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On the wagging of elections

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We do not hold elections any more. We wage elections. It is war. And as in war and love no holds are barred. All is fair in war, in love and in elections. Nothing matters in elections except winning. Losing is not an option. To fight today, leave (live) to fight another day is not available. There will be no other chance. The winner will ensure that he/she will always win.

Winning is what matters. Morality does not count. Truth is not part of it. This is politics. And politics is a dirty game. The elections, which determine the winners, is waged to the terminal point. In that competition, unlike in the ayo game, the winner can gorge himself on all the ayo seeds leaving nothing for other players to survive on. Desperation sets in. The next level is abandonment of the state because of exclusion and marginalisation. Trouble.

Yet Democracy is sweet. All the people cannot meet and discuss the details of their realm and how to garner their wealth and what to value in their lives. So the people choose a few hundreds among them to look after these things. On their behalf. For their common good. Hence elections.

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Elections should be openings to public service and mutual benefaction. Statisticians have shown that elections have increased around the world in the last 20 years. Every old dictator is holding elections. And making sure they win the elections before anybody gets lonely in the polling booth. Instead of being an opening, elections have become barriers. Barriers to possibilities. Barriers to change for the better. Elections are fore-won long before they are waged. The process is called rigging. Elections are rigged before elections. They are rigged during elections. They are rigged after elections. And the observers are only there once only, during the elections.

The most famous example of election rigging long time occurs in Zimbabwe. You need an ID to vote in Zimbabwe. Like everywhere else in the world. To get an ID you need a birth certificate. Under ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe some hospitals began to deny newborn babies birth certificates 18 years before they are eligible to vote! Which observer would observe such a rigging tactic? Rigging 18 years in advance? Please don’t make moi laugh!

In Nigeria, the long term rigging device was the initial division of the country into three regions where the winning region is more than the sum of the two other regions. Henceforth, that region will always win. As it was in the beginning, or rather ass it was in the beginning ass it is and ass it will be, world without. Amen!

Then there is the small matter of card readers programmed to give a 30% advantage to the party that controls INEC. In places like Madagascar it is necessary that candidates apply to contest an election personally. So, a potential candidate, forced into exile by an incumbent hurries to return to apply before the deadline strikes. He books his flight and gets on the plane. The incumbent closes the airport for security reasons. The exile cannot return. He lands in a neighbouring country. He rebooks his flight still with an eye on the deadline. A friendly request to the neighbouring country not to allow the exile to board the flight puts paid to the plans of the exile. He does not make it back to the country before the deadline and his candidate is forfeited. The incumbent wins the war. I mean the election. Where are the observers?

Rigging during the election takes many forms of action. Some employ lies. In some states in the United States of America, Republicans can issue a statement purporting to come from the Democrats telling African American voters not to bother to come and vote tomorrow, thank you. Your candidate, our candidate, has won the election. Just sit at home and watch it on television. How many African Americans are thus disenfranchised?

Some employ violence. The violence is threatened or used to ensure the opponent’s voters do not get anywhere near the voting station. Some employ money. Sums as little as 1000 naira, less than three US dollars, are enough to buy the votes of many voters. Some use under age voters. Videos of such massive use of underage voters exist. Some use smudging tricks to mark already marked ballot papers, thus making the ballot paper and the vote null and void.

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More violence is used to stuff the ballot boxes. Or to seize the ballot boxes for onward stuffing later. And in the last elections, ballot boxes are set on fire. Finish.After election rigging is simple. The rigger must simply ensure that the figure that leaves the polling station is not the one that arrives at the collating station. There is the story of candidate A who comes to vote with his wife at their polling station. He scores 102 votes at the end of the voting. His opponent scores 14. He and his wife dance from the polling station to their house serenaded by drummers and praise singers. They get home pound yam and open beer bottles and soft drink plastic containers and watch the collation on television. The figures that arrive for his polling station are 102 for him and 149 for his opponent! He won at the polling station and lost at the collating station. So the story goes.

Violence is employed to get the returning officer to announce one candidate instead of the other as winner. The returning officer, with a gun pointed to his head, is made to declare, for example, Governor Aro has Okorocha winner of the senatorial seat. The returning officer is asked to announce there and then Okorocha as winner with two or three polling units outstanding. We need to wait for the other results. No matter, just do it. We have won anyway. So the returning office declares the governor the winner. The returning officer is freed. INEC announces soon after that where a returning officer is forced to declare a winner, INEC would not recognise such declarations. And true to their statement Governor Okorocha’s name is left out of senators-elect to be given certificates of winning the election.

How do we restore morality and truth to elections? Simple: punish those who commit election offences. Governor Okorocha will think twice next time forcing a returning officer to make declarations before they are due.
bankole.omotoso@elizadeuniversity.edu.ng

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In this article:
Kole Omotoso
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