Thursday, 26 June 2014

Counting pointless votes

I was going to get all worked up about Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. As I write – 9 p.m. on the day – it seems that Fayose might have succeeded in unseating Fayemi, who had to wait three years for his earlier victory to be validated by the courts after the mayhem visited on the state by a PDP desperate to retain its ascendancy in the famous ‘do or die’ 2007 elections. Like everyone else, I read about how the V-P declared Ekiti a ‘war zone’ in the ruling party’s determination to regain its ‘stolen mandate’. Perhaps he was impugning the majesty of the law he had sworn to uphold, or perhaps, more likely, he just wasn’t thinking, which would be par for the course. That said, preliminary reports from the 28 local and international observers consider the exercise fair enough, at least by our ‘Third World’ standards.
And so it was, indeed, that Fayose won - and convincingly so. The troubling aspect about the exercise, and the one which has been much remarked upon, was the role of the military. Ekiti was swamped by soldiers who might have been better employed in Borno, where #BringBackOurGirls are still languishing more than two months after they were abducted from their school by our wayward Islamic brothers. Perhaps their salvation will come next February, when the general elections are scheduled to hold. On the other hand, there are already fears that no elections will take place, either there or in the other states still labouring under emergency rule.
The question is: Does any of it matter? Does it matter whether APC lost out to PDP, or even whether elections do or do not take place in certain designated states come next year? The fact of the matter is that the country has fallen apart – apologies to Achebe – and it seems pointless agonising over the nomenclature of its architects, even when they consider themselves ‘progressives’, the heirs to Awolowo’s legacy (but which, bizzarely, a now ‘older and wiser’  Fayose is claiming: ‘I want to be the Awolowo here...’). We needn’t labour the point. Consider one of their ‘stalwarts’, Chief Tom Ikini, the former foreign minister in the bad old days of Abacha who chased our only Nobel laureate into an ignominious exile, and who was himself outraged by Saturday’s election. ‘What happened in Ekiti was a violation of the constitution and those who are responsible should be exposed and, where necessary, punished’, our wordsmith opined, as who should know? Plus ca change, as Aristotle said.
It was Ikimi’s emergence as a significant force in the new mega-opposition that should have alerted us to the true nature of the party that parades itself as the radical alternative to the present incumbents. In a normal country he would be wandering about in sack cloth and ashes imploring the forgiveness of those he sinned against, but then a normal country would hardly have produced the likes of the master he served so diligently. Hear him:
My first achievement in that Government was to initiate the creation of the highly successful Petroleum Trust Fund [which] General Muhamadu Buhari headed...successfully... Those who are still deaf and have not heard the true situation regarding my tenure as Foreign Minister as it does not in any way relate to the unfortunate occurrences regarding Ken Saro-Wiwa are advised to watch my 70th birthday documentary still being run on the AIT television. I am prepared to donate free copies.
The idea that anyone would want to watch, much less acquire (even for free), the self-glorification of a man who dragged this country’s name through the mud and then turned around to distance himself from that ghastly episode could only occur to the architect himself. Well, we are used to such obscene levels of hubris among those who lord it over us. We see the same with Ikimi’s brother-in-arms, the man he once helped into the defunct PTF and who now revels in the adulation of the great unwashed he did not help out of poverty when he was passing his with-immediate-effect decrees. But these are easy targets and Tinubu’s newspaper has lately gone to town over Ikimi’s sins now that he and the ‘lion of Bourdillon’ have fallen out, as was perhaps inevitable. But this doesn’t mean that Ikimi’s assessment of the immediate past Lagos State governor is wrong: ‘I am informed that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is not comfortable with my independent-mindedness and he holds the view that I cannot be controlled. He prefers someone that he believes will do his bidding...’
In other words, there is no difference between the two contending parties. As regards Ekiti specifically, it is true that Fayose is not the kind of man anyone would want to represent them (he still has case pending over N1.2bn gone walk-about in his first incarnation as governor), and by all accounts Fayemi is a gentleman (as he demonstrated in the aftermath of his defeat), but that is not what concerns us here. In any case, the people voted and we are bound to respect their wishes. The point is not this or that party or person but the system itself which tends to nepotism and corruption by the nature of the case. It cannot be helped. And this is so because the end is not service but plunder, however otherwise well-meaning the candidate, who would never have gotten there in the first place anyway.
So what would make it better? Alas, one has to keep coming back to this: true federalism. The fact is that too few Nigerians believe in Nigeria, which is why they can steal public funds with impunity and their fellow citizens cheer them on, praying only for their own chance to do the same. It is no accident that those currently arguing at the national conference for more of the same also happen to come from those parts which have the most need to steal.
©Adewale Maja-Pearce
A slightly different version of this piece first appeared in Hallmark newspaper, June 24.

Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,

and Dream Chasers. The House My Father Built, a memoir, will be
published later this year.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:

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