The Ekiti Gubernatorial elections have come and gone, but the revelations that were made before, during and after the civil exercise should be a source of worry for any well-meaning Nigerian. The keenly contested race between Prof Olusola Eleka of the PDP and Dr Kayode Fayemi of the APC threw up many unwholesome practices that do not bode well for the electoral future of Nigeria. As early as the wee hours of election day, news already began to filter in about the massive vote-buying embarked upon by the two major political parties.
Videos emerged of Ekiti indigenes testifying to receiving between N4,000 and N10,000 to cast their vote for either of the two frontline candidates. It is not just saddening and worrisome, it also lends credence to the often talked about perpetual state of impoverishment and servitude Nigerian politicians deliberately condemn the masses to.
Another clear thing from the shenanigans that went on in Ekiti last Saturday is that as Nigerians, we only pay lip service to the corruption fight. We decry the spate of corruption and corrupt public office holders every day, however, when it’s time to act out our conviction, we do the opposite.
On the other hand, it’s easy to pontificate and preach about doing things right when one can afford the basic necessities of life. For the Ekiti civil servant who’s being owed 12 months salary and can barely feed, the prospect of receiving some money (however paltry) that will take care of his most basic needs for a few days is too tempting to ignore. And there lies the dilemma and complexity of Nigerian politics.
The Nigerian ruling class’ strategy for ensuring victory at the polls is simple – keep the masses penurious. Make them so uncertain about where their next meal will come from that they are incapable of thinking logically when it’s time to exercise their civic responsibility. And so salaries are never consistently paid, jobs are not provided for the ever-increasing youth population and social amenities such as constant power and water remain a pipe dream.
According to the 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook published by the African Development Bank, 152 million Nigerians (representing close to 80 per cent of its total population) live on $2 a day. With this damning stats, how does one blame these set of people for collecting N4,000 to sell their votes?
I can’t think of anything else but food when I am famished, therefore, I can imagine how one who is never sure they would have one good meal in a day would mortgage their future for less than $12. These category of people are financially poor and except the powers that be wear a human face and decide to do what is expected of them to truly alleviate their poverty or they themselves look beyond their material deficiency to snatch themselves from the clutches of perennial lack, they’ll remain in that state for a long time.
Then there are those who are mentally poor. A few days ago I was watching the clips of a video recorded by two ladies who had unflattering things to say about a celebrity’s automobile. According to them, they were disappointed to see the A-list artiste driving an old model SUV. They even went as far as trailing the vehicle as it made its way out of a supermarket and continued to go on and on about how they expected more from this individual. Someone they didn’t know personally. Someone who has no inkling of their existence. It was as shocking as it was sad.
The thought pattern of these ladies is a representation of the mental state of many young Nigerians. It’s a reflection of the kind of society we live in. A society where money is worshipped and people are judged by the material things they possess rather than the value they offer. Yet, we wonder why internet fraud, advance fee scam and money rituals are on the rise. The young women apparently judge and respect people on the basis of the kind of car they drive and it would not be far-fetched to conclude that they themselves would do anything to amass riches just so they can be perceived as successful.
Nigerians need a paradigm shift in their thinking. Politics cost a lot of money the world over, but to brazenly induce the electorate with cash a few hours before voting is taking things to a whole new base level of shamelessness. With the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections less than a year away, it is scary to know that the wrong people will probably get into our most sensitive ruling positions once again because they are the ones who have all the money to throw around.
And because right now, we have a populace whose majority is all about survival and getting cash no matter where it’s coming from, the political prognosis for 2019 doesn’t look good. Nigeria will only get better when Nigerians realise that money isn’t everything. When at least 60 per cent of us can look the political class in the eye and tell them to go to Hades with their ill-gotten wealth, we can start the conversation that will take our nation on an upward trajectory.
But until then, the same recycled old order and thieving elites will continue to hold sway as our leaders.
As for Ekiti, the people will have to live with the consequences of their choice and can only hope the second coming of Fayemi will prove to be better than the first.
If the pendulum swings the wrong way, that $12 will have to be their consolation for the next four years.