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Voting was more peaceful in the past – Binta Zarma

A retired civil servant, Hajiya Bintu Zarma, who was born and brought up in northern Borno, has spent over 40 years voting on every election…

A retired civil servant, Hajiya Bintu Zarma, who was born and brought up in northern Borno, has spent over 40 years voting on every election season in Nigeria. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, she shared her perception about democracy and elections in the past and now.

When did you start voting?

I started voting in the last 40 years. I was due to vote during the Second Republic elections when I was in secondary school, but we were not allowed to vote in the school.

How would you compare voting in those days and nowadays?

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It is very different. Then, once it was election day, everyone would go to his polling unit and sit quietly. Men and women would form different queues before the electoral officers arrive and commence the exercise without delay. Elections were conducted in a very professional manner. But today, people spend hours in queues before election materials arrive. This didn’t happen at that time. And there were nothing like political thugs coming to fight and steal ballot boxes at polling units. We did not witness that in the past.

These days, thuggery always scares women from going out to vote, and it’s women that constitute most of the voting population.

What do you think can be done to improve the situation?

We are calling on parents and the youth to stop this attitude because it is detrimental to the society and democracy. Leaders should also know that if they destroy the future of someone’s child by giving them drugs and weapons to kill, God has a way of getting back at them.

Politicians like Ibrahim Waziri had advocated politics without bitterness; do you think that is still possible in Nigeria?

Honestly, we have deviated. There were oppositions, but highly constructive. On election day. politicians behaved themselves and the exercise was concluded without hitches. It is unlike today when youths are given drugs to misbehave at election venues.

You have taken part in elections since 1999; what changes have you noticed?

There is violence up to this time.

What do you think the government should do to change this narrative?

They should stop thuggery and empower the youth.

What is your perception about democracy today?

Forty years ago, leadership was sound because leaders were honest. They loved one another and governed with passion, respect and in a transparent manner. They did everything with dialogue and consultation. They consulted traditional rulers, clerics and community leaders in everything they did. At that time, a governor would consult emirs and elders in the society before doing anything. But now, people do whatever they like once they are in positions of leadership and still consider it as democracy.

For me, a society without justice, honesty and transparency is a disaster. Today, few people take decisions that affect the entire country and control everything in governance without consultations.

Also, the so-called leaders of today are human beings like any other person, it is only destiny that took them to the mantle of power. Unfortunately, they don’t feel this way. Their assumption is that they are better than anyone.


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