Nigerian democracy can be very exciting. Politicians vying for elective positions in Nigeria know their experience with the democratic process. The process in Nigeria can be more technical and complex than most people have been made to believe. For anyone to have a successful political career in the present democratic dispensation, such a candidate must be willing to bow to certain “gods”. There are five “gods” and a “god” who must be appeased before the candidate can even think about winning elections.
Before I go on to describe these gods that decide elections in Nigeria and other developing countries, I wish to say that elections in Nigeria and other developing countries are “free and fair” depending on who wins it or loses. Invariably free and fair election is rather a relative concept. This is the basic assumption of this article. Our elections are not decided by “men” but by the unseen hands of the gods. The question then is: Who are these gods?
These are the voters, the electors, the citizens, or in some cases the people who are supposed to be the main stakeholders in the election. One who worships this god is only assuming the voice of the people is the voice of God. Since democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people – at least that is its popular definition – doesn’t it make good sense that one should worship this god if one must win an election?
A politician who relies too much on this god will soon discover like Adolf Hitler said, that this god is rather emotional, impulsive and sometimes irrational. The fact that this god cannot be trusted too much or that it is rather unreliable was exemplified recently in Ekiti state, Nigeria. The incumbent governor at the time, Dr Kayode Fayemi, an excellent man who thought he was doing his best by improving the infrastructural base of the state from its present agrarian nature, was defeated by Mr Ayodele Fayose who rode into the state house on the platform of “stomach infrastructure” as against Fayemi’s “physical infrastructure”. It is still a surprise to many that Fayemi could lose the Ekiti election despite his performance as governor. My take is that he lost because of his over reliance on the god of the electorate.
The Security Agencies
These include the police, the secret service, and other law enforcement agencies. A politician can only ignore this “god” at his or her own peril. This god appears more powerful than the first, the electorate. In fact, the security agencies can influence the decision of the electorate in most cases. They are usually deployed to provide security at the polling stations, but they can be the source or sponsor of violence in the stations. They can write election results in connivance with the parties that are willing to pay their price or worship them.
In some cases a politician can develop his or her own private “army” or thugs just for election purposes. This might be to counter the excesses of the “standing” army. “Professional” politicians do not leave this important god to chance. Do not get me wrong. Some of these private “armies” are more armed than the so-called professional security outfits!
Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister (1979-90), was once quoted to have said that no one would have remembered the Good Samaritan for his good intentions if he were to be a poor man! Even the Holy Bible contains a famous quote: Money answereth all things. The god of Mammon is highly regarded if one is to be successful in politics, at least in Nigeria.
This god is the supposed unbiased umpire and the supervisor of the electoral process. This god must be placated and never offended. All eyes are usually on this all important agency during elections. In the build up to the 2015 elections in Nigeria, as usual the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come under the spotlight of public scrutiny. The rumour of the removal of its chairman, Professor Attaihiru Jega, has generated heated debate and has the capacity to heat up the polity. There appears to be a “Cold War” between the two main political parties in Nigeria: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) about the control of INEC.
It took the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO), the then electoral body to declare Victor Omoboriowo of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) winner of the gubernatorial election in the old Ondo State in 1983. This singular action sparked violence around the state because the election was believed to be won by then incumbent Chief Michael Ajasin.
These gods are the judges, justices, magistrates and the jury. After the voting and declaration of results have been done by the Electoral Commission, aggrieved parties are expected to seek redress in court. This is where these gods come in. You just have to be in the good books of these gods for them to affirm your victory; otherwise the prayers of your opponents are granted. Guess what? This may spell doom! The judiciary can singlehandedly render the actions of the other gods ineffectual. These gods constitute one of the most dreaded and highly regarded because they hold the yam and the knife at the same time. You get to eat only if they give you a piece!
These are the five “gods” you must worship as a politician. On the other hand there is “a god” that is “god” to all these other “gods”. This is called “The Godfather”. This Godfather alone may be all that some politicians require for winning elections. These godfathers, usually money bags, will foot all election expenses for a candidate, including party primaries. The godfathers usually have a standing army of thugs, their own primary employees, whom they feed on daily basis. The candidate knows he cannot stand the financial prowess of this godfather; hence will keep all his actions within the rules set out by his god. Doing what is against the interest of his god may spell doom or disaster for the candidate no matter how popular he thinks he is.
So the results of elections in this part of the world are decided by five “gods” and “a god”.