By Suyi Ayodele
A child, in his cradle, was interviewed after voting in Kano State, last Saturday. He showed his interviewers the N1, 000 notes given to him and his voter’s card. His thumb showed that he had voted, and he mentioned the candidate he voted for. Nobody objected to his participation in the elections. A Commissioner of Police in charge of the voting zone explained off the child’s age as that of stunted growth.
I had a similar experience in 1993 during the Option A-4. It was the presidential election between the then SDP and the NRC. A younger cousin came to our polling unit with a voter’s card bearing a different name, with 45 years as his age. As an agent to one of the political parties, I insisted that he would not vote. An uncle, who is now late, an agent of the opposing political party, insisted that the boy must vote. Incidentally, the voting unit was in our family compound, and we knew one another.
As we argued, my late uncle sighted the vehicle carrying some policemen and international observers. He called on them to the surprise of our relations waiting to vote. Initially the policemen tried to be funny, but I held my ground. The presiding officer, my former primary school teacher, tried to persuade me to no avail. One of the observers, a Ghanaian, asked why I insisted that the boy would not vote. I gave him the voter’s card showing the age to be 45. I asked him to look at the boy and affirm if he was 45 years old. The observer said only a medical doctor could determine the age of a person and not by mere look. I told him that I agreed.
Then I asked what happened to commonsense and logic. He asked me what I meant. I explained thus: “We are all family members here. I am just about 26 years old, sir. I am three years older than this boy’s elder brother. In fact, his elder brother calls me buoda. So, sir, if I am 26 years old, how come he is 45 years?” End of story! The observers exchanged glances and left our voting unit. The young boy had to go back home to look for his own card. In Kano, where the kid voted, and I daresay, in many parts of the Bullamakanka north, commonsense and logic are possibly in short supplies. That was why a commissioner of police could give such a jejune explanation.
I don’t know exactly what my feelings are now. I am neither happy nor sad. I don’t even know if I should shout: Eureka or ask, ‘what is happening’? The last Saturday general elections for the presidency and the national assembly seats have left me in a state I cannot describe. The only thing I am sure of right now is that it would not matter to me who becomes the president, or who wins the presidential election, afterwards. Yeah, any of the trio of Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC and Peter Obi of the LP can as well be declared winner. I do not care a hoot now! A mini revolution has already taken place. The message has been sent; loud and clear. Never again will any leader take the people for granted. Nigerians, by the results of the elections released so far, have demonstrated that they can hold their destiny in their hands. They have the capacity to do that. They did exactly that on Saturday, to a greater extent.
If I had my way, I would have loved to travel to our old cocoa plantation at Ugboroko. I would have loved to roast cocoyam at the normal fireplace, with a bowl of ikete (the dregs of palm oil) and pepper waiting beside me to do justice to the ancient delicacy. I would have loved to savour the joy of the victory of the people listening to the chirrups of the birds and the flapping of the leaves of the cocoa trees. The best way to enjoy my present state of mind is with nature.
By the time you, dear readers will be reading this, there is the likelihood that the result would not have been announced by the INEC. Yet, that is one of the lows of the election. A very disappointing low from an umpire, which introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, and demonstrated its infallibility in Ekiti and Osun States. One would have thought that Nigeria was out of the woods with the innovation. Alas, Nigeria happened to BVAS on Saturday, and we are almost back to ground zero.
Against its assurances, INEC failed to upload the results immediately at the polling stations. That in itself is a huge minus. That notwithstanding, the positive sides of the technology, especially on the accreditation of voters, should make up for whatever faults we noticed. We can only call for improvements here and there.
A lot happened on Saturday that should get us thinking ahead of future elections. One is the fact that it is not yet uhuru when it comes to violence, thuggery and other shenanigans that have bedevilled our electoral system since independence. The lesson here is that for future elections, vigilance should be the watchword for the people. My ‘Man of the Year’, for the election, if you ask me, would be the injured woman, who came back, dripping with blood, to vote for the candidate of her choice. That to me is an uncommon resilience and the new Nigerian spirit!
The shame, an eternal one for that matter, is on those dregs of humanity who attacked her. When the history of this election is written, the name of the injured female voter would be written in gold. May her healing process be swift. It would not matter whether her candidate won or lost. She has shown that no force of darkness can stop a people’s resolve to do that which is right. This indeed, is a positive movement.
The number of the so-called political ‘juggernauts’ that have lost their re-elections, elections or their polling areas to the opposition is another lesson for our leaders. A lot of demystifications took place. Ancient political landmarks were shifted or completely removed. Lagos popular Fuji maestro, Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, also known as KWAM1, sang about “iji to ja to gbe Oba Aganyin” (the whirlwind that carts away Agayin king) in the 90s; that same whirlwind occurred again on Saturday. The major upset suffered by those who have lorded it over us in the election gives one hope of a better Nigeria. The credit in this regard must be given to the youths of the nation, who with their ‘structureless’ movement, demonstrated that they can only be labelled as “lazy youths” to the detriment of their traducers. Months ago, in a discussion with a group of friends, I submitted that while Obi, the LP candidate might not win the election, his movement would be the impetus needed to reawaken the consciousness of Nigerians.
The aftermath of the #EndSARS protests across the country and the invigoration of the Obi candidacy were at play on Saturday. If the youths can continue with that level of mobilisation and get as many of them as possible to register as voters, they have all it takes to give the nation a president that is below 50 years of age in the foreseeable future.
To achieve what I just pointed out above, attention must be paid to the kid voters of the north. On a personal note, I don’t think anybody would want to blame the cradles that were drafted to the polling units to vote in Kano State, and probably, many of the states of the north. Truth be told, the backwardness of the north has been the bane of our development as a nation for many years. That no notable northern leader has come out to condemn such perfidy speaks volume of the quality of leadership across the Niger. It is not just a big shame to the political elites in that zone that children with mucus dripping from their noses were allowed access to ballot papers, it is most unfortunate, if not disastrous, that a zone which has Ango Abdulahi, and Hakeem Baba-Ahmed speaking for it could descend to that level of perfidy!
Now, when Ango Abdulahi talks about the ‘higher population’ of the north, the community of the sane nations can now see what the former university vice chancellor means. The north is a zone where anything goes and that is why it is possible to have children in their diapers queuing to cast their votes while members of the ‘Consultative Forum’ did nothing.
But like my people will say: he who goes up the ceiling to steal a keg of palm oil is not the real thief but he who assists him in bringing it down (Agbepo laja kii se ole bi ko se eni to ranlowo lati gbe sile). The real culprit of that kid-voting episode is the Commissioner of Police who justified the act. Without batting an eyelid, the man, who is empowered by the law to arrest such a situation, told a bewildered world that the age of the child could not be determined by his stature and apparent child-look. And he got away with it as his lethargic Inspector General of Police could do nothing and would do nothing. Cases like the kid-voter of Kano have been commonplace in that region. The north treats the rest of the country with impunity. During the national census, they activate the ba shiga (no entry) clause to prevent census enumerators from gaining access to their compounds to count the women. The head of the home comes out with any figure that catches his fancy and the nation ends up with bogus population figures.
To a greater extent, the movement to give the power back to the people may have begun. The journey that would give Nigeria back its elevated position in the comity of nations could have begun, indirectly. The flood of the will of the people on Saturday swept off the big Araba tree and uprooted vast Irokos. There should be no looking back. Nigerians can get back their country without violence. The beauty of last Saturday is that whoever emerges at the end of the day will have it at the back of his mind that after four years, the people will hand him his appraisal form.
The era of impunity, arrogance and totalitarianism is perhaps gone. Never again will the locusts make a waste of our vegetation. May the Invincible Architect of the universe grant us the grace to push this to the very end. May ile ogere, alapo ika (the big-bowelled earth) swallow whoever rises against our resolve to midwife the birth of a New Nigeria.