Bullion vans: Implications for the Nigerian voting system
A searchlight on the socio-political matrix of present-day Nigeria reveals a toe-curling arrangement littered with dirty political linen of different sizes flying in its ethnic space. It is generally a sombre situation worsened by the ruling elite’s inordinate desire to acquire wealth and power, rather than save the country from the mud in which it has been stuck ever since the colonialists departed Nigeria. One aspect of the country, to which its problems can be largely linked, is its ballot system defined by bullion vans.
The noise triggered by ‘Bullion Vans’ in 2019 elections, no matter how hard it is subdued, still wails sopranos to date. Serving as a window through which the corruption and political backwardness in Nigeria can be glimpsed and at the same time offering temporary succour to the needy, ‘Bullion Vans’ is indisputably one ugly development that has left Nigeria in bad odour with countries that practise democracy. Undeniably, many are waiting repeat of ‘bullion vans’ as 2023 stares us in the face.
‘Bullion Vans’ narrative is as true as the detail given by the beneficiaries of the money that trickled down moments before the 2019 general elections, and even the ones before that, the ‘stomach infrastructures’ of Ekiti and Osun. Evidently, it was a case of grafting under the pretext of gifting. The aims did not defeat themselves: they paid off. However, considering the fact that the regime that triggered the graft expires soon and allegations against the bullion actors are being whittled down, Nigeria forever contends with the challenge of achieving credible elections. Without doubt, the development brings in focus a class of Nigerians one considers morally qualified to run for political office in 2023. It also raises awareness of the right time for politicians to present gifts to the masses: hours before elections or years after? The development also reminds one of the primary functions of the ICPC and EFCC.
The setting¾both in time and space¾of the appearance of bullion vans and other dubious social investment programmes of government is utterly incongruous. It was staged in the so-called Centre of Excellence when Nigeria was having general elections. The elite¾ Christians or Muslims¾who want to help the needy financially ought to do so years before or after elections by bankrolling the masses at specified banks nationwide. For me, I think these suggestions are the cat’s pyjamas.
As the clock ticks and the whiffs of 2023 elections caught from afar, we readily read the minds of the 2023 contestants. One or two politicians have indicated interest in the presidential race whereas some are yet to throw their hats into the ring. Whilst many are still mealy-mouthed, power-drunk gladiators are already consulting, reconciling with arch-enemies, lobbying and ingratiating; desperate politicians are defecting to and fro parties.
Interestingly, some also-rans in the past contests are now initiating Utopian projects in dystopic society, becoming philanthropists, kissing the Blarney stone and wooing the masses with a juicy offer of employment.
Generally, the hardship experienced currently in Nigeria makes it easy for electoral candidates to buy the electorate.
The voters themselves, by throwing caution to the winds, also endanger balloting in Nigeria. Electorate, whose prayer is how to feed twice a day, of course, see events like cash-for-vote as manna from heaven. Truly, the masses are dying of hunger and are kept in everlasting bondage. The leaders plunder the country’s harvest and leave the dregs for the masses. They loot tax payers’ money and amass wealth for their future generations and political ambitions. Worse still, the masses are not guaranteed victory in court whilst those to prosecute looters are looting.
The Niger Area of 1914 is now in a shambles and considerable groundwork is being laid for its burial in China. Electoral malpractices have come to dwell permanently in Nigeria, where the leaders evince the traits in acts and utterances. Nigerian leaders make rules that favour their families, themselves and cronies: rules they make and break at will. Every sector they head lacks good leadership.In the health sector for instance, it is bad leadership on the part of NCDC that compels Nigeria to send genomic sequencing of coronavirus to laboratories in countries like China and South Africa. The judiciary is steeped in perversity, perverting the course of justice with relish. With the passing away of Chiefs Rotimi Williams and Gani Fawehinmi, Nigeria’s judicial system became a cesspit of corruption.
Indeed, Nigerian leaders have made a real dog’s dinner of the economy, leaving the country in bad debt.
When the voting system of a nation goes awry and corruption is at large, imperfection sets in. In Nigeria, one sees graft cases settled out of court and the elite class over-protected by the law. It is also in Nigeria one sees a Pension Boss smile and wave gaily at the crowd on his way to jail whilst pensioners in Ekiti and Benue States whine and wail. Without recourse to statistics, I maintain that just few Nigerian leaders have all it takes to fix the country. Plans to sell Nigeria’s assets should be cancelled: the contents of ‘Bullion Vans’ alone can easily wake the sleepy airports and revive the dead refineries in the country. The fuel subsidy rumoured to be removed (a move that further implies that the masses will die in their numbers in 2022) also, can be retained by Nigerian leaders.
Great leaders are actuated positively by the love of their countries. President Barack Obama loved America and put the interest of America first, not his family’s when he was at the White House. His aunt, Hawa Auma, was not favoured with a political appointment at the White House till she died a charcoal seller at 79 at Kokal Kambero in Kenya (not even in an American hospital). One such Obama is out there at Ifon, Ondo State. Quality leaders bring growth not retardation to their countries; quality education and health care delivery, not sickness and brain drain.
Sola writes from Port Harcourt
Learned men and women of integrity, whose presence in politics will reposition the Nigerian voting system abound in the country. They are quality leaders one expects to occupy public offices in 2023, not leaders who act with impunity.
In conclusion, the scar left on the Nigerian voting system by ‘Bullion Vans’ is a lasting, big one. It is a contagion that activates itself anywhere it gets, endangering future polls and people’s lives. ‘Bullion Vans’ is one of the root causes of the challenges faced in Nigeria currently. For votes to count in Nigeria, President Buhari must, with expertise and gravitas, assign his workers formidable tasks and probe the allegations against the bullion vans. But then, I suggest that: firstly, God, with more disciples, should take charge of Aso Rock Villa in 2023. Or secondly, grandchildren of colonialists should return to Nigeria and resume their occupation. Or thirdly and lastly, Nigerians who have held political posts in the country before should quit politics for new comers.
Sola writes from Port Harcourt.