• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

On ballot boxes and beasts of power

Governance & dividends of democracy: The last minute model

Even before the colonial masters appeared on our shores and Nigeria became Nigeria, Nigerians have used art as a looking glass, mirroring the cultural and socio-political realities of each era.

The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art located on the campus of Pan-Atlantic University is home to many of such pieces, from Peju Alatise’s The Nine Year Old Bride to Uche Okeke’s Conflict.

However as the 2023 General Elections drew nearer, one painting in particular stood out- Tony Nsofor’s thought-provoking piece, Grim Polity(Ballot Boxes and Beasts of Power).

At first glance, one is not quite sure what they are looking at. The painting is composed of irregular, scratchy brush strokes in black, blue and white. In the midst of the frenzy portrayed in Nsofor’s piece, only a few despairing faces can be made out. The rest is reminiscent of a setting that has been thrown into disarray by an attack, a natural disaster, a monster.

The distortion created using these rough, chaotic brush strokes is intentional, meant to depict a fractured political system overrun by tribalism, nepotism, corruption and a host of other governmental parasites. It symbolizes an electorate that constantly falls prey to beasts of power that gnaw endlessly at the fragile threads holding this great tapestry of a nation together.

As election season rolled around once more, the old monsters came out of hiding to stake their claims to the seat of power. Though there were several presidential candidates in the race to Aso Rock, only three major contenders succeeded in capturing the attention of the electorate-two for their long-standing notoriety and one for his decidedly different and refreshing approach to leadership.

The typical Nigerian presidential election usually presents voters with an impossible decision, a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. But this time around there was a third option-one that promised true redemption from the follies of leaders past. As the time to go to the polls approached, all eyes rested on Atiku Abubakar, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Peter Obi.

The way most people saw it, it was an easy choice. It couldn’t be Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and the People’s Democratic Party’s leading man. Though his consistency in running for the position 6 times in a row is admirable, it is also reminiscent of Pa Muhammadu Buhari’s rise to power-and from the incumbent’s 8-year stint in office, we can see that consistency does not always equal competency. That and the fact that he is 76 years old with a wealth of corruption allegations under his belt, made him a questionable choice.

We were also doubly wary of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the once formidable godfather of the All Progressive’s Congress and ex-governor of Lagos state. The roar of the Lion of Bourdillon has cracked with age and his campaign speeches betrayed him, riddled with the incoherent ramblings of a man that is clearly too old for the position he coveted. Still it was unwise to underestimate how far-reaching the tentacles of his influence could be, and the lengths he would go to secure the presidency.

The obvious answer was Peter Obi, ex-governor of Anambra state and the chosen flag bearer of the Labour Party. Peter Obi presented himself not as a godfather or a messiah, but as a man. A banker and a trader, stripped of all the frivolities that make the proverbial “big man”.

He had an impeccable gubernatorial track record, clear cut strategies and a connection to the youth that other candidates failed to build. Social media buzzed with “Obidients” (a tag for his supporters) who all pledged their allegiance to him, but many worried that this online support would not translate into actual real live votes on election day.

Three candidates, three choices. The devil, the deep blue sea, and Peter Obi. It was an easy choice. But in Nigeria, the presence of an easy choice does not always guarantee that it will be made. One wonders if our own follies will be our undoing in the end.

Our ever-present Achilles heel, tribalism, began to rear its ugly head again-and this time it was denying certain people their PVCs because of their ethnicity. There were rumors flying around of PVC collection centers withholding voter’s cards with certain surnames and claiming that their details could not be found in the system.

The usual obstacles stood in the way of our freedom, seemingly insurmountable. Our beasts of power, man-made monsters that have been enabled for far too long, stood ready to pounce. Vultures circled the remains of a once great country, and its people grappled with the futility of fighting for a freedom that might already be lost.

Still, we must urge ourselves on. The fat lady has not sung yet. It is up to us to ensure that the revolution stirring beyond the horizon did not end on social media. To those who voted for the right candidate on the 25th of February, your future demanded it.

Read also: Explainer: What visa restrictions mean for 2023 election riggers

Tony Nsofor’sGrim Polity may be an accurate representation of the times we live in, but the 2023 general election gave us another chance to take hold of the brushes and paint a new picture-one that is unclouded, free of chaos, and brimming with promise.

Now that the elections are over and we are faced with the outcome we feared the most, it is easy to give in to the crushing sense of despair that has followed us into the aftermath.

It is comparably hard to believe that an election tribunal will be enough to reverse our fate because in Nigeria even Justice has a price and for the right amount one can assume that she will turn a blind eye to the glaring irregularities in the election results.

The odds are bleak, yes, but we must hold onto hope-even when it feels like a double-edged sword. We must continue to believe that a new Nigeria is possible.