Why should we go out and Vote?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

Nobody really wants to remember the nightmare of June 12. And this is despite the fact that that election had two very positive characteristics. First, it was daubed the ‘freest and fairest’ election that ever took place in Nigeria and second, it produced a winner that was acceptable to all but the khaki people. When that election was annulled, a lot of people developed post traumatic stress disorders related to elections that resembled bulimia. While we no longer had any real interest in future elections mostly because of the psychological aftermath of the annulment of that election, post June 12 elections assumed a much more seriously tragic-comic dimension. These elections were what we know in Nigerian English as ‘arrangee’: a powerful political pressure group got together and re-enact what they used to do in the past. They select one from amongst them and hijack or kidnap the election process so as to capture power somewhat legitimately without the gun. At the end of the day, what happens is that our votes hardly count, in a manner of speaking. We simply go there to stand in the rain or sun to vote and exercise a so-called civic sham to benefit a bunch of seedy people.

Let me substantiate what I just said above with a personal experience in the 2003 (s)elections. Because some of us were still smarting from the truncation of that election that we actively believed in and participated, nothing was to take us anywhere close to that of 1999. Without even the benefit of hindsight, it was easy to know that the military were just being militicians, to use the words of Prof Ikhariale. They had brought out one of their own, and a Yoruba as a seeming replacement for MKO, to placate just one section of the country they felt was mostly aggrieved from that shameful annulment. In the course of his ‘winning’ that election and tinkering with the apparatus of a government he is hardly used to, we all saw that indeed, it was time for us to get back in the hay and put our votes to fruitful use in the coming elections in 2003. It was time to express our disappointment, with our votes, particularly with the way things were eventually turning out, like this: politicians were asking for so much money for furniture allowances; they were making the so many mistakes politicians made in the second republic of Shehu Shagari that they blamed on a ‘learning process’ and they were saying that the democratic exercise was ‘nascent’ (I didn’t know what they meant by that word at first).

However, there were a lot of people who were becoming involved in the determination of the course the destiny of this country should take. They were not just getting involved and speaking up from the comfort of their homes and offices; they were coming out to say that it is the birthright of every Nigerian to aspire to the highest office in the land and were offering to introduce a ‘generational change’. It was that phrase that caught my fancy (and I know you know this is an indictment on the old brigade), and when the registration process started, we did register to vote. But you know what? For the second time, my vote did not count, right under my nose and right in front of my house. This is the simple story: to cast my vote, I ignored all of the big political demagogues who stood like colossuses and cast my vote in for the one whom all my friends saw as a joker; one whom all said should have become a local government chairman first before aspiring to be president. I think the guys at the polling booth thought I was a joker too because when I went back there, in the demeanor of one exercising his civic right to know how the outcome of the count, my vote was not there. It was nowhere reflected in the records therein that there was ever any vote cast for that particular candidate. To say that I was upset would be right and before I knew it, I was already sinking back into the semi-manic depressive, bulimic state of the post June 12 pessimistic doldrums.

Therefore, why should I go out this time to cast a vote that seem to have already been compromised by people like Adedibu who have registration materials right in their homes? Why should anyone? If you have a big a personage as the ANPP Presidential candidate expressing fears that the elections have already been rigged, why should anyone in his right senses go out there in the scorching April sun to vote candidates that have already been ‘anointed’ and baptized by their dog and godfathers? If you have the president saying that the selection is going to be a do-or-die affair, why should I go out on that day and get cut down? I have been told reliably that not performing my civic responsibility of voting is in itself the performance of that same civic responsibility. Also J. R. Lucas in Democracy and Participation

But that is not what I plan to do this time. I will go out to cast my vote and I encourage you to do the same thing. You and I, we are nothing but together at that polling booth, we are everything. And that is why people like J.R. Lucas in Democracy and Participation (1975), insists that a single vote is the wrongest remedy that we could expect to guarantee justice and freedom. I will not pray you to go out to vote if I don’t believe that asking you to go out to vote will make a big difference. The reason I’m positive about our votes this time despite what these people have put us through is that this country of ours is changing. Yes, it’s changing, albeit very slowly but that wind and wheel of change is inexorable. About nine years ago, nearly all of the conditions that made this country a pariah have now gone under or are giving way mostly because there is a strong undercurrent of people in the polity who feel cheated, disenchanted and are yearning for change in every aspect of our life as a nation. People are sick and tired of being led by the nose by these politicians. If you think that this wheel of change is an achievement that is ascribable to the ruling government, then you got it all wrong. What is happening could have happened whether or not a Babangida or an Abacha is in place. The situation just is one that even a draconian ruler cannot contain. So let Adedibu and his patrons oil their rigging machines. Let all of those who have been ‘anointed’ and baptized by dog and godfathers strut about like some supercilious camels. But I believe that the way things are now, the only way we can checkmate these enemies of our destiny is for us to throng out en masses and vote. Yes, let’s go out and cast our votes for those we truly believe can lead us. There is a certain cliché I want to conclude with and it is this: bad people only have their way when the so-called good people siddon dey look. Let’s put it this way: the Adedibus of our country can only succeed if we don’t go out to vote in these coming elections. But we must not just be content with voting. Part of the civic responsibility that is said to be one of our duties can only be realizable if we are to pick an interest in and monitor the outcome of the April elections. Voting and walking away after will make your vote irrelevant. That was what I did that cost me my precious vote in 2003.

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