NOW THAT INEC HAS BLOWN THE WHISTLE….On your marks, Get set...then DEFECT!
This week, INEC released the time table for Election 2015( including that for Ekiti and Osun States's gubernatorial elections holding this year).Nigerians,especially the Politicians have been expecting this time table to help them structure their own programmes and activities. This effectively signals the 'official' beginning of the campaigns,irrespective of what INEC would want or say. Indeed for some, the campaign started since 2012. When a man announces that he wants to run for any position, that to my mind is the beginning of campaigns. Winning National elections is a long process, involving many steps and many 'mini elections'. A man who wants to run for the office of a state governor for a example,will need a minimum of two years to run his campaign.
He will need to convince his family, close friends and associates by telling them why he wants to run. He will then go from one party leader to another in his constituency selling himself and getting support and endorsement, even before he makes a formal announcement. In all this process, he may have printed his manifesto with which he will sell himself even to this limited group. That to my mind is campaign of sorts. And in Nigerian Politics you need god fathers and power brokers to be on your side and to convince them to bet on you, you will not only sell your vision for the state or constituency but you will also convince them of what you will do for them individually, because those who have tried( eg, Prof Chukwuma Soludo) insist the latter is much more important than the former. Vision or no vision, even the typical Nigerian voter pays little attention. What they get now or some collaterised IOUs,supported by oaths at Okija- type shrines may prove more convincing than any ' promises or manifesto which will never be fulfilled or implemented'.Some will call that consultations, but to me it's perhaps campaign before the 'real'campaign.
Now that the time table has been released, all the secret consultations will come to the open. Already, Parties are announcing dates for Conventions and Primaries and soon the airwaves will be filled with partisan political news. Meanwhile we are currently inundated by the news of defections from one party to another. After what looked like mass exodus from PDP to APC, prompting APC to presume majority in the House of Representatives and to make a premature bid for the house leadership, there has been reversal of tide, even as 11 Senators defected midweek. Infact Legislators are even moving from Labour Party to another party. And I am wondering what the matter is? I had supposed that cross carpeting in the house or Senate is justified only by a division in the party or merger of parties, but it looks that I am mistaken. It has become a free for all. What strange times we are in!
It is daily becoming obvious to me that I really do not understand the Nature or genre of Nigerian politics. I have always assumed that politics is governed by some principles and that Parties are organised around Ideologies or specific philosophical leanings. Indeed I was hoping that the APC ideology was going to be different from that of PDP. But the way, they are receiving and celebrating decampees from PDP, the difference if any has become completely blurred. I also had been thinking that the economic persuasion or perspectives of Political parties are different as we see the difference between the labour and conservative parties in the Uk or that between the Democrats and Republicans in the United States of America. But so far, I am unable to distinguish that between the APC and the PDP or between APGA and the Labour Party. Indeed, a friend of mine just told me as I was expressing my disgust, that when it comes to the economy, there is absolutely no difference between all the parties in Nigeria, at least between the major parties. Iam told that each of the party's economic persuasion can be summarised as: GET AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND CAN AS MUCH AS YOU GET.
I tried to argue that this may not be true of all the parties, that a party like the Nigerian Conscience Party( NCP) would never subscribe to such extreme capitalist tendency.I was told that there is no exception, that I should wait for the Conscience party to win a local government chairmanship position and I will know that that they have no conscience whatsoever. I was told to explain why Comrade Oshiomhole, a reputed Labour leader would not run under the labour Party, which now has become a refuge for all Capitalists who lose out in PDP, APC and APGA. Even the reputed and well advertised Comrade, Senator Uche Chukwumerije will not touch the Labour party.Why would Comrade Oshiomhole or Mr.Peter Obi of APGA win the entire local governments in their States (less one) and they would do everything under the Sun and beneath the Earth to ensure that they do not allow any opposition party win even that outstanding lone seat. In the case of Obi, he found a way to cancel the elections in that only constituency and in the case of Oshiomhole, he had to get the electoral returning officer to Benin to announce the result in favour of his party,I am told. This Nigerian Political game: the winner, wins all!
Indeed this week humbled me and made me know that I really did not know much about Nigerian politics. Ex-governors Shekarau of Kano State and Bafarawa of Sokoto State decamped from APC into PDP just like that,one day after the other and they were warmly received. No shame anywhere! Infact, every iota of doubt in my mind as regards the lack of principles among many of our politicians vanished. I could then understand the boast of the new PDP National Chairman Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Muazu a few days earlier that if APC was in the game of poaching, then they (PDP) would teach them(APC) a lesson or two in the business of Poaching. I am hoping this poaching game does not give credence to what I had heard several years ago. A politically- exposed friend of mine who claimed to be an expert and a guru in Nigerian Politics told me unequivocally that every party rigs elections and that the party that wins is the one that is most able to rig the others out. I argued and argued but Iam now afraid.
So what hope for Nigerians as the Political Season has been officially opened by INEC. Is it going to come down to look like a choice between Monkeys and Baboons?. I pray not. In addition to praying, I wish to offer the following advice. First to INEC. They must be ahead of the game. If it is true that it's a game of who can out rig the other, then they must discover a truly ANTIRIGING formula. I had proposed that we adopt the electronic voting platform but our politicians say it is not doable and INEC seems to have bought this position.If it requires amending the constitution, let's do it now. There is still enough time to do so. I plead with the National Assembly if they can find any space in their hearts to accept this appeal. They have amended the constitution and electoral laws in recent times,even this week and with surprising speed. Indeed, it is pleasing to note that the National Assembly has begun to use electronic voting in their chambers and they can see how it makes their voting faster and credible. Yes, the electronic voting may not guarantee 'perfect' elections given that our politicians seem not want any 'perfect' elections and even INEC says it can not Promise 'perfect' elections, though that is exactly what the ordinary suffering Nigerian wants so badly, but the current 'popular' method of writing results at polling and collation centres will be largely eliminated, so that the will of the People will carry.
Secondly, I wish to appeal to the ordinary Nigerians not to take these politicians too seriously. No body should fight his brother or sister or his neighbour because of the Nigerian politicians. What is more,no one should spill the blood of any other Nigerian because of these politicians, just as President Goodluck Jonathan has often admonished us.Nothing they are doing is about us. All these shameless carpet crossing, defections and decamping has nothing to do about us or about Nigeria. True, it is essentially all about them, their interests and their preferences. Whether PDP or APC or APGA or LABOUR, na same same. Only God can make the difference. Please enjoy the drama, as I am told, we have only seen act 1 scene 2 and between now and February 28th 2015,when INEC plans to draw the curtain on this season's circus show, there are still Six acts and each act has ten scenes. That's plenty of drama. But please be safe. If you can afford bullet-proof vests, that could be helpful, but if you cant, just lie low. A word is enough for the wise!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR .