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The Amber Light Is On…1

Elections in our country, according to the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in a remark made on 30th June 2014, have become a perverse form of modern coronation. “Instead of choosing public servants, elections in Nigeria have been basically to select a new aristocracy, an elected royalty,” he said in an apt summation that the desperation for power, at practically all levels in our country, is too often not to advance public good but rather in pursuit of private interest.

That perhaps best explains the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly and the muscle-flexing it is already generating. With the Senate—now largely dominated by former governors most of who are adept at gaming elections—in a milieu in which the ruling APC is just a party in name rather than in shared ideals, it is no surprise that what used to be an administrative function of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the issue that now preoccupies the leadership of both the executive and the legislature at a period many Nigerians are facing huge challenges on practically all fronts.

Although reasons were canvassed by the president for his decision to decline assent to the Bill, most Nigerians are aware that the major contention is the order of elections. Both the presidency and the National Assembly are in a battle over which of the polls should come first and stripped of all pretension, it is not about the imperative of popular participation but rather about securing electoral advantage.

While the essence of this intervention is to interrogate why there is such a fierce contestation over the order of 2019 elections, and the implications for the survival of our democracy, it is important for readers to also understand that it is not an isolated issue. Even when democracy is ordinarily a never-ending process of inquiry which requires the validation of voters, in Nigeria, such phrases as “the will of the people” and “the people have spoken” have, over the years, become no more than false constructs. Nothing better depicts this sorry state of affairs than the so-called local government elections that may be useful as a starting point for this series, especially in the light of the yet-to-be resolved issue of underage voting in Kano.

From May 2015 to date, 23 states have conducted local government elections. Fourteen of those states are controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party of ‘Change’ at the centre; eight by the displaced Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Let us start with the states controlled by the APC. In January this year in Osun State, the APC swept all the chairmanship positions and 389 councillorship seats. In February this year in Kano State, the ruling APC won all the 44 chairmanship positions and 484 councillorship seats. And in March this year, APC won all the 18 chairmanship positions in Edo State. In March 2016, the APC won all 22 chairmanship and 234 councillorship seats in Sokoto State. In July 2017, the APC swept the chairmanship seats in all the 21 local government areas in Kebbi State. In October 2016, the APC won the chairmanship positions in all the 20 local governments and 37 Development Authorities IN Ogun State.

In January 2016, the APC won the chairmanship seats in all the 14 local governments and 147 councillorship seats in Zamfara State. A month earlier, the same party won all the 23 chairmanship seats and the councillorship positions in the 276 wards in Benue state. In August 2016, the APC won chairmanship seats in all the 18 local governments in Adamawa State. In January 2016 in Niger State, the APC won all the 24 Chairmanship positions. In July 2017, the APC won the chairmanship positions in all the 27 Local Government Areas of Jigawa State. Same month in Lagos State, APC won all the 57 chairmanship seats. In November 2017 in my state, Kwara State, the ruling APC cleared all the 16 local governments while in February 2017, the APC also won all the chairmanship and councillorship positions in Yobe State.

What the foregoing suggests is that the APC is so popular in all these 14 states that the party secured a hundred percent victory at the local government polls. But now let us also look at what transpired in the eight states controlled by the PDP. In December 2016, the PDP won the chairmanship seats in all the 17 councils in Abia State. The party also won 346 councillorship seats out of the 349 wards in the state so it was ‘magnanimous’ enough to concede three councillorship positions to candidates of some fringe political parties!

In February 2017, PDP won all the local governments in Taraba State and in December of same year, the party also won all the 16 chairmanship and 177 councillorship positions contested in Ekiti state. In February 2017, PDP won all the chairman and councillorship seats contested in Gombe State. In April 2017, PDP won the chairmanship seats of all the 13 local governments and 171 wards in Ebonyi state. In December 2017, PDP won in all the 31 local government areas and all 325 councillorship seats in Akwa Ibom State while in January this year, PDP won the chairmanship in all the 25 councils in Delta State. In November 2017, PDP won in all the 17 local governments and the 260 councillorship seats in Enugu State.

From the foregoing, the PDP also secured a hundred percent victory in all the nine states it controls where local government elections were held. The only other party controlling a state is APGA and in the council poll conducted in November last year in Anambra, the party also did not disappoint: It swept the entire 21 Local governments!

Now to properly situate this perversion, let me cite examples from each of the two leading parties. In a controversial local government election conducted on 25th May 2015, four days to his hand-over by then Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (in a state where the PDP candidate had only two months earlier secured victory at the governorship election conducted by INEC), the APC won 22 out of the 23 chairmanship seats where elections were held as well as 297 councillorship seats in the 302 wards. Meanwhile, in Ondo State where the local government elections were held on 24th April 2016, the PDP won all the 18 chairmanship seats and 202 of the 203 councillorship seats. Instructively, when the gubernatorial election held in November of same year, candidate of the APC, (a party that could not win a single ward in the so-called local government election held seven months earlier), defeated the ruling PDP in the state!

NOTE: To be concluded next week

Before Booking a Visa to Wakanda!
Aside the release in 1997 of ‘Titanic’ and the 2003 concluding part of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy titled ‘Return of the King’, I doubt if any other movie has captured as much global attention and imagination as ‘The Black Panther’. In Nigeria particularly, both the ‘Twitter generation’ and the middle class have done a lot to hype the movie and the feel-good factor it has engendered. Today, it is almost a taboo for anyone to admit that he has not watched what has been given sundry interpretations, including the half-digested tales of it being about the ancient glory of some country called Africa!

As make-belief—which even the best of movies are—goes, ‘Black Panther’ is very entertaining. But if we must draw lessons, the most instructive scene in the movie, for me, was in the confrontation between W’Kabi and the ‘Black Panther’, following the first military expedition that ended in catastrophic failure.

As head of security for Wakanda’s Border Tribe, W’Kabi had been happy when T’Challa, his childhood friend ascended the throne, believing he would help to avenge the death of his parents who were killed by Ulysses Klaue, a foreign mercenary who had been stealing from Wakanda their much-treasured Vibranium. So, when the new ‘Black Panther’ also failed to capture the notorious arms dealer in his first raid, W’Kabi parted ways with his friend but not before rubbing it in: “For 30 years your father was in power and did nothing. With you I thought it would be different. But it is more of the same.”

While the reaction of W’Kabi depicts that of citizens of most African countries whose hopes had been raised and dashed by a succession of leaders, it is in the response of the ‘Black Panther’ that I want to make my point. In Africa, when politicians ascend power, their old friends dare not challenge them as W’Kabi did. But the ‘Black Panther’ did not take the insult personal. He considered it a public duty to capture the notorious armed robber and was ready to pay the supreme price in the process. Therefore, the message from Wakanda cannot be in some ‘borrowed technology’ but in the commitment to a leadership ethos anchored on the welfare of the people.

To come back home, the lesson is simple: We can recreate the good society if those we put in charge of our affairs care and it would not take too much. Right now, we can see a glimpse of such commitment in Edo State. Rather than live in denial about the global prostitution stigma, both the Edo political and traditional leaderships have decided to confront the menace. Even before the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II publicly placed a curse on the traffickers and their collaborators, including native doctors and priests who administer oath of secrecy on victims, Governor Godwin Obaseki had already instituted the Edo Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (EHTAT).

Chaired by Prof. Yinka Omorogie, the committee has not only been meticulous in handling the assignment, its findings are quite chilling. According to the taskforce report, “each migrant that has returned experienced an average of 151 deaths mostly caused by hunger, dehydration, sickness, childbirth, beating, gunshot wounds and drowning” in a journey that takes between 20 to 40 days and costs an average N250,000 across both the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

That is very telling of the growing desperation to leave the country by many of our young people because of the dwindling opportunities arising from the mismanagement of our affairs. If each migrant witnessed an average of 151 deaths in the course of their desperate journey, we can only imagine the number of lives that are being lost to the perilous adventure. What that suggests is that in as much as we can feel good about the product of the imagination of some American script writers, we must also be honest with ourselves: the reality of our existence as a nation is far from what obtains in the fictional Republic of Wakanda.

Of ‘Oniyangi’ and ‘Elepo’
Let me state from the outset that I am not the writer of this story as it is one of those interesting offerings being circulated on WhatsApp. Since I found the message rather instructive, I am posting it with minor editing because, in a way, it fits into Mark Twain’s warning that we should never argue with “stupid people” who could easily “drag you to their level and then beat you with experience”.

It is a story of two men: One, called ‘Elepo’ because of the nature of his merchandise, which was palm oil; and the other, ‘Oniyangi’ also because of the nature of his own merchandise, which was sharp sand. One day, a long, long time ago which no one living can actually define, Elepo and Oniyangi set out from opposite directions to market their merchandise. After travelling many days by foot, which was the only means of transportation in those days, they met at a narrow intersection. It was such a narrow path that only one person could go through at a time. Elepo insisted on the right of way. Oniyangi would have none of it.

Both argued until other travellers met them at the spot and a large crowd soon gathered. Having failed to pacify both men, some wise travellers suggested a way out – they should slug it out; and that whoever won the contest should have the right of way. Quickly, each man set down his merchandise by the roadside and they squared up one to the other. The battle was ferocious and long; in the end, Elepo had the better of Oniyangi, lifted him off his feet and landed him on the floor. The crowd roared!

However, as Oniyangi hit the floor, one of his outstretched legs caught Elepo’s merchandise and tilted it. Immediately, the content, which was palm oil, gushed out on the bush path. Furious, Elepo reached out for the merchandise of Oniyangi and flung it upside down on the road and its contents, which were sharp sand, also poured out. But Oniyangi got up from the floor, dusted himself up, ignored the jeers of the crowd who had started hailing Elepo for winning the bragging rights, as football fans call it these days, and began to pack his merchandise (sharp sand) into its container. Thereafter, he respected the agreement by stepping out of the narrow path for Elepo to have his right of way. But Elepo stood transfixed on a spot. His own merchandise had been irretrievably wasted and could not be salvaged like Oniyangi’s.

It was then that lesson dawned on Elepo. Were he to keep throwing out Oniyangi’s merchandise, all Oniyangi would lose was the trouble he would take packing his sharp sand back into the container. Yes, Elepo won the contest, but his victory was pyrrhic. Whereas he won the right of way, he had no more trips to make since his wares had been wasted.

This was the origin of the Yoruba song, “Oniyangi ma ba t’emi je, epo ni mo ru” which warns anyone carrying palm oil to beware of the man carrying sharp sand. The lesson is simple: If you are in the public arena and you must engage, beware of those who have little or nothing to lose!

@Olusegunverdict or www.olusegunadeniyi.com

 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Whistler NG

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