27 Jan 2015

Elections As Moments Of Mutually Assured Deceit - by Jide Jegede

It is easy to know when elections are coming in Nigeria. All manner of odd debates and funny posturing are always there to announce to you. If it is not about religion, the debate is centred on ethnic colourations or some other pedestrian sentiments that easily penetrate the minds of the gullible (a large chunk of the Nigerian electorate is perceived to belong here).

Most often, you get much more confused listening to Nigerian politicians when they try to sell themselves, their candidates and parties to you. One needs to look less at what they are trying to show because “the more you look, the less you see”. Behind every campaign, the political class has a hidden agenda. But they want your attention fixated on the message designed to coat the real agenda. To get the real gist, the wise has to look beyond the surface and learn to ask probing questions.

Most politicians the world over are economic with the truth and inherently deceitful, but the Nigerian breeds are steps ahead of other members of that clan. They are simply callous!

That callousness is what they often hide from us when they come with their Greek gifts during election periods. I have wondered what was so special about last Christmas and the recently celebrated New Year that we had so much of felicitations from our emergency friends (I mean the Nigerian politicians). The last time I witnessed that kind of barrage of Season’s Greetings was some four years ago. And, like the latest, it was a mere victim of ritual of deceit that has become a permanent feature of Nigeria’s periodic general election.

For me, Nigeria’s electioneering periods only depict moments of Mutually Assured Deceit between the politicians and the Nigerian electorate. The signs are everywhere across the country these days. You get all manner of promises and reference to achievements that only exist in the imagination of the campaigners. And the audience completes the frail by pretending not to know that what are flaunted as impressive scorecards and messages of hope are stark evidence of disappointment and subtle warning to brace themselves for more days of dashed hopes.

When a sitting lawmaker comes to seek re-election, and all he has to show as evidence of “judicious” use of the mandate he currently holds are numbers of borehole he sunk; the amount of money he spent in purchasing WASSCE forms for candidates; number of youths he bought motorcycles for; and the number of burial or marriage ceremonies he attended to spray money, without any mention of his activities as an elected legislator, we don’t need any other reason(s) to sack him with our votes. That (his basis for seeking re-election) serves as proof that he does not understand the mandate of his office, and so lacks the requisite capacity to function there. Unfortunately, those were all most of our lawmakers (both in the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly) presented to their parties to secure fresh tickets. Some of them would, sadly, ride on that crest to a fresh term as lawmakers.

As a journalist, I have had the somewhat unfortunate privilege of attending a number of rallies across political interests and parties as they prepare for the February elections. Nothing much has changed compared to the ones held for the successive elections since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democracy. Each time our politicians have the opportunity to address their would-be voters, what we get mostly are bare-faced and embarrassing lies accompanying empty promises. The elected would want to convince (or confuse?) you to see the obvious failure of their tenure as a big plus for them and strong reason to get them back to office, while the fresh candidates come with all sorts of promises of unimaginable sacrifices if given the mandate to “serve”. We have fallen prey listening to our politicians and taking their deceit as gospel truth. Times and again, we fail to read between the lines and give proper assessment to their actions, body language and speeches. And so, we become willing accomplices in their quest to rape our collective patrimony.

One new fad in Nigeria’s socio-political plane is the proliferation of emergency philanthropists. We now have more “foundations” through which “kind-hearted” Nigerians offer to attend to some of our many self-inflicted social deprivations. But we only get to know the real motive when the sponsors present themselves for elective positions shortly after their (foundations’) inauguration. Most of the initiatives creep slowly, but steadily into the public awareness with the mission to “bring smile” to the faces of the people within specific communities. They truly make some intervention. But the supposed showers of humanity are extended to shore up the sponsors’ credentials for electoral campaign. They dry up as soon as they (the sponsors) fail to secure tickets to seek elective positions, or shortly after losing elections if they ever got the ticket to fly the flag of their preferred political parties.

The next elections are going to be the fifth since we began the current democratic experiment some 16 years back. So, Nigerians must realise that we have been beaten more than enough number of times. There is the need to demonstrate some level of wisdom as we exercise our franchise this time round. We must look beyond the surface in deciding who gets our votes in this round of elections.

Despite plunging the nation into a perpetual state of mess through their many irresponsible acts, Nigerian politicians have always made “good” use of the electioneering periods to prepare the ground to further deny the nation and its people the well-deserved better days. This is made possible by their packaged lies which are dished out at campaign grounds and through other means to sway unsuspecting members of the public to their side. They have their way most of the time because many Nigerians easily fall for sentiment than looking at issues with open minds.

February 2015 provides us with another opportunity to decide our future. Politicians are already coming with their bogey tales as they seek our audience through their different means of campaign. Thankfully, democracy avails us the right of choice. That right, however, comes with the responsibility to think through all the messages that struggle for our attention at this moment. Nigeria can only be great if, as individuals, we decide to reject the temptation to be part of the Mutually Assured Deceit that has tormented us as a nation for this long. We can only do by asking the right questions when politicians come to us with their lies. We must also give meaning to our asking the right questions by acting responsibly through our votes based on the outcome of our probing.

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