Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nigeria Polls: a democratic illusion

My StumbleUpon Page

It was a bright and lovely day, a bit humid but quite
the usual Nigerian weather. All my friends and well-wishers came to escort me
to the polling station to cast my vote and them theirs. As I made to get into
the car, my daughter came running out of the house to throw herself at me with
a warm hug as she whispered in my ears “Here’s another hug for you Pops… and an
extra peck to seal your victory”. All I could do was just hold her in that
embrace and tell her how so very much I loved her. She is my greatest fan and she
never stopped telling me so. I turned to take a backward glance at her and wave
as we drove out of my country home to the polling station. It was quite a long
convoy and as we crawled along I stopped to chat and wave at my home folks,
most of who were on their way to the polling station too. I decided to get out
of my jeep and join them in the somewhat long trek to the polling station. As
we walked, the train grew longer. Folks were flowing out of their homes to say
hello in that traditional Ibo manner; with a hug and firm handshake and their
prayers and blessings. I was so overwhelmed.

It took us about twenty to thirty minutes to get to
the polling station and the heat was sweltering. Half my village was already
there with my banners and I think the other quarter right behind me. There was
the most colorful array of women folks on display, jigging to traditional Obiligbo
music. Their ambiance was overpowering, mothers and damsels immaculately turned
out. It was the youths, those able bodied young men that came to lift me
shoulder high upon some makeshift podium, from where I addressed and thanked
them for coming. I also informed them that we may have to wait a little longer
for ballot papers to arrive and that I was ready to wait for as long as it took
for them to get here. I explained to them as best I could the reasons for the
delay and how new ballot papers had to get printed because INEC had unlawfully excluded
people from the elections. That done, I left the podium for an interactive
session with them. It had just gone past the hour of ten in the fore noon. After my “meet the people session” the dancing
and singing continued.

It was just coming on 3pm when the first INEC team
arrived to set up chairs and tables. At 3:35pm still no ballot papers. At 4pm
the incumbent senator went to fetch the press and by 4:40pm he was back at the
polling station admonishing INEC and the ruling party in front of the cameras. He
left at 5:00pm saying it was too dangerous for him to hang around as anything
could happen. I watched him leave. At 5:33pm I mounted the improvised podium to
ask my people what they felt I should do. I also told them that INEC officials
had confided in me that they didn’t think election materials were going to be
made available to my ward. When I said this the crowd very nearly went berserk.
I told them to calm down and that I anticipated this all along and as if on cue,
I got the phone call I was waiting for. The press corps was less than a kilometer
away and as I learnt this news I informed my folks of the development and advised
them to feel free to vent their frustrations for the world to see on camera but

The very first thing I learnt when the press corps
arrived was that Mr. Peter Obi, the incumbent governor of the state, did not
vote because INEC officials did not show up at his ward. It was the same story
for him last week Saturday during the gubernatorial elections. I was also told
that Senator Ben Obi, who is the vice presidential running mate to Atiku Abubakar,
did not get to vote also because voting materials were not supplied to his ward.
I simply could not resist the grin. In a very weird sense, everything was working
out according to plan. President Obasanjo and his favorite Labrador,
Andy Uba, had shot themselves in the foot. When my people saw me grin, the
murmur started until some fellow screamed on the top of his voice in my native
dialect “Fa makwa no Ochiagha ka fa na kpasu?!” It was my traditional title of
grand commander of the warriors that he referred to. And his question was “Do
they know that it is the Grand Commander of the Warriors that they are messing
with?” I don’t think I was feeling messed with, no, just spoiling for a really
good fight.

Then it happened. As I saw my lawyers off and handed
over the signed INEC documents to them, I walked towards my makeshift podium to
brief and thank my folks once again then bid them goodbye. I was being helped
onto the podium when gunshots rang out, I saw one man a few feet away from me
drop. Then a loud explosion was heard and more gunshots. My driver sped to the
podium and next thing I knew I was thrown into the back of my jeep by a bunch
of youths and driven away. I was at home, sitting with my political team and
kid when my driver asked to see me. He told me the jeep had been shot up, we
went out to examine it and sure enough it was riddled with bullet holes. I was
livid, everybody was. That was the first time in my life I heard my daughter
curse and that was when I felt messed with. We are not second-guessing who the
culprit is, we know and I would like him to know that we do.

We are waiting on INEC to cough out the dictates that
our extremely corrupt ruling party, the PDP, would have commanded it to release
to the public in justification of its conduct. My team of lawyers, amongst who
are some of my very good friends and the best brains in the profession, has
departed for Lagos
to perfect my brief. INEC officials, with a little conviction from my home
folks, have issued signed statements to the fact that no elections were
conducted in my ward as no voting materials were delivered to it. I intend to
see them off to a place where it hurts most.

No comments: