2019 General Elections: A New Wave of Political Enlightenment
Depending on which side you are on, 2019 presidential elections may or may not have been one of the most interesting elections in the history of the country. I have not experienced a lot of presidential elections, so I will stick to the letter of what I can vouch for in terms of experience and leave the books already written to juxtapose the current situation of our electoral system against what we have had in other democratic republics.
First, the election would go down as one of the most politically charged along the fault lines of political ideology, ethnicity, class and so many other divisions that stirred the waters towards understanding the core of what unites us a country, especially our leaders. Is it National Interest or self-gains? Depending on where you are in terms of political/support, your answers are not far fetched.
For a lot of people, we were drawn on the cross between two thieves and no Jesus in the centre, hence, for different reasons we chose who we felt would have made that repentant call to Jesus to remember him in paradise, after all, we were not looking for perfect people but someone who could navigate the nation from where it is currently. This salvation is national and is of this world, to the extent that even the pastors/religious leaders could not agree.
After I voted….
Let me leave the choice for people who made them and focus on the lessons I learnt from the elections and expectations I would love to see as the electoral system evolves towards the election circle for 2023 (Immediately after the election results were announced, in one of the most rigorous waiting experience ever, people were already postulating who the candidates will be in the next 4 years).
The Third Force did not even come third
First, despite calls for a seeming third force of people who were really interested in Nigeria away from the two major parties (A fallacy by the way, because we have people who genuinely care in APC and PDP too); we were left with fragmented support of several young people who could not look beyond their personal ambitions and hence floated different smaller parties instead of a unified force. If the people “we”, at this point I take the mould of a youth, understand the importance of knowing when to come together to wrestle power in the form of the current behemoth called APC despite their many ideological/people differences and we can’t, then we are not ready to get a seat at the table but just fighting to get the name tag “Aspirants of the Federal Republic”. For this alone, in the next few years in terms of foreseeable future, we would still be dealing with APC, PDP and anybody the major pillars in these two decide to breakaway to form.
The youths need more boots on the ground
In the same vein, if my Polling Unit and the other ones I saw were like a referendum on how much participation we got from the educated young elites, ehm, I would say a lot more young people did not vote. So many of us stopped the activism on social media. I know of the cases of some of my friends who were disenfranchised by INEC though, going to pick up their Permanent Voters Card only to get there and not see it, without a good enough explanation from the electoral umpire; but for those who had but did not vote without a valid reason or the populist one of “We know who go win now”, you are part of the problem. I felt bad as the Adhoc staff cancelled out the unused ballot papers. The student population formed a bulk of the voting bloc and if you see the numbers of registered voters to actual voters in some states, you would just cringe on how ready we really are for the change we want to see.
First line budget funding for INEC
No doubt, the postponement affected a lot of things, I had to travel three times, a journey navigating about 3 southwestern states to get to vote. In my head, nothing would stop me from participating in this election, however, I understand that I have the luxury of funds, something a good number of people may not be able to boast of. Hence, it is important to talk about how INEC is funded and the need for the commission to get its needed finances on a first line basis from the budget, so that the recent debacle in the National Assembly for the supplementary budget to fund the elections does not always happen. Logistics need to be sorted in time and different stakeholders involved in the elections properly mobilized to play their parts. The basic tool for any election staff per polling unit should be tables, chairs and the electoral materials, including canopies/tents for areas without shade. The rain almost affected the counting in my PU and voting was delayed because the people in the area had to source for benches and wares selling tables to set up for the election officials.
Crowds don’t win elections
For people who understand the real nitty-gritty of elections and how cheap it is to relatively amass a crowd for political reasons in this country, you will understand that they do not always culminate in popularity and high electoral votes. A few years ago while covering a political rally that lasted over 2 hrs under the hot sun with people in high octave energy tones protesting with placards, I cringed in shock as they lined up in front of a party secretariat, “Mo wan bi”, loosely translated as present sir was the rhythm as people lined up to collect NGN 500 (1.38 USD). If you have read the widely publicised data on the number of Nigerians living below 1 dollar a day, imagine the number of people you can get if you do you do your marketing well. How do you even begin to explain patriotism or electoral value to someone who is hungry?
Citizens are getting more involved
The introduction of the card readers has added a level of sanity to the numbers from the polls.
People now understand that their votes truly count and the politicians know that it is becoming relatively more complex to just add the numbers. If the electoral reforms as enshrined in the electoral act are properly done and the card reader duly recognised in the electoral process, it will become more difficult for people to just “Rig”. This is already happening and that is why we are having to experience more cases of vote buying, pseudo-care for people few months to people, exploiting the poverty lines and stoking ethnic biases (knowing too well that this is a major fault line in this country) and politicians resorting to destabilizing voting areas of opposition with violence. For them, it is better people do not vote, as that is the only way they can invalidate the process.
So many complaints everywhere about the electoral processes; but 2019 made it clear that is increasingly becoming more difficult for Godfathers to rig elections without the people. Despite the issues, it’s a good sign and we have another four years to evolve to make things work. Some major casualties in this election reveal that more than ever before, we will have more people suffer electoral consequences for their actions as leaders.
Politicians beware! The people you serve are coming for you.
Hence, if you are popular and can leverage the support base of a popular party (which is not even always the case with YPP in Anambra — Ifeanyi Ubah — as a case study), there is a higher chance that you can have your name on the winning ballot. The tsunamic victory for Omolafe Adedayo is an example.
Can you spell Burdillion without Bullion?
Money is still a major factor in this election. The people have been indoctrinated to expect money from aspirants and it is increasingly difficult for you to contest without a tangible level of stomach infrastructure or welfare package.
Away from vote buying which is a menace, one of the quickest way to endear yourself to the people of an area is investing in their welfare with consistent efforts, often times, no matter how small.
Although, there is a new one I discovered, collect money from the opposition and vote for the candidate of your choice. The APC stalwarts at my polling units were very shocked that the money they spent was not reflected on the voting results, as the people collected and smiled openly to the ballots to do what was in their mind. Case closed.
Smart was not smart
Despite the drama and different political issues, Dino won. He had little or no time to campaign since he was dealing with one issue or the other to his time in police custody; yet smart with all the time in the world, the machinery of incumbency (Yahaya power) and so many other things we may not be privy to, he came out victorious to the surprise of many.
The tantrums the elite see are not what affects the people in the villages and towns.
I am from Kogi and happen to be from the same town as Smart, his father’s house is just some distance away from my grandfather’s former palace and from my last visit to Iyara, I could not count any major infrastructure development that had Smart’s name on it. And he wanted to win just because he was competing against the singing senator? The people felt differently and are enjoying the singing senator, who arguably is one of the most vocal voices in the red chamber.
Politics is local, never downplay the support of the people on the ground.
We can bank on Banky
Banky W ran one of the best and most interesting campaigns in the country for the 2019 elections. Without the bags associated with normal Nigerian politics, without a godfather and against a godfather, he rallied a community of believers against the establishment. He did not win, but he has stirred up a belief that it is possible.
The excitement that greeted the air when he won some polling units was palpable and the fact that he polled some good numbers in the areas he lost means the battle is not over. It is just the start and I know he has learnt some good lessons to fight again.
Anyway, the elections have come and gone, we have a president until proven otherwise and federal representatives, now let us fight to have a centre that we can be proud of. More and more it is becoming more about the people and there is a limit to which you can push hungry and angry people to the wall; people who hold offices should begin to understand that they cannot always buy their way through.
I won’t leave without some recommendations.
- We need to implement an electoral reform that protects the lives and properties of people: Vote from anywhere, real-time electronic collation of results so that there is no time for the various fake news issues. As much as there is a loud call for e-voting, the fact that a lot of people are still struggling with understanding the use of card readers mean we would still need some time.
- Youths should form solution driven blocs in the major parties and work their way up the ladder. This the youngest voting population ever in the history of Nigeria, that should count for something, we need to leverage our numbers beyond the crumbs we get during election seasons.
- Unity is the way forward in creating a third force. We need to form sleeper cells of patriots in different communities across the country, people who have tangible influence in different niches and can mobilize great cross-border influence when it is time. Groundwork is important and we have the next 8–16 years to get this done with proper plan and strategies, and not just rhetorics and Obama-like speeches to people who do not understand the need to “Perspire to inspire to refire” etc.
- Education in the north should be a massive concern as an area with a large number of voters. We cannot underemphasise that an area with that level of influence on the election results has the highest number of poor and out of school people in the country.
The numbers should be an overall concern to the country for a lot of reasons including elections.