – and the provision of electricity is at the top of the pledges. But the election campaign did not instilled confidence that the old ways are passing. Political violence has left more than 150 people dead in recent years, including two candidates for state governor. Last year’s state elections were marred by the open stuffing of ballot boxes, the inclusion of babies on the electoral roll and the widespread buying of votes.

So when is voting OK? Perhaps an example will help. If a gunman came into your house, for example, and demanded either your cash or your car, would it be immoral for you to choose between them? Not at all. It would, however, be wrong to say, “Actually, sir, take my cash and then please go next door to my neighbour’s house and steal his cash too because I think he should be spending more of his money on public abortions, free education, oil subsidies and eradicating evil from the face of the planet.” What I’m saying is so common-sensical that it should be clear to any Secondary School student in Nigeria. So long as they don’t attend a government school, that is.

As far as the limited scope of acceptable or mainstream political discourse goes, I suspect most of you will already agree with me from the start. In fact, spending five minutes talking politics with someone who disagrees with this statement will likely prove it to be true. As the saying goes, “When everyone thinks alike, no one’s really thinking.”

I encourage you not to vote again, because it’s simply not worth your time. You’re merely choosing what you see as the most appealing of various forms of coercion that will be applied to you and your friends, and perhaps providing some tacit consent to the special interests that run the show in the process. If you must vote, of course, it seems that a vote for less sitting government control (less organized violence) would be the way to go. But let’s be honest; it’s a waste of time and you know it. So my advice is to kick back, crack open a beer or two and enjoy the show.

My prediction? PDP take the house with over 90% seats while others keep Senate by 2% seats respectively. Which, of course, is a scenario: Imagine getting attacked by two bandits at the same time, who end up not being able to loot anything because they argue over what to take until they get fed up (pun intended) and shoot each other. Ah, the joys of the split Law Making!

‘I am really happy because we are going to a civilian government. Since 1960, things have been up and down. If we are able to do this now, things will be better. It will be shameful if things do not go well this time around. This election is our exercise of power on who is right to rule us. We know who is right to rule us. But it was rigged; rained with the moneybags. You see big people move among themselves. They should just go home and rest and leave us alone. The President should take care of the interests of commoners. We want government to help us get money to solve the problems of this nation. We need food, equivalent school, good roads, water and light.

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