NIGERIA’S DOLLAR DEMOCRACY – AN EVOLUTION OR A PERMANENT CURSE

June 26, 2022by Tope Fasua0

Party primaries have come and gone, with the famed distribution of dollars to delegates. The PDP primaries were particularly loud in that respect as people were regaled with the dollar war between Messrs Atiku and Wike. Atiku prevailed. Some of the other contestants were said to have also spent within their powers, evoking the imagery of dollar rain on lucky delegates. The APC primaries were more subtle in this regard, perhaps because it was postponed several times, and there was a massacre punctuating it in Owo, Ondo State. Still, we hear that some delegates spent several tens of thousands of dollars per delegate. In all of these, there is no hard evidence of dollars being spent. However, we have seen several failed contestants at different levels – e.g Namadi Sambo’s son – openly collecting their monies back from delegates who had deceived them. Apart from these, it looks like social media warriors have readily deployed the dollarization of delegates freely against contestants that they don’t fancy. Ordinarily, there is no way of knowing accurately how much a particular person was given in such secret arrangements.

As usual, Nigerians have taken the news of dollarization of the electoral process as another reason to give up and call for the dismemberment of the country. Everything now forms a basis for the dismemberment. But there are some psychologies at play. Exposure to cheap media publicity via social media has done some things to us; it has made us certainly more impatient, exposed our frequent preference of untruth, and the fact that many of us chase clout at the cost of Nigeria’s unity or even the veracity of what we put out. Everybody has seen the possibility of how others have ‘blown’ by being the first to post the news in an age where everybody has become cable news network. There is also the egotism behind this; we live in a world where 10 years old who are yet to figure anything out in life, have 10 million followers. Teenagers who don’t know where they are going now have millions of followers. It’s incredible. And it is difficult for folks not to allow pride and ego rule their hearts with that exposure. I mean, how can you have 10 million followers when even you don’t know where you are heading?

Before young Nigerians blow up their nation because of several of our issues, I invite them to study history. Even many educated and old folks know nothing about history. I wonder sometimes what that is like. They say ignorance is bliss. But ignorance is Hell in our climes. There is a dire need for us to know a lot more about history, and the incoming government could help out. They say a people’s history not only tells them where they are coming, but why they are where they are, plus where they are supposed to be heading to – they and their predecessors. Whereas we shouldn’t be tolerant of many of our shortcomings – like the dollar-for-vote issue – we also should mind that we don’t achieve pyrrhic victories by our reactions to what perhaps every other societies have patched through in the past and learnt from it. We should also be very careful of how we put our nation, ourselves and our unborn children down in the comity of nations. That is very key. We needn’t be arrogant at all. We should learn how to stoop to conquer, but we should achieve silently like other wise nations have.

Politics is a game of sheer numbers. It is also about pragmatism. You don’t have to have created the problems in society but you engage with society the way you met it. And if you are truly out to make a change, you must remember that you are trying to change society from how you met it, into the vision that you have for society. So, indeed you cannot relate with the society as if you are looking down on the people. You cannot have a different idea of how your constituency is, that is so much at variance with what is on ground else you will be regarded as an outsider. As much as we term our politics to be dirty, it is a truism that a politician may not be able to rig an election except he is popular. The people on ground are very instrumental in covering up rigging and other malfeasance. It is also a truism that a truly hungry person may not be able to listen to any other thing except the hunger is first taken care of. On many occasions too, our people exaggerate their hunger. There is social capital as we dig deep down into the inner recesses of our communities, meaning that people share what they have. Our lack of investment in education over the years, and the total ignorance by leaders of how fast the rest of the world is developing, has led to a situation where most of our people are not very productive in the new economy. We could have engaged this people in the grassroots economy but greed and myopia on the part of our leaders have also prevented that. At the end, you have millions of poor people at the grassroots.

As said above, there are many who are poor in spirit and mind. There are those who are hungry in their spirit. There are those who take all the wrong decisions with money. A politician who wants to help them will inherit these problems. However, you have to secure and hold their attention in order to do the needful after you may have been elected. This is why generosity is important in politics. You cannot campaign to truly hungry people. I know this from my attempt in politics. On many occasions, a politician has to go bearing gifts – clothes, caps, raw food, and even cash. That way, the people categorize you as a ‘nice oppressor’. A lot has been broken in our society. No amount of fine oratory can change the scenario. Our challenge is to then sit on governments and the politicians who run them, to remind them of their promises, and ensure that they indeed inch forward the development of our society and people, so that we begin to see a gradual decline of this money-driven politics. I doubt that we have option.

Can our politics mature faster than our economy? That will be nigh impossible. Our politics will always reflect the state of our economy. That said, all I am saying is we should stop running down our nation. And we should develop a sense of history, not to remain in the past, but to situate our nation in its trajectory, and hasten to catch up with those who are ahead of us. That is what thinking nations do. They don’t tear themselves apart, and destroy the little they have built. They guide themselves and their anger, towards a more glorious future. Many of our youths today are reactionary, waiting for the next opportunity to go out and vent their anger – often leading to another round of burning and looting like we saw during EndSARS. They don’t know that funds meant for their betterment will be used to rebuild the assets they burn, and corrupt politicians will still loot even more. They also ignore the fact that with the twist in our polity, most of them will be worse than those they condemn if in office.

To close, let me share this snippet I found in an article titled HOW WHITE MEN RIG ELECTIONS. It is basically some historical perspective of electoral frauds that have happened in the past – in America from where party politics flowed down here:

As Republican Sen. Timothy Howe of Wisconsin put it in 1875, “They could cheat Republicans in three ways: First, by receiving Democratic votes from illegal voters; second, by refusing Republican votes from legal voters; third, by allowing turbulence and tumult to deter Republicans from offering their votes”. Part of the tactics is to stuff ballots (and) there are many ways to use violence to intimidate voters. There was the physical blocking of polling places by armed groups, as happened in several precincts in a contested South Carolina election in 1880. There was beating of black voters in the weeks before the election in an attempt to scare them out of trying to vote, as was ubiquitous (for example) in Louisiana. There were assassinations of local Republican politicians — black and white alike — as happened in Alabama in 1875. Often, the violence was conducted by organized clubs like the Knights of the White Camellia — designed not to engage in wanton racial terrorism, like the Ku Klux Klan, but specifically to suppress the Republican vote. Sometimes intimidation worked. When up to 200 black Louisianans were killed in the “Opelousas massacre” of September 1868 (at the end of a chain of events that started with the beating of a white teacher for registering black voters), Ulysses S. Grant’s reelection campaign pulled out of Louisiana and Georgia entirely. Sometimes it didn’t, and the results were bloody. When black Americans mobilized to vote en masse in Eufaula, Alabama, in 1874, white terrorists shot into the unarmed crowd, killing seven people and wounding dozens. Even winning an election didn’t guarantee safety from violence. Local elections in Louisiana in 1872 were so contested and fraud-riddled that black residents of Colfax had to station themselves outside the courthouse to protect the Republican county judge and sheriff from being forcibly unseated by their Democratic opponents. Eventually, a white insurgent group of 300 took the whole courthouse by force, and 100 black citizens were killed. The Eufaula massacre of 1874 was followed by the murder by a white mob of the son of a local judge — who was a “scalawag,” a Southerner who took part in the Reconstruction government. The judge fled the state. (The mob also burned a ballot box.) In Mississippi in that same year, white militants drove a county sheriff out of the state in advance of the election, then murdered, among others, a black state legislator.)

Again, my point here is not to justify electoral fraud, rigging and violence, but to enlighten us with snippets from history and rebuff anyone trying to say we are subhuman. We only need to catch up with best practices. We can see that the Democrat Party (which was an enclave of racists and extremists), were accused in the article of being at the forefront of these bad practices. Is rigging and electoral violence part of the democratic journey? Remember that that system of government is often fatally flawed. Are we allowed to find an anchor in history to explain where we are without justifying it, but to understand where we must now get to and to evolve more rapidly? Or are we condemned never to look back but be led like sheep to slaughter, without an opinion? Is it not said that a people must understand history, in order to know why they are where they are and where they must now be heading? Many questions. The ball is in our court.

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