Pre-election Blues

In traditional Africa, the selection of a new king was often preceded by joy in the land. The subjects reserved the best yams and meat with which to make merry as soon as the new leader emerged. Of course, in those days, nobody became king without the people’s permission – the source of the ecstasy that pervaded the land.
Nigeria elections have presented the exact opposite. Two weeks to the start of this year’s general elections, almost everyone is living in fear. Pastors in my own church have reportedly asked us to stockpile foodstuff in advance of the polls. Without much money or comfort, ordinary Nigerians have been migrating from their towns and cities of residence to their ancestral homes: from Port Harcourt to Kebbi, from Ibadan to Owerri, and from Kaduna to Warri.
Why? Why are the leaders of Nigeria doing this to us? Every four years, we are harassed and threatened with damnation because a gang of evil people struggles over power. Resources that ought to be used to provide the basic things of life are diverted to elections that produce neither winners nor reformers. If this is what democracy represents, then, it is the worst form of government that should not have been borrowed from America or Europe. In times past, our people did not go to the ballot to “elect” their leaders, yet the leaders that emerged were usually upright. A structure for removing bad ones was never lacking in most traditional African societies.
When former president Umaru Yar’Adua promised to reform our politics, after he had admitted there were flaws in his own election and taken the oath of office in 2007, I was among those who got excited. Sickness never gave him a chance to do it, even though he set up the Muhammed Uwais panel. Eight years after, we are still swimming in dirty water. So much for transformation agenda!
Many have approached me for advice: Should they travel to their states or not? Should they remain in the city? Should they vote at all? Will anything untoward happen during these elections?
I wish I knew the answers. I wish I could see tomorrow. But I can, no doubt, make intelligent guesses.
For starters, something untoward has been happening across Nigeria. People are being killed or driven from their homes. Millions of people are languishing in refugee camps – without food, water, mosquito repellents or medicines. A war is going on. Thousands of people that voted in 2011 cannot vote this year because they are no more or have been rendered useless. So, if the situation remains as it is, it is bad enough. There is no likelihood that it will get better during the elections; it can only get worse.
I therefore have no piece of advice to give another person. Each person must be his best adviser under this air of uncertainty. Ordinarily, the positions taken by Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka ought to have taught the area boys and girls used to kill and destroy other people that religion and tribe are not the issues. Were they the issues, some Muslim clerics would not be campaigning for Christian candidates, nor would Okonkwo and Balogun be rooting for Abubakar and Kechup in these elections. When will young people learn to avoid being used as thugs? Woe to one that wastes human blood or life he did not create!
I was living in Lagos in July and August 1993. I chose to not travel home as August 27 approached and people were migrating from the south to the north and from the north to the east. Ndigbo were celebrating the New Yam, festival then and many saw the opportunity to travel. But not everyone that travelled came back alive; Nigeria’s broken roads combined with insane drivers to consume them in accidents. And not everyone that remained in Lagos stayed alive until the fleeing ones returned.
We have done nothing wrong to deserve this mental torture. If voting has become a problem, then let’s stop voting. After all, it’s not the votes cast that determine who gets “elected”. Those that we “elect” every four years have not helped us to live better life; each is merely interested in gathering wealth without working for it.
Almost everyone knows there are better ways to select leaders without tears, without wasting much money. But few are ready to do what is right even if the opportunity to do so presented itself. That brings us back to the beginning: it’s always better to let good people lead. Nobody desires to fight a war; one can only like a war acted in Hollywood or Nollywood and shown on TV screens.
Taking the pastors’ advice will be difficult for many, for there is no money with which to stockpile food in the first place. This is the time for paying school fees, paying house rents, and warding off the harmattan with jelly. I have not found a reason to travel because, unlike in 1993, this is not the time for celebrating New Yam. In my village, we celebrate the return of Mmanwu masquerade in February, but only in even-number years. The ancestral spirits have gone and are expected back in February next year.
Whatever happens, I have not taken a decision yet. Security gives way to conspiracy, as Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar. February has come but it is not gone. To everyone who has yet to decide what to do, I say: May the almighty God help you in reaching the right conclusion.
— Aniebo Nwamu

Most Popular

To Top