Elections. As soon as the news came to me that the 16th of March, which was set aside for the FCT council elections, would be observed under strict curfew, I packed my things. I needed to be away from the soullessness of Abuja city, to resist the temptations to visit my friends, who were the only evidences that point to the existence of humanity in this headquarters of political thievery. I figured out that my friend’s at Gwagwalada may offer me desired quiet, away from the “unAfrican” bustles of the city, to add a word or two to an ongoing book project.
The night had grown thicker when I arrived, but the atmosphere did not scare me as expected of an election eve. I had barely settled down to enjoy a conversation with my host, when it occurred to me that underneath the darkness was an ongoing marshalling for electoral frauds; in the houses around us were foot soldiers of various political parties, doing what ought to be done whispering. They were debating how to buy votes the next day.
They did not fail in their bid. Since I was not eligible to vote in this part of the country, fate chose me to play an unofficial observer, which I took up on the clock of eight that ominous morning. The electoral officers were being awaited; I joined some men on a wooden bench. And the first words that stirred up my interest were, “How much them give you?” I looked on to the quizzed, a man in his late twenties or early thirties, just as he replied in Hausa, “Dari biyu.” Two hundred naira! He beamed as though he had just received the most priceless thing in his life. I didn’t know which political party was so generous to them; 200 naira would buy them a drink and snacks, sure. That is the worth of a Nigerian voter!
Gwagwalada Council was one of the two seats occupied by ANPP, and the party’s resistance of cleverer PDP’s ways would assure us that our vow to end PDP’s reigns of corruption come 2015 is not an illusion. So I was shocked to learn that all the parties were competitors in that sinful generosity. The politicians exploited our poverty and naiveté; their knowledge of our cheap integrity was at play as they marshalled any existing forms of financial inducements the devil himself had not discovered to insult us.
How can we end evil through evil? What defines a party is not just the quality of its members, but the rigidity and practicability and honesty of its ideologies. A party that advocates for anti-corruption crusades must be true to its words in allowing the law to measure the sins of the James Iboris in its fold. But where a president granted pardon to this present democracy’s Queen of Corruption, a title also earned through corruption of gender, the call for change becomes a necessity as trust is shredded to its tiniest speck. That anti-people move from a president who is already a living antithesis of the office he occupies increased our yearnings for humiliation of the party that produced him. But the fantasy left the cradle of my conviction as soon as irregularities began to happen under my eyes. In the open, without fear, without shame, without integrity… These were some of the people with whom, on the social media, we analysed and predicted the end of this modern Africa’s most disastrous fraternity of politicians. The things I witnessed contradicted the reports that FCT polls were the “most peaceful” witnessed in Nigeria – as if “peace” is another word for “fairness”. There were irregularities. There was a report, in Gwagwalada, of a Ward Returning Officer intercepted by thugs. The thugs reportedly seized and destroyed the ballot boxes in his possession. And when I inquired from a friend who ought to be in the know, he gave that journalists were given fifty thousand naira each to show blind eyes to the incident. Concerned authorities should go investigate this. The ballot papers should have serial numbers.
At the end of the elections, PDP which only had four of the six councils in FCT won a fifth council, with its effort to have Gwagwalada stopped by only 94 votes deficit of ANPP’s 11596 votes. Their new acquisition, Kwali Council, was taken with a margin that portends misfortunes for the proposed alliance of the opposition parties. Beating an incumbent chairman, worst still by a PDP candidate, 12, 809 to 7538 votes explains the political indolence that infected not only the losing ANPP camp, but the entire parties interested in neutralising President Goodluck Jonathan’s party. It may be intelligent to say that the FCT polls were lessons to the opposition parties, but their inability to reach a consensus, especially where the other parties only offered certified spoilers, is an electoral sin. In Abaji Council, ACN’s candidate lost with 832 votes short of PDP’s 8933 votes – simple consensus among the opposition parties in Bwari and other councils may have made this the other way.
And the social media demographics were shamed. The Facebooking and Tweeting and Pinging and Blogging citizens were exposed as nothing but firsthand political nullities. Let’s face this reality; in Abuja Municipal Area Council which had the highest concentration of Smartphone owners, the turnout of voters was, until the elections, what I would consider a civic no-no. A polling unit along Gimbiya Street, Area 11, received just 29 voters out of registered 2419 voters expected. The absentees were in their bedrooms, with their battery-draining Blackberry phones and iSomething gadgets fixed in sockets, chatting as an evil people prepared to destroy their destiny. Again. And 2015 is just two years away. May God save us from us!
Blueprint Newspapers (29/03/2013; page 2)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)