An Electoral Democracy On Trial

It is indeed a national tragedy of monumental proportions that the elections that were long scheduled for last Saturday, the 16th of February 2019, were shockingly postponed at about 2:30am same day, less than 5 hours before the kicked off.

For the records, this is not the first time Nigeria is suffering from such embarrassing postponement of scheduled elections; in 2011, the election was unexpectedly postponed well after voters had queued up and were being duly accredited and, again in 2015, the election suffered a six-week postponement that was conjured at a Chatham House talk-shop in faraway England.

So, this recent one is yet another unmistakable signpost to our abundant monuments of national absurdities.

Having once had a duly completed election unlawfully “annulled”, what electoral misfeasance is really not possible in Nigeria, if one may ask? This latest postponement only shows how far we have further deteriorated institutionally if, after all those earlier debilitating shortcomings, we still managed in 2019 to repeat similar dislocations in the manner of the proverbial Bourbons who leant nothing and forgot nothing.

Just because elections were scheduled for last Saturday, consistent with our usual affection for official stampeding and needless euphoria, the nation was completely shut down: No vehicular movements, no business activities, no partying, no burial, no wedding, etc. Only elections!

It is doubly sad that after such extreme hype and orchestrated pandemonium exacerbated largely by our legendary incompetence and indiscipline, the nation would be rudely woken up at the dead of the night only to be told that elections have been “postponed” coupled with the frightening prospects of another nation-wide shutdown in a few days. How do we account for the unquantifiable costs of these avoidable tragedies?

Watching the INEC Chairman laboriously splitting hairs on TV over whether what he owes a gravely disappointed nation was an unreserved “apology” or a mere “regret”, all I could see was a man completely drained of dignity and self-worth by a job that was programmed to fail through the machination of several built-in factors that are well beyond his grasp.

When, last week, we made the oracular submission here in the piece entitled “What is the Worth of Democracy in Nigeria?”, some of our esteemed readers queried that we were somehow sarcastically undermining the electoral process.

I could only respond to a few of the queries before INEC itself abundantly made my case, i.e., that democracy and elections are fast losing their appeals and the unfortunate trend is loudly demonstrated by the steady decline in voters’ participation and waning citizens’ enthusiasm – overwhelming apathy everywhere.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ prescribes that: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures” now appear to be an outdated worldview, an otiose doctrine.

Needless to say that the February 23rd rescheduled date will definitely record significantly low voters turn-out as a result of the very expensive postponement. Elsewhere, people are already talking about an imminent “post-election” world order where national leadership selection would eventually be by means other than ritualistic elections.

Already, real-time online mass intervention in politics has, more or less, returned the world to the ancient Athenian village square where everybody could participate in decision-making thus making formal electioneering almost irrelevant just as Internet communications have made the once indispensable Post Office almost irrelevant.

 

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