Ekiti State exploded on July 14. Pundits who had predicted an explosion of firearms and blood spillage initially thought that their predictions had gone off target as no blood was actually shed on that day. With the benefit of hindsight however, what pundits probably foresaw was an explosion of repulsive stench. As we speak, the odour from the Ekiti election is still disturbing the nose of the world.
Global media is analyzing Nigeria’s brand new variant of electoral corruption which is emerging from our globally acknowledged lush field of corruption. Coming on the heels of an earlier Edo and Ondo States’ test-drive of how to corrupt electoral choice through cash, the reported massive vote-buying, ingenuously tagged See and Buy in Ekiti last week, has pushed Nigeria a notch higher in the estimation of the globe as one of the world’s most thriving corruption landscapes. These were all perpetrated under the tip of the nose of Muhammadu Buhari, a man in whom the globe reposed the hope of cleaning the Augean Stables.
The world was already aware that Nigeria is a minefield of corruption. Daniel Jordan Smith’s anthropological work entitled A Culture of Corruption and Steven Pierce’s historical evaluation of Nigeria’s moral bind which he called Moral Economies of Corruption both agreed that the scope of corruption in Nigeria is beyond measure. The most recent work on this frightening social menace is Mathew Page’s A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria where Page, among other things, summed up Nigeria’s dilemma thus: “Corruption is the single greatest obstacle preventing Nigeria from achieving its enormous potential. It drains billions of dollars a year from the country’s economy, stymies development and weakens the social contract between the government and its people.”
Thus, by 2015, the world was seriously bothered about Nigeria’s slide into the valley of corruption. This bother was typified by the massive global support given to General Buhari’s aspiration to govern Nigeria again, in spite of his earlier credential as a draconian military dictator. Three years down the lane however, the world is downcast at the corruption-abetting government that the Daura-born General runs. This is Page’s overview of Buhari’s government and his political party, the APC: “Little distinguishes Nigeria’s two main political parties—the ruling APC and the opposition PDP — in this regard. Both are constellations of fluid national, state, and local elite networks. Both are almost identically structured, non-ideological organizations. Both rely on misappropriated public funds to finance election campaigns. Neither values internal party democracy, allowing money and high-level interference to corrupt candidate selection processes.”
To be fair to Buhari, electoral corruption, the like that took place in Ekiti last week, is far older than his government. Indeed, it is said to have taken its roots in Nigeria during the First Republic and its sordid tale bears retelling here. The 1959 Federal Elections had increased the political temperature of a Nigeria that was looking forward to independence. Northern Region Premier and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello was literally not shaking. He was generally perceived to have the Northern electorate in
his pocket. Being a celebrated thinker, Obafemi Awolowo leapt a mile higher than his Eastern and Northern colleagues in political strategizing. Among others, he birthed the idea of deploying helicopter to campaign through hostile topographies. Veteran campaign kingpin, S. T. Oredein, Action Group (AG’s) Organizing Secretary, provided the chart. And AG began to meander through the uncharted jungles of the Northern hearts, to the consternation of Bello and his Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). Then, an NPC propaganda emerged to counter this novelty: the helicoptering was a ploy by “the infidels” to spy their wives in purdah from the sky! Awo’s Northern foray nevertheless brought Bello out from his electioneering lethargy, so much that one day, returning from a campaign through the nooks and crannies of the dessert and with his nostrils filled with accumulated dusts, he came back to the Government Lodge spent and spat out phlegm caked in dust. There and then, he swore never to forgive Awo for his electioneering impudence. At the end of the exercise however, massive electoral heist was perpetrated and the AG, which was reported to have made massive inroads in the North, had no vote. In fact, a new lexicon – baa ko daya (not even one) – erupted from the 1959 elections in the North, signifying the nil votes ascribed to the AG.
Baa ko daya is a metaphor for the kind of politics that has become the poster of Nigerian politics since then. It is an ascendancy of totalitarian politics, where politicians seek to have every vote through hook or crook. Vote alteration, ballot box snatching, compromise of electorate and violence at polling booths are some of the constant variables of electoral politicking since then. The recent Buhari government’s introduction of See and buy as an abiding testament of Nigerian electoral politics seems to have doubled down on this decades-old electoral heist.Baa ko daya signifies the kind of mis-energy, bile and blood that are invested in Nigerian politics, so as to arrive at this winner-takes-all terminus of power.
But Baa ko daya is destructive. Apart from the spiritual disconnect it foists on the elector and the elected, it destroys the social contract between both. The elector loses the moral authority to ask the elected for an observance of the contract between them as the latter had pre-paid the dividends of office – the pipe-borne water, shelter, the roads and electricity. He thus feels un-beholding to the electors and focuses on recouping his electoral investments. In the Ekiti example, it could be argued that the elected has no investment to recoup as the billions of Naira used to prosecute the election are alleged to be misappropriated funds from APC state governments, the NNPC and other cash-cow parastatals of the federal government which the party controls. However, head or tail, the masses of Nigeria lose as such funds should have attended to the massive under-development in states and national spheres at large.
The APC was said to have used its success in the Godwin Obaseki election in Edo as a guinea pig of this electoral debauchery. With an overall success recorded, APC landed like a matador in Ondo, where the heist received a local flavor of d’ibo koo se’be (vote and cook soup). With huge misappropriated funds at its beck and call, voters are purchased like ram on the tether right there at the polling booth. It was even alleged that in the APC primaries which preceded the last Saturday shamelessness, each delegate smiled home with a million naira each. When you multiply this by the victor’s almost a thousand votes garnered, you will realize that about a billion naira public fund was incinerated at the groove of this rapacious shrine of electoral corruption.
For Ekiti political gladiators, they didn’t arrive at this intersection overnight. It was a gradual de-coupling of the people’s manhood and thus, de-muzzling of the electorate’s economic power. An agrarian state, Ekiti people were known by the valour of their sweats on the farms and the way they wore their national pride on their sleeves for all to see. Igbemo rice produced in Ekiti, which preceded this rat race to produce national rice, was a brown rice whose renown in the South West has lasted close to half a century now. But politicians gradually killed the people’s manhood, luring Ekiti youth from the farm to the state capital to become okada riders and cheap political thugs. Ayodele Fayose, for example, brought the people to his acknowledged very low level. Having achieved this, it was very easy for politicians to feed their goats with meadows on election day.
Why Buhari, who prides himself as an anti-corruption czar, would be the umpire of this electoral fraud still beats the world’s imagination. The way he has been gloating at this monumental fraud in Ekiti speaks to the anecdote of a country thrown to the dogs and the dogs, unable to stomach the stench, throwing it to the swine. If you read Garba Shehu’s un-presidential press release where he called a sitting governor a street-type thug and the picture of Buhari in the aircaft, en-route Netherlands, smiling from ear to ear when told the outcome of the election, you would think he had just been told a Nigerian had discovered a new planet. Was the gloating meant to give Fayose his own pound of flesh? Didn’t Barack Obama counsel that when they go low, leaders of Buhari’s hue should go high? Is it that Buhari doesn’t believe global observers’ reports of massive vote-buying by his henchmen in Ekiti or he feels electoral corruption is not part of his shibboleth of anti-corruption?
What we thought Buhari would do upon coming into power was to make elective and appointive offices unattractive. This he could do by sponsoring a bill making some of the offices part-time. The rat race for political offices in Nigeria today is maddening. Governmental corruption can be reduced to the barest minimum through getting politicians a second address that economic empowerment ensures. Another alternative is to let us go back to parliamentary system of government which is less costly and which ensures that whoever emerges in political office is a true product of grassroots endorsement. The money available to Nigerian public office holders is too corrupting not to engender the destructive scrambles that we have at the moment. The masses themselves, having weaned themselves of the period empty promises of politicians, now seek their dividends pre-paid. The result is the absence of a country properly so-called as we currently have.
What happened in Ekiti last week was electoral Armageddon. We are gradually drawing close to the nihilism of total destruction which Bob Marley predicted. If we indeed check out the real situation, we will see that the Nigerian sky is really red.
BUHARI’S ORDER 6 AS IRON CURTAIN
President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed the Presidential Executive Order No. 6 of 2018. Among others, the Order sets out to tackle “the Preservation of Suspicious Assets Connected with Corruption and Other Relevant Offences.” Its preamble is the same tale of how corruption has affected the nerve cells of Nigeria, how “corruption constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the well-being, national security and stability of the country’s political and economic systems.”
The PEO confers on the President the powers to seize the assets of any Nigerian citizens “within the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…. known to be a current or former government official” as well as any politically exposed person, adjudged by the President to be “complicit in or has… engaged in corrupt practices.”
We are all agreed that corruption has become a major crocodile inside the pond of Nigeria, with its constant bay for blood. Lawyers have spoken brilliantly about the powers of the judiciary and the legislature which Buhari hasipso facto illegally encroached upon.
My take is that, handing over this awesome, borderless power to Buhari, a known despot who does not forgive those who hurt him is a recipe for dragging Nigeria by its scruff down to the Iron Curtain. Iron Curtain was a coinage of Winston Churchill, World War 2 Prime Minister of Britain, to denote the screening of the scary human rights reality of the defunct Soviet Union from the West.
Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan is a grave example of the persona of Buhari. Accused of distributing arms cash to political lackeys of the PDP, he has been languishing in prison for about three years now. Granted bail by courts, Buhari still keeps him in the dungeon. His alibi was that selfsame alibi for despotism perfected during the military era – National Security. Unbeknown to Buhari and his coterie of followers of Papa Doc of Haiti, national security has been redefined by security scholars in today’s modern democratic world as security of food, clothing and shelter of the people. It is no longer a tower ran into by military despots to commit state atrocities.
As much as I hate to believe the trending narrative of how Dasuki personally hurt Buhari during and after the 1984 coup and the need for recompense by the latter, the shameless wield of this National Security nonsense as reason to deny Dasuki of his freedom rankles. Don’t forget that in all this, no single revelation has been made of Dasuki’s personal enrichment of self with the so-called arms cash. It is this same man, who has chosen to close his eyelids to the massive corruption under his nose, among his henchmen called governors and the most recent one in Ekiti, who has just been handed this untrammeled power. We should not say we didn’t know beforehand: Adolf Hitler began this benignly with German nationalism; Papa and Baby Doc in Haiti; Houphouet Boigny built the largest Basilica in Yamoussoukro; Idi Amin Dada came in to avenge Milton Obote’s national misrule. By the time we wake up, Order 6 would have transmuted into the Iron Curtain, its barbs all over us and separating APC felons from PDP felons, Fulani felons from the rest of Nigeria.