Another election is by the corner yet again, and as can be expected, the parties and cabals are back with the same old tunes with slightly tweaked beats. One of the hit tracks this times being the ‘Get Your PVC’ by All Political Parties, featuring The Media, Celebrities and Young Nigerians posting pictures on Instagram to virtue signal faux patriotism.
You see; the painful thing about this political culture is that it is nothing new and it remains consistent with what we can witness in other parts of daily living in Nigeria. For example, we would rather preach mosquito nets and insecticides instead on making sure environments are sanitized enough that mosquitoes cannot breed. As my father would often say, ‘okuko ga rapu nma gbulu ya tugabalu ite onu’
“The chicken will leave the knife that killed it. only to bend its neck for the innocent pot.”
It is ridiculous that the narrative of low voter turnout is placed on the lack of PVC and hence the citizens are said to deserve the rulers we get because we have failed at our civic duty to vote. No! This narrative cannot be allowed to fly. Not when it appears the government has done everything possible to make obtaining a PVC as difficult as applying for a British visa. This includes but isn’t limited to -
The only other possible thing they could do to discourage the average citizen from voting is forcing us to apply only from our state of origin. But you know what’s interesting? The fact that when the government needed to have unrestricted access to our bank accounts to “fight corruption”, the BVN was enforced in a manner than even the illiterate women in your local fish market has managed to secure the requirement. It was made available in every bank, at every branch. You didn’t have to bribe anyone to get it. In fact, they were begging you to get it. Sending one email after the other in a plea to help you save your account.
You don’t need to be a professor in communication or a guru in public relations to understand the effect of narrative, and how it is used by bodies in positions of power to control the population. Sweden has managed to develop a system so inclusive of the average citizen that you can vote on matters of state through your mobile phone. It really isn’t rocket science. As Plato apparently once said,
“The problem with not participating in politics is that one ends up being ruled by their inferior.”
But when the system is rigged to limit your participation, what are you to do? From all indication it appears the average Nigerian grows in political awareness by the day. We have no choice in this matter, you must grow in awareness of whatever is killing you. However, awareness is no substitute for intelligence, and in that regard, very little improvement has occurred. The average Nigerian relates with structures of power with so much power distance that we do not understand that the notion of a civil “servant” denotes that our leaders and actually in a position of servitude and not one of rulership.
We complain about our local governments without knowing the names or offices of the people we need to be addressing. We complain about senators but aren’t aware that we can recall them for under performing. In our ignorance, we have made kings of men and then wonder why they in turn have made lowly subjects of us. And just in case the plan to limit participation of anyone that is enlightened enough to challenge the system wasn’t strong enough by making sure getting a PVC is a middle-class nightmare, voting blocks mobilized by pooling lower-class citizens with little understanding of politics, government or development, has been ensured to give the same old Godfathers the numbers they need. For all the PVCs we are getting, even in a free and fair election, our efforts have already been undermined by a population we cannot compete with.
The result of this powerlessness we face when confronted with the political class has ultimately led to apathy, which is exactly what they want to enable them continue in their ways without being bothered by the citizens. Today, as we fight the outward battle in the ballots, we fight a more sinister inward war with our spirit. The average Nigerian needs to resituate themselves as the leader of his country and begin to make the kind of demands we need to regain our power. A place to start would be putting pressure on the government to make the voting process a lot more accessible. We cannot accept the blame for lower turnout when the process of getting a PVC is only easy if you are out of a job and can afford to spend multiple days queuing under the sun. The media must also play a role in becoming more representative of the people, channeling our narratives in a manner that repels the current trends that tries to move the buck of blame to our basket.
The journey towards becoming a politically more intelligent population will not be easy where the average Nigerian child has to choose between the science, social science and art class before they are 14, but the awareness that it is lacking is always a place to start. All in all, we remain a relatively young democracy fashioned from a jagged past some may argue did not get the transition we required from our more monarchical past. But instead of resting on our laurels or constantly complaining, we must ask ourselves; if not us, then who? If not now, then when?
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