By Kayode Ketefe
The term “hollow ritual” is often employed pejoratively and even derisively to describe any process executed perfunctorily, just for the sake of it, without any expectation of or realisation of tangible beneficial results.
In the context of democratic election, the entire electoral process may attract the unflattering terms of “hollow ritual” if it does not end up producing the authentic representatives of the people, selected electorally in a free and fair election.
The fact that many elections in Nigeria fit into the category of mere empty formality devoid of meaningful result is well underscored by the growing apathy among the electorate, many of whom believe that a segment of the political class has hijacked the electoral machinery for its selfish ends.
Out of all elections we have had since the period of internal self-government in Nigeria, only one, the famous June 12 election, was adjudged, authentic, free and fair, all others were rightly or wrongly, adjudged marred with electoral atrocities of varying scale.
The magnitude of the electoral “victories” overturned through judicial interventions is itself damning evidence that we are highly engrossed in the habit of desecrating the sanctity of the ballot box; and turning the hallowed process of elective representation into a tragic charade.
Democracy is a universal concept but we Africans are bent on bestowing on it some meanings different from what it entails globally. We can only reap benefits associated with democracy if we play by the rule and observe, at least, the basic principles of democratic tenets.
Several theories may be advanced as grounding our unending problems with enthroning genuine democratic governance. One of it may be the fact that in the Africa’s traditional political administration, sociological demarcations along the line of ideological leanings were virtually unknown.
The king or Oba, Obi, Eze, or Emir was seen as the earthly representative of God, who had to be obeyed in all circumstances except when he turned a tyrannical autocrat, in which case he might be deposed through putative divine ordinance executed by the institutions like the Oyomesi and the Ogboni.
Thus a typical African leader sees himself as a special being commissioned by the divinities and will muster all his resources and energies to perpetuate himself in power. The democratic process is seen as imported political cosmetic to adorn and disguise the naked hunger for power.
Thus our traditional political administration operated like a zero-party one-party system with all the elements unified (ideally) in a unilinear pursuit of collective objectives and aspirations of the society.
This is a philosophy that explains the mentality of the likes of tyrants we have had in Africa like Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central Africa Republic, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’ivoire and General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, all of whom believe that their respective state belonged to them and they could do as they wish with it.
Mugabe, Gbagbo and Abacha in particular believed a mere popular election should not stand in the way of their ambition-they would rather plunge their countries into civil war than bow to the will of the people expressed through an “accursed” medium of the ballot box.
Space will not permit constructions of other theories to explain the poor grasping of ideal democratic culture by our leaders; suffice it to say that it is certain our disposition towards the concept needs some re-orientation.
As for the February general elections, it is unflattering that we have already started in a shaky way. It is no longer news that a lot of Nigerians have been systematically disenfranchised by non-issuance of the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC).
There were cases of those who had not got the opportunity to register still lingering and worse still, those who duly registered and were told their PVCs were not found or unavailable.
Going by the number of the PVC holders at the moment and the estimated electorate, all could not be said to be well with the forthcoming February general elections but this can still be addressed before the election.
Besides this, there have been pockets of violence here and there constituting alarming prognostication for the future. But I want to believe INEC and the security operatives will rise to the challenges and give us credible elections in an environment devoid of fear and intimidation.
If INEC in particular fails in this objective, illimitable vilification will surely follow, so Atahiru and his cohorts must not fail to successfully midwife the electoral process into delivery of a healthy baby in the form of installation of genuine representatives of the people in offices.
All of us, the media, the civil society groups and the international observers must also be at alert to monitor this process with eagle’s eyes. The electorate, for their part, must shake off the dust of apathy and troop out to vote. The present elections must produce the wanted result; they must not be a hollow ritual.
Ketefe may be followed on twitter@Ketesco
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