Eko For Show, By Kassim Afegbua

I had to sum up some mental courage to  put this into perspective because going by what I read every day about democracy in Nigeria and the principal actors that  have since occupied the driver’s seat, I am almost tempted to declare that democracy is doomed for now. The level of  imposition, impunity, domination, harassment, abuse of  procedure, processes and the absence of internal democracy  has continued to rob Nigerians the opportunity of having a  credible process in the course of recruiting leaders into  various offices. When it is convenient for the so-called  pro-democracy activists to speak elegantly about their democratic credentials, they tell you without mincing words  that the democracy we are enjoying today is a product of  their sweat. They brandish NADECO certificates as the rite  of passage and their demonstrations as their moral badge of  courage under a military system that prohibited assembly of  any sorts.

They insisted that democracy is a  better system that guarantees mass participation in an  inclusive manner in the process of recruiting leaders and  not those who became leaders through the barrels of the gun.  They mounted the rostrum majestically and reeled out  eloquent speeches with good oratory to impress it on the  hapless masses that they were saints and angels from another planet and that military leaders were satanic by their  imposition. They would write very interesting papers laced  with interesting stories of how the battle was brawled and  won. The rate at which you hear the word “comrade” on  the lips of some ragtag self-acclaimed ideologues professing  to be human rights activists, one is tempted to think that  such individuals represent the quintessential attributes and  principles of democracy. We were all wrong, but Fela was  right: it is actually a demonstration of craze. Nothing can
be farther from the truth.

With the invidious politics witnessed  in Lagos in the last couple of weeks and months, from the  conscienceless primaries to the amendment of the electoral  law within three days, to the actual conduct of the  election, democracy suffers serious deprivations. Lagos  state prides itself as the Centre of Excellence; a slogan it  carries about with magisterial candour. We indeed saw the  excellence when it rained cats and dogs some weeks ago with  rivers of destruction. The Lagos rains exposed the flip side  of a state with an unbroken political succession plan and a  governance process that has been widely applauded as  functional. We saw the excellence again when we watched  visuals and footages of the Apapa traffic lockdown and the  burning of two Banks’ buildings in a wave of provocation.

The Lagos rains also exposed the dirty habits of Lagosians;  throwing non-degradable objects in drainages and sewer lines  in the name of refuse disposal. The pictorial explanation of Surulere floating garbage underscores the dirty habits of  Lagosians.

Lagos has since become the epitome of  the good, the bad and the ugly. The democratic process that  seems to be giving a fairly tolerable colouration to the  goodness of Lagos has suddenly been poisoned. As the rains  were washing away the rotten underbelly of a City in a state  of environmental puzzlement, it unveiled the rottenness of  its political and electoral apocalypse. From a grossly  ridiculous primary process where the people displayed their  penchant for political hooliganism, to unabashed display of  violence with rivers of blood flowing from different  injuries, Lagos is wearing a garb of double standards. If  the Nigeria Labour Congress indecent election was a mockery  of democracy, that of Lagos has made mincemeat of anything democratic principles. It was a deliberate demolition of all  democratic principles by those who control the levers of  power and its crazy aphrodisiac. And in the fullness of this political malady, there are reasons given by those who wield influence to rationalize why the process went berserk.

Joe Igbokwe, the Publicity Secretary of  APC Lagos state chapter reportedly had this to say when  confronted with questions about the shoddiness of the  exercise; “Forget about the APC constitution, we have our  own ways of doing things in Lagos that has been working for  us since 1999. We cannot allow people to just come from  nowhere to use money to hijack our tickets. We reward  members who stood by us through thick and thin”.  Igbokwe’s statement further casts a slur on the provisions  of Article 20 of the APC constitution which makes it  mandatory for primary election for aspirants seeking  elective offices. According to him, the APC constitution  bears no allegiance anymore. It is just a tissue of paper
that should not be taken seriously because the voice of man  is stronger than a set of articles bound together as  constitution. These scenarios seem to me like tales from  moonlight, but further statements credited to some political  bigwigs have exacerbated Igbokwe’s sinful rhetoric and  mournful ballad.

Beyond the weather condition, the low turnout of voters is suggestive of the mood and gloom of the  people. This is not a time to express voters’ apathy but  given the circumstances of the primaries, no one could  expect anything different. There were little or no campaigns  across the geographic spread of Lagos state, partly because  the candidates for the election were not known or voters  were not sure who they were to vote for. The usual fanfare  and vapid sloganeering that often spice up election  campaigns were lacking. Rising from the ashes of a flooded  City with tales of loss and destruction, the mood in Lagos  was further compounded by the imposition of candidates on  the polity. The visuals we saw on Television conveyed the  notion that Lagosians were on holiday and they cared less  about voting or the entire process of election.  If what the military did during their  grip on the political rostrum was satanic, what we saw in  Lagos during the primary elections is not just more satanic,  it spoke volume of the political dysfunctionality of a  system that has since become the exclusive preserve of some  demagogues and political buccaneers. In fact, there is no  rationale to castigate the military for foisting jackboot  democratic mentality on us; what we are witnessing under  what ought to be an inclusive game for all, is a far cry  from what democracy is all about. The behavioural conduct of  our feudalistic politicians has simply made the “militaricians” saints and moralists in the power dispensation process. At least, we still talk about credible  June 12 elections. Which election in Nigeria can we truly  adjudge as free, fair and credible since the onset of our  democracy especially when the provisions of the party are not tailored and respected in the first place?

We should be mourning our democracy. We  all need to rise up and defend democratic principles of
credible primaries and elections if we are desirous of  building an egalitarian political culture using our laws as  the leveler for anyone who is seeking leadership position.

Denying the people the right to freely choose those to  represent them at whatever levels does not only amount to  democratic coups against the people but a blatant rape on  democracy. Lagos state is gradually declining in terms of  class and distinction. It can truly re-enact itself by doing  what is expected according to best practices. Even with the  bizarre political emanations from Lagos, you will be shocked  to see their critical actors travelling to Chatham House to deliver lectures on democracy, rule of law and credible  elections, whereas back home, they are confirmed candidates  for political hell fire.

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