For Lagosians, rain holds a special fascination and much of it is rooted in the supernatural and the mythological. In my own case, as a kid, the masquerade that struck utmost terror was called “Ajolojo” which translates as “Owner Of The Rain”. Whenever he emerged from his “Agodo” (conclave) to dance with bare feet all over Lagos, he would be preceded with chants of:
It was the masquerade who would deliver incantations: “I am Ajolojo, the commander of rain, earth and fire. But I am not competing with God who is in charge in heaven.”
He was dressed from head to toe in red and around his waist was a raffia skirt studded with cowrie shells and awe inspiring charms. He was quite a sight to behold. He was as fearsome as he was awesome. He wore a clay mask with gaps for his eyes and on top of his head was a crown of flames and fire which could not ever be extinguished come rain or sunshine. That was the myth anyway.
As fate would have it, Ajolojo’s conclave was at Agoro Street, a very short distance from our family house at 22, Ricca Street. My dad was a great fan of the masquerade. Hence, Ajolojo’s first port of call before he ventured into the larger arena to create fear, was our house. My dad would welcome him and offer him a bottle of Schnapps (the drink of spirits) plus a wad of money. Ajolojo would lower his mask and speak in the language of “Ara Orun” (spirits). Then he would be off.
Anyway, the invitation card from the government was emphatic: “Admission by Access Card Only”. Alas, it made no allowance for invasion or intrusion by spirits.
What comes readily to mind is the verdict delivered by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD): “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 to 1821) was equally blunt: “Impossibilities exist only in the dictionary of fools.” Thankfully, Soren Kierkegaard (1813 to 1855) has provided us with a reality check:
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
Between 1st October 1960 and 29th May 2023, so much has changed – not necessarily for the better.
Nothing is sacred anymore. The outgoing Governor of Kano State Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje told newsmen at State House, Aso Rock that if he had run into his rival and former boss Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso when both of them visited the President, he would have slapped him !!
The right of reply was promptly exercised by the would be victim:
“I heard that he (Ganduje) said he would’ve slapped me, but I’m here in “The Villa” (Aso Rock). He was just confused. They are all my boys politically. They can’t even look at me straight in the face if we meet.”
Nobody, except those that had been properly initiated could look “Ajolojo” in the face.
At any rate, I was stuck in the car while the rain was unrelenting. The traffic remained stubbornly beyond the control of the Lagos State traffic wardens. On the radio was “Breaking News” from the United States of America from where we borrowed the Presidential system of democracy.
Headline: “US groups release final report on Nigerian polls, say election marred by logistical failures”
•Want perpetrators of election violence, manipulation punished
•Insist on public naming of govt, party officials who aided fraud
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Two United States organisations, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) yesterday released a joint final report on the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, saying that the polls were marred by logistical failures.
The Joint International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) explained that while there were incremental improvements in election administration, increased competitiveness in the presidential race, quality engagement of youth, among others, the 2023 elections in Nigeria fell short of citizens’ legitimate and reasonable expectations.
“Significant logistical, technological, and communications failures by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), divisive rhetoric by political parties, political violence, regional disparities in electoral integrity, instances of vote manipulation, and marginalisation of key populations marred the electoral process and disenfranchised voters negatively impacted on key aspects of the election process,” the Us-sponsored Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) stated.
The elections, the NDI and IRI stated, also saw the lowest turnout for national contests in Nigeria’s modern democratic history with only 27 per cent of registered voters participating.
The joint observer mission urged the incoming government, lawmakers, INEC, and political parties to show genuine and renewed dedication to improving electoral and democratic processes, fighting corruption, and providing Nigerian citizens with responsive and trusted institutions.
According to the groups, Nigerians must undertake collective actions to combat disenchantment, address lingering political grievances, and restore faith in elections and democracy as a whole.
The joint observer mission stated that it found that there was still space to confront electoral integrity challenges and build on the gains of recent reforms, but only through demonstrable political will, good faith, and committed and coordinated efforts among Nigerian stakeholders.
The report, it said , was based on information gathered by the joint NDI/IRI Nigeria international election observation mission, which was present in Nigeria from June 2022 to May 2023.
In addition, the mission said it also conducted two pre-election assessment missions in July and December 2022 and was supported by in-country thematic analysts who provided regular updates through the monitoring and analysis of the pre-and post-election periods.
“The 2023 polls were a test of the (new) Electoral Act 2022 and INEC, but legislative and technological progress was undermined by failures that were, in many cases, foreseeable.
“At the same time, the elections were also an opportunity for political parties to demonstrate that they would contest the elections based on issues and according to democratic practices. While the elections featured greater political pluralism, they again witnessed parties across the political spectrum seeking to gain unfair electoral advantage through division, malfeasance and violence,” the observers said.
For immediate action, the US groups called on INEC to agree to civil society’s call for an independent, citizen-led, and comprehensive review of the entire 2023 electoral process.
It also urged the electoral umpire to ensure all results images from the 2023 presidential election are uploaded to its iReV portal immediately and provide complete polling unit level results on the iReV portal in machine-analysable and bulk format as well as from all levels of the collation process.
Besides, INEC it said, should immediately publish a complete list of all cancelled polling units, along with the reason for cancellation and the total number of PVCs collected for cancelled polling unit
“INEC, the police, and the courts should identify and prosecute those responsible for electoral violence or manipulation during the 2023 election,” the US groups added.
They also called on the international community to sanction and name government and party officials who orchestrated, tolerated, or encouraged electoral violence or manipulation during the 2023 cycle.
Going forward, in the 2027 round of polls, the observer groups called on Nigerian lawmakers to prioritise gender quota legislation to increase the representation of women in elected offices.
“Lawmakers should update the Electoral Act 2022 to support absentee processes for citizens unable to be at their registered polling unit on election day, including domestic observers, polling officials, security personnel, and inter-state workers.
“To better hold perpetrators accountable for election violations, especially in the pre-election period, and alleviate the burden on INEC to prosecute offenders, lawmakers should revisit the legal framework to develop clear and well-resourced electoral offense enforcement mechanisms,” the IEOM said.
To ensure the transparency of the results collation process, INEC, the groups said, should review the election guidelines and procedures to require that EC4OG forms are made publicly available, along with the results forms.
The election observers urged INEC to develop realistic timelines and an operational framework that ensure timely opening of polling stations and even distribution of materials across polling units, targeting specific resources with historic patterns of delayed openings.
Read also: 2023 general elections and matters arising
“Political actors should refrain from unfounded, misleading, or inflammatory narratives regarding the elections, their opponents, or democratic institutions, and hold members of political parties accountable who spread false information or violent and politically destabilising rhetoric.
“Political parties should hold candidates, party members, and party agents accountable for participating in hate speech or ethnic polarisation.
“Parties and candidates should hold accountable leaders and supporters to desist from any acts of violence, before, during and after election and redress through proper legal channels and abide by the outcomes of judicial proceedings,” the NDI and IRI recommended.”
If only we had taken proper care of the rain doctors (especially “Ajolojo”) we would not have been the subject of such a damning report from the most powerful nation on earth — the giver of rain, earth and fire.