Unspoken Losers of the Postponement of the Nigerian February 14th Elections
The postponement of the 2015 General Elections scheduled to be held on the 14th of February disrupted many things in Nigerian politics. The Ghanaian economist George Ayittey classified it as “incompetence” displayed by a nation that boasts loudly to be the “Giant of Africa” but could not get simple things right. Other commentators with integrity were more “cautious” in their criticism of the postponement, even though they did not buy the insecurity risks posed Boko Haram insurgency as a cogent reason. Furthermore, it was sheer incompetence for voters not to have Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) issued to them by December 2014.
Who were the losers in the postponement of the February 14th elections? Some would say it was Muhammadu Buhari because the momentum of election victory was clearly in his favour. Whether that momentum can be rekindled before the next election is a big question. Others say the losers of the postponement are practitioners of ‘ricism’ who have already shared rice, salt, kerosene, money, groundnut oil, torchlight batteries to voters in various locations to win vote.
There are those who are forced to “redo” their prayers and voodoo with their pastors, marabouts and native doctors to secure election victory at future date, the angel and spirits have to be rescheduled since the “time-table” has been outdated. And those who have taken loans to contest elections have to pay extra unplanned interest. All these people who have lost something because of the postponement are politicians and their clients.
One group of unspoken losers of the election postponement are innumerable Nigerians in Diaspora. Thousands of Nigerians went home to Nigeria to cast their vote and be with their families during election time. The return home was typically intended to be for the duration of two to four weeks. I would love to get my hands on the data of non-frequent fliers who left airports with return tickets in Europe and America for Nigeria just before February 14th. Anecdotal evidence suggests the number is in excess of 20,000 people.
That desire and effort of Nigerians who escape societal failure for a better life in Diaspora to go home to vote, for many, has been a sheer waste. It is a waste of money, annual leave, patriotism, a loss of faith in the democratic process and an acknowledgment of Proustian memories of backwardness. Can one sincerely blame them for feeling disappointed, indignant and betrayed? It must be emphasised that living in Diaspora does not confer any special rights or privileges on the individual. Nevertheless, the Government of Nigeria should not take silence from such a matter as evidence of “no problem” with the postponement.
Many Nigerians in Diaspora live in “Third World Nations” because of Nigeria’s own political, social and economic failings and some live in the “First World” for the same reason. Election cancellation and postponement are unheard of in those countries. It is almost like postponing Christmas from the December 25th to February 26th. As George Ayittey said, Nigeria cannot handle things like elections which most countries in the world take for granted.
I remember watching a movie as a youngster in the mid-1970s and a female actor said that for her American politics meant elections on November 4th every leap year. Some Nigerians will be quick to say the United States has had over 200 years to perfect election date institutions. Then when you ask these same about election dates in Botswana, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, nations that got independence after Nigeria the response is usually silence or folly.
It is folly to assert that if those in Diaspora ‘really do love Nigeria’ or ‘truly support Nigeria’s progress in democracy’ they cannot be angry or disappointed with a mere postponement of elections. It is also folly to declare that those who do not like how things are done in Nigeria should not come back. It is not too good to take pride in incompetence, failure and backwardness of one’s government or country. Things that work never require sentimentality for support unless there is a failure or a misuse; postponing elections is both.
Those who believe in the ‘conquer mixture’ called “Nigeria” have invariably been frustrated and betrayed by the entity. In fact, it is wisdom to believe in Nigeria and behave like Peter Eke’s “lucky citizen” who extracts more out of society than he is willing put in. Not that Nigeria did/does not have the capacity to be a flourishing society; the people appear not to know what they want and the leaders are not interested in providing a concrete and sustainable direction for the electorate. The postponement is evidence.
Whether anyone likes it or not, postponing the elections is a thousand steps backwards on the course of democracy, and only time will reveal the scale and depth of impacts regardless of how those Nigerians in Diaspora or at home feel. Every Nigerian is the unspoken Loser.
- Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot