by Kole Omotosho
On the day the elephant is brought down, multiple are the sizes of the knives at its butchering. Same with the day of election and the days preceding an election, many are the inducements available to the voter. These multiple forms of honoraria for voting in democracies takes place in all countries, which hold elections from time to time. For some, it could be transportation to reach the polling booths. For others it could be refreshments while waiting in the queue to perform your civic duty at voting in all elections. Small items to spur on those who already know that they would vote.
But being Nigerians, we enlarge everything. The government of the people buy the people for the people. It is the “buying” of the people that has almost killed Trouble and Alaba his assistant.
The buying of three sets of people have received a lot of coverage in the media. Photographs of crowds of people stretching as far as the camera eye can see welcoming politicians have been splashed across our newspapers and our television screens. These photographs have drawn from political opponents the mutual accusation of renting crowds. Specifically, ordinary people have been recruited and taken in kombi and luxury buses to stadia and rally points to decorate the appearing politicians. Figures from two hundred to two thousand naira per person are being bandied around as the going (taking you there) rates. Imagine how much money is being uploaded into the Nigerian market, lairu laiso! (for no effort at all). No wonder inflation is rampant with prices climbing like dangerous creepers bent on bringing down the host trees.
You have been at parties – birthday parties, naming parties, burying parties, exhuming parties, all sorts of parties where materials are given to those present in the open. What you do not see openly are the gathering of the left over and uneaten food by mainly women and children. You would also see in these parties drummers and praise singers looking for people to praise through songs. And there are the pathetic beggars on skateboards seeking arms. Talking of beggars on skateboards, how do we live with skate boarded beggars positioned in the very centre of the highway? These are the ordinary people for whom attending a political rally would be so welcome along with some spending money. Do we blame these destitute people for taking money from political parties to be at their rallies? Who will they vote for? The party that pays them most?
The second set of people are the professional politicians. Politics is their livelihood. They are not in the league of two hundreds and two thousands. The budget for them is huger, in the millions. They do the arranging and organising and distributing and no wonder the little people have complained loudly of not being paid after they had appeared at some rallies. They have the budgets to get the brooms and the umbrellas and any and many other symbols of the political parties. Have you wondered what happens to the brooms and the umbrellas after the rallies? Again the question to ask is this: do we blame these people for taking so much from the bigger politicians? How many voters can these people deliver to their bosses?
The third group are the traditional rulers. These are characters who have not been given one single political role in the politics of the modern African state. Travel through the length and breadth of Africa, there is not one single African country where traditional rulers have a role in the modern state. They are custodians of the cultures of their peoples. But the cultures are everyday being eroded. The languages that contain those cultures are no longer spoken frequently or well. The contestation for the positions have splintered hamlets and villages, towns and cities. But you would not think so to see how these royal fathers (never royal mothers) have been wooed and given dollars (the US versions, not Zimbabwean ones) in bundles of thousands. What traditional leadership does this demonstrate for the rest of the country? Political parties are blamed for buying people. What about blaming these royal fathers for allowing themselves to be bought? Who do they vote for on the polling date?
Why are these royal fathers given money? They are not supposed to be card-holding members of any political party. Why are they besieged by candidates for presidential and governorship positions? They have only one vote. Can they go out and campaign for the politicians who shower so much money on them? Can they be royal fathers during the day and party errands at night? It is history that many royal fathers have not only lost their wearing apparel (many no longer look like crowns) and even their lives doubling their roles in this way. If we cannot look to traditional African leadership to show us that our politicians are rotten, who can we look up to?