1. Season of Anomie
Another season of anomie is here!
It is election season in Nigeria; Africa, and black world’s largest pretense to “democracy”. We have known this season since before Nigeria became independent. And the political spin masters and media vuvuzelas are out once more, inundating our aural peace with their undeodorized pieces of nonsense!
In these times, promises are made. Deals are sealed. Horse-trading and cross-carpeting are contemplated. New Godfathers are anointed. Older ones either lose relevance, or are consolidated on their inglorious perches. God-sons make pilgrimages to their various godfathers to swear oaths and allegiances. Dinners with devils are planned and consummated. Marriages of convenience are contracted. Sworn enemies appear together for photo ops. Talks and promises are made from two sides of the mouth. Old alliances are broken. New coalitions are called into being. Politicians, who normally have been absentee landlords, pay visits amidst pomp and pageantry to the constituencies, whose votes they have already concluded plans to steal. Bags of rice and bags of Ghana-must-go are all primed to exchange hands. Bags of money and money bags look for new hands to grease. Votes are bought, sold and stolen. After each presidential primary, delegates are awash with enough money to finance their hitherto pedestrian lifestyles, till the next political gravy train come their way. Where the votes cannot be purchased, they are extorted out of the people. Murders and assassinations are planned, primed and set in motion. Armies of thugs are contracted and armed for their Election Day charges. The sloganeering and jingles hijack the airwaves with their insistence. Our attention spans are suffused with political nonsense lacking every substance. And we are condemned to swallowing them, as the season of anomie unfolds.
If in some theologies, a sacrament represents an outward sign of inward reality, then Nigeria politics qualifies as the outward signature of inward rottenness.
Nigeria’s is a pretense to democracy. Election cycles here, have finally graduated into some perennially laughable, but destructive orgy of impunity. It is not a contest, but a war. It is not only literarily, but actually a do-or-die affair. Every election cycle in Nigeria is a knell that must summon some of our compatriots to heaven or to hell. Whoever wants, and have the powers to, can kill his opponent, and get away scot-free with it. Heads are cracked. Limbs are broken. Violence is celebrated and impunity canonized. People resort to violence whenever they lack logic and civility to project their visions. In Nigeria, it has now become a culture that candidates for public office have no ideas or ideologies. Manifestoes are seriously not important. Nigerian politicians cannot communicate. They have no content to communicate. Power is sought for the privilege it provides, and not for the service it recommends.
To that end, many Nigerians, come “whenever” INEC decides is going to be the day of election, would stay home. It is not so much voter’s apathy as is known in other climes. Experience has taught them that they don’t matter. They have been promised several times, that “this time” is going to be different, only for their hopes to be dashed. On the 12th of June, 1993, they marched out under the rain and sun to raise their hands and stand behind Moshood Abiola in an election, where the Electoral Commission promised them heaven and earth. Abiola won. The elections were cancelled. Their mandate was nullified by the fiat of a tyrannical nitwit. They went home dejected. They went home to complain to their pillows and await another season of anomie. They equally trooped out en masse to vote for Mr. Peter Obi in Anambra State in 2003 and 2007. And in each case, their votes were sidelined, and many an usurper was declared winner instead of their choice. In 2003 they were once again invited as witnesses as Obasanjo ripped all decency to shreds, and rigged himself once more into power after four years of globetrotting and drifting non achievement. That was not enough for this ogre of Owu. He wanted to perpetuate himself on the perch of power, but was sacked by the radical vigilance of many Nigerians. Instead of licking his wounds and realizing that we are tired of his crude antics, the Owu, not to be outdone in infamy, took Nigerians on another round of electoral fraudulence and installed a sick joke, by the name of Umaru Musa Yar Adua as Nigeria’s president. The Supreme Court justices allegedly took bribe and scuttled Buhari’s rightful challenge to that heist. The rest they say is history. But this history took flesh, and has continued to dwell amongst us.
Since Nigeria came into being, election periods have being seasons of anomie. Seasons of anomie are interesting times. Thrones are up for grabs. To that end, cabals are sired. Dormant ones are reactivated. Estates of dominion are created and parceled out. Allegiances are redefined. Old guards are called out of retirement and new camp followers receive their investiture. New political armies are formed and rushed quickly to the frontlines. For these actors, especially in Nigeria, it is a war. If the war is not a reenactment of that ancient embittered rivalry between NCNC + NPC against AG and the others of old; it is between the remnants of NPN against that of NPP. But since all the robber barons in Nigerian politics have decided that pulling their resources together will augur well for their business of converting Nigeria into their feudal holding; PDP was hijacked as a platform for that. This time, it is going to be between PDP and the rest of the pack.
As the game unfolds, many front contenders have already bitten the dust. Others are on their way to the dust. As it stands now, Atiku Abubakar who was selected by a Northern cabal of the same old, disingenuous and self-seeking feudal lords; who are strong in their illusory belief that Nigeria is their feudal fiefdom; to lord and rule ad infinitum, has finally bitten the dust. Goodluck Jonathan, the lucky incumbent, who seemed to have learnt excellent lessons from Obasanjo the rigging Owu; took him for the primaries, to the Golgotha called Eagle square, and not only crucified him together with his political ambitions; he took him there, and routed him so very disgracefully, that Atiku’s supporters were forced to switch sides by the mightier arms of Jonathan’s Ghana must go Bags.
As it stands today, Jega and his INEC are not yet ready to organize a credible election come 2011. The INEC is still groping blindly in the dark grottos of electoral confusion. Jega and the duplicitous Commission he heads are busy somersaulting and abjuring rationality in their estimations and financial implications of his charge. Nigeria has enough money to waste. And Jega seems primed by default to waste as much of it as possible, to organize an election that took countries like Bangladesh, a little fraction of the whooping sum Jega is asking for to organize. Charges of over-inflated contracts for the purchase of laptops and other equipment for the election are rife. Some of the machines have even found their way into private hands. Just like Nigerian census experiences, which have been a living nightmare of fraudulence, some ghost registration centers have arisen in jungles and bushes to mock INEC’s presumptions. In some parts of Nigeria, some politicians have hijacked INEC machines and are busy registering cows, goats and other non-persons in readiness for the imminent rigging-fest.
From all indications, this season of anomie will play itself out like all others before it. The voters and the citizenry are bound once more to be taken on a crazy circle run-around. The PDP has declared that there are no vacancies anywhere. This in Nigerian parlance means that the PDP has decided that it is going to cling to power come what may. Where they are out-rigged; they are ready to deploy the violence of their thugs on the streets, or the judicial violence of their thugs on the hallowed benches of the Nigerian judiciary, like has been their stock in trade.
We are watching and waiting. The indicators are not friendly to say the least!
If you think that Nigeria’s experience at the moment is just a one event occurrence, then you really need to read African contemporary history. This is the trajectory of affairs in almost every country in the continent that pretends to democracy. This is just a tip of the iceberg. This situation throws up certain fundamental questions that cannot just be wished away. Where does the problem lie? Is western democracy the answer to African problems? Many people have continued unquestioningly to construe the western-style democracy as the answer to every political question. But is that not stretching meaning and significance very far?
Let’s pause a little bit to think about this democracy-as-the-one-solution-to- every-problem dogmatic that has veritably captured our conceptual scheme, since the failure of the communist experiments of communist Russia.