Ballot and blood? Here we go again!

Ayo Baje

“Oppressed people kill each other all the time. Angered by the misery of their lives, but cowed by the overt superior might of the oppressor, they shrink from striking out at the true objects of their hostility. They strike instead, at their more defenceless brothers and sisters near at hand.”

–Frantz Fanon

While I was ruminating over the above-stated, conscience-pricking quote, someone came visiting and he said:  “No Nigerian politician is worth dying for, not one! They are all a bunch of overtly greedy, irredeemably corrupt, self-elevating and vainglorious political parasites who serve the self rather than the state. Forget their party affiliations; they are all the same chameleons changing colours with every electoral season.” That was vintage Andy, my good old friend. He is back on the turf and brutally frank, as usual.

Before I could respond, he spoke again. “Before now, some  political analysts had identified Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and Adamawa as the most likely volatile states. But sadly, Kogi, your state, especially the Central Senatorial District has joined the bloody fray. I have read about the deployment of the tools of treachery and the weapons of intimidation against the supporters of the Social Democratic Party, Senatorial candidate, Natasha Akpoti. They have burnt her posters, maimed her supporters and killed one of them! I am highly disappointed with your people. Is that not the lady who has taken it upon herself to fight for the resuscitation of the long-neglected Ajaokuta Steel Company?”

“Yes, she is,” I replied.

“Is she not the one who is sponsoring as many as 600 children of the needy to school and created an ICT Hub in your home town?,” he asked again.

“She is, of course”, was my response.

“Is it because she is a woman? Is that the best way to pay her back, all because of her political ambition to represent your people’s interest at the Red Chamber?”

“No! Not in the least” was my reaction as I shook my head in utter sadness, wishing that my people could eschew violence and tread the path of reason, honour and peace.

Andy went on.” Look Mr. Baje, the writer. I know you have many readers and admirers across the globe, people who follow your writings with dedicated passion, every blessed week. Tell them that I am warning the children of the poor Nigerians to be more careful than ever before. They must not allow themselves to be used as political thugs, blackmailers, mischief makers, snatching ballot boxes or wielding machetes to kill some innocent souls. It is not worth it, more so when these same politicians send their children to the choicest schools abroad and come home to run their parents’ empires, worth billions of the taxpayers’ stolen sweat”. Still angry, he went on.

“We are all suffering today because we love to paper over cracks. We pretend that all is well with us but it is not so. Tell me, for how long are we going to sweep the growing heaps of dirt under the carpet?” Not a few of our politicians take some obscene pleasure in telling listless lies. They have no scruples or iota of moral compunction. To them, Machiavellian tactics is the name of the game. The end simply justifies the means.

That reminds me of the in-depth work entitled, “The Risks of Violence in Nigeria’s 2019 Elections”, by Chris Kwaja; Oge Onubogu  and  Aly Verjee, published on September 17, 2018. It raises the fundamental questions: “Can the African giant build off the success of its historic 2015 elections, or will electoral violence impede progress?”  It points at “the rise of intra-party friction—particularly within the ruling All Progressives Congress — as showing  the desperation of the political class and the parties to retain power”.

The article also highlights the gnawing fact that the 2019 elections also come amid growing tensions along ethno-religious and regional lines. That is especially so  in a country where the presidential election cannot be won without forming alliances. This results in  a slew of defections to-and-fro the APC and the PDP.

Issues that agitate the minds of concerned citizens are the reasons behind the spate of politically-motivated killings, prelude to every general election. The first is the huge pay package of political office holders. These favoured few Nigerians keep creaming off the nation’s oil wealth, all because they are in positions of authority. The temptation to go into party politics is therefore, obviously compelling amidst the grinding situation of pervasive poverty.

Decent, well-paying jobs are as scarce as rain in the deserts. Not helping matters is the decrepit infrastructure that does not assist entrepreneurship. Long-term loans, with single-digit interest rates for those with viable ideas are never offered. A jungle situation of might-is right is therefore, unleashed on us all.

This accounts for the brazen mindset of political office holders. They first sell their souls to the devil by joining cults or swearing to hideous oaths of their political godfathers whose words they dare not disobey. As predators, one can liken them to the carnivorous clan such as the hounding hyenas, the lordly lions, and tigers, or even the eagles and kites. Their stock-in-trade is to stalk their helpless preys, swoop on them, grip them in their jaws or crippling claws, tear them into pieces and feed fat on their flesh and blood!

To this set of politicians, the life of their political rivals is worthless. Such people should be crushed under foot, like irritating flies and cockroaches. They cannot brook any form of opposition. Dissenting views and the purveyors must be summarily dealt with.

The second pertinent reason for the increase in blood-letting is the culture of impunity. This prompted Mallam Shehu Sani, the author of “Political Assassinations in Nigeria” to note that: “Suspected assassins stroll in and out of the court with impunity. Some judges are being arm-twisted and intimidated, while others appear to have succumbed.” This perhaps explains why years after, the evil masterminds and killers of the late Chief Bola Ige, Harry Marshal, Dikibo Aminasari, Funsho Williams Dr. Ayo Daramola and that of Dipo Dina still walk our streets as free men!

But we cannot go on this way. This is the 21st Century Nigeria, for God’s sake. INEC should reach out more in its public relations with the citizens. It should go beyond asking people to desist from violence and vote-buying, to ensuring greater transparency in the conduct of elections. This would boost the people confidence in the process to guarantee that only their choices get into positions of political authority.