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You’re not a democracy; Oh Nigeria

Congratulations Nigerians. If the hallmark of democracy is characterised by a group of people queuing up in the sun or rain to have their fingers…

Congratulations Nigerians. If the hallmark of democracy is characterised by a group of people queuing up in the sun or rain to have their fingers dabbed with blue ink; 87 million of you have fulfilled one of the criterions of a democratic nation. If assaulting each other over the outcome of that exercise is democracy in action, then of course we are the most practical democratic nation in Africa.

We all know that Africans don’t do democracy the way those who coined the phrase and the concept do. If we do, we would be doing it as they do in those places. In agreement with Matumbi the reggae crooner – everyman do his thing, a little way differently!

First, we would not be a nation of multi-registrations and identification procedures. For banks we had a Bank Verification Number, without which we were separated from our own bank accounts. Our opinions didn’t matter. Then we must link our BVN with a SIM card with scant regard to whether we live in Lekki, Porto Novo or Leningrad. Later, like all powerful nations, we must have a national identity card. When we attain the voting age – which varies during voting in the North, we must register to vote and obtain a voter’s registration card, without which we are disenfranchised.

Our governments do not trust us to act better than the beasts of Bauchi Game Reserve, so they make sure that they shut down the whole nation when we vote. Yes, there can never be a free exercise of our fundamental civic duty without curfew.

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States grant holidays for civil servants to collect their permanent voters’ cards, PVCs. Why? Well, because not only are we unable to count ourselves, over 60 per cent of us are of no traceable address or even ancestry, meaning we must queue to collect our PVCs where other nations mail them.

In the past, those who failed to collect their cards unwittingly accept the mark of the beast – unable to buy or sell and denied of the take-home pay that does not take them to the bus stop. Their children are barred from schools and government services as punishment.

Our government closes all borders; because we share the same features and language with our neighbours. Colonial boundaries having been drawn with scant regard to ethnic contiguity, we do not trust our neighbours not to sabotage our hallowed democracy. Never mind that those neighbours do better than us by identifying themselves and distinguishing the strangers in their midst. We shut down a struggling economy to satisfy a semblance of democracy. Airports, roads, seaports are locked down, leaving only NADECO routes.

In last Saturday’s exercise, INEC – the Independent National Electoral Commission –  assured they have done everything required to make it resemble a democratic exercise. What? They bought thousands of computers and handheld devices called the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). They told us that they have employed technology to validate the ‘democratic’ process. That, we are told, does not include virtual voting.

We cannot be trusted to use technology to vote, but we must depend on technology to register the votes and transmit the results. That must sound awesome to any technophile until they realise that we are technological in thought but analogue in action.

We discovered on the field that both the original BVAS and their substitute clones are backups to manual cards and not the other way round. We also know that the people we employ to man these machines are Nigerians. Thus, means that they are susceptible to inducements since many would sell their parents for a morsel of porridge and still insult Esau. On election duty they’d sell their souls to the highest bidder, and they often did without scruples.

We’re known to vote according to primordial proclivities ruled by the monsters of region and religion. We do accept the colonial cartographer’s map and yes for politics we fought a grueling civil war to maintain it. After the bloodshed, those who ruled over us swore that we remain kinsfolks. That is as it should be in WWE, but in real-life Nigeria, the vestiges of enmity sink corrosively like raw acid on the wood of our co-existence.

In our contrived nation where three predominant tribes lord it over 400 others, and two foreign religions superintend our hearts, minds and actions with supreme pre-eminence, trust is as rampant as horse’s horns. If you ever walk across our land with the hope of contesting for anything from ward councilor to village head, rest assured that behind the outcome is determined by ancestry as much of which god directs the majority. Do not expect victory without help from the clan and the faith.

In our dance with the maiden of democracy, a chasm exists in our quest to meeting the global criterion, but please do not moan about it in the open. Where common sense is missing, hope is an overflowing effluent quenching our thirst for normalcy.

We reassure ourselves that we are evolving in our march towards the reverse end of the equation. Our consolation being that the divine is a Nigerian that keeps our aspirations in perpetual view.

Thus, we have concluded the first of a two-part democratic experiment – the semblance of a free, fair and credible election. The results could have emerged by the time you are reading this or we could still be in the process of waiting. One other attribute of our kind of democracy is that whoever aspires wins – in their minds. Failure is neither an option nor a possibility. The moment an aspirant gets on the ballot paper, their victory is certain. That is why winning never comes by small margins as they do in established ‘democracies’. No, they come in landslides.

To the eventual winner, even proven cases of malpractice are the insane whining of serial losers who are destined never to win. We often say that you cannot rig successfully unless you are popular. If you rig and get away with it, it means you ought to have won fair and square. For proof, ask the five unlucky ballot snatchers who were shot dead – per the president’s orders during last week’s process and those who were threatened or rough-handled. They were the ones stupid enough to carry out their acts of brigandage or defiance where their candidates were unpopular.

With all these and many other peculiar attributes of the Nigerian democratic process, it is safe to parody the late Prof. Pius Adesanmi’s book title by concluding that – you’re not a democracy oh Nigeria even as we congratulate the ‘winner’! Losers could waste their resources pursuing long court proceedings or return home to count their losses and leak their wounds. Elections did hold, so who says we are not a democracy?

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