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Last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State was fought almost like a war and at the end only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came out looking good. Despite all the provocations from the All Progressives Congress (whose officials kept churning out one disgraceful propaganda after another), and the desperation by the Peoples Democratic Party (whose candidate was inciting his supporters to roast, not the corn that became part of his campaign menu but whoever would “rig” him out), Prof. Attahiru Jega and his men never lost sight of what their main objectives were and they delivered.
However, despite my misgivings about the conduct of the key actors in the election, I still consider it appropriate to congratulate Governor Rauf Aregbesola on his victory. Any dispassionate follower of Osun politics cannot claim to be surprised that O’Rauf won because most people from the state believe that the governor, by virtue of his achievements in office, deserves re-election.
Yet there are issues that must be dealt with about what transpired in the course of the election beginning with the conduct of the military and security personnel which again came under spotlight. The allegation that some of these men deployed on the streets of major towns in Osun State were hooded and behaved more like licensed thugs should be investigated. Beyond that, it should also worry us that elections can no longer be conducted in our country without deploying as many troops as can successfully take out the Boko Haram insurgents assuming we have our priorities right.
However, as we disaggregate the Osun gubernatorial election result, there is an emerging pattern that should be of interest to those who are desirous of credible elections next year. The question being thrown up is: Are the figures in the Voters Register the true count of those eligible to vote in Nigeria or have they been grossly padded? My bet is that the figures are cooked while it would seem that the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) recently introduced by INEC has become a game changer.
That the Osun gubernatorial poll and that of Ekiti State before it witnessed massive turn-out of voters is not in contention. But there is also an embedded message for keen observers. Except we want to deceive ourselves, in states like Osun and Ekiti, what is usual is for majority of the registered voters to exercise their franchise. In most villages, and I should know as someone who comes from a village, the actual percentage turn-out usually ranges from between 80 to 100 percent as almost everyone is encouraged to vote. Therefore, whenever massive turn-out was recorded everywhere in such a state like Ekiti or Osun, we can easily extrapolate that majority of those who were eligible to vote and were duly registered came out to cast their ballots. Yet at the end of the two elections, the percentage of the actual voters to the number of registered voters raised more questions than answers.
Even before the introduction of PVC, any rudimentary study of stand-alone gubernatorial elections since 1999 would reveal the same pattern about the difference between the actual turn-out of voters and the figures in the voters’ register. For instance, in Anambra State where 1,776,167 voters were registered by INEC, only 442,242 votes were cast to elect the Governor in March this year. That represents just about 25 percent “turn-out” and we are talking of an election that not only recorded impressive number of voters but also included an additional day for supplementary voting! And in case we have forgotten, the Ondo State gubernatorial election held last year similarly recorded a massive turn-out yet by the time the ballots were counted, the real voters were only slightly above 40 percent of the numbers in the register. It was the same with the 2012 Edo State gubernatorial election which produced massive turnout yet could not yield as much as 45 percent of the number of voters in the books.
The implication of the foregoing is that it should give INEC ideas about what has been happening in all those areas where between 90 to 100 percent “turn-out” of voters were usually recorded, especially in presidential elections. In those places, it is safe to conclude that there were no elections and that some people simply sat down to write the results.
The bigger message is that there is too much dishonesty in our system and that perhaps explains why Nigeria is what it is today. We game figures so easily whenever it confers some political advantage or economic benefits as is the case with Voters’ Register and the Census. That was the message Chief Festus Odimegwu probably meant to pass across before he was sacked as chairman of the Nigeria Population Commission; although where he got it wrong was to have assumed that such manipulation is an exclusive preserve of a particular region or ethnic group. The fact of the matter is that it is a Nigerian malady.
Of course this is an issue we must come back to interrogate another day but as INEC takes stock of their operations in Osun State, it is important for the commission to begin to plan how to checkmate those who use the spoof in the voters register to perpetrate electoral heists. That is a critical challenge for the 2015 general elections. However, as stated earlier, Professor Jega and his men in INEC deserve all the kudos they get from Nigerians for the management of Osun State gubernatorial polls. May the honeymoon last.
The Ebola Virus Challenge
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to the market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, “Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned, I saw that it was death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me”. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop, he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?”
“That was not a threatening gesture”, I said, “It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
The foregoing story titled, “Death Speaks”, is the most popular offering in Jeffrey Archer’s collection of stories titled “To Cut a Long Story Short”, perhaps because it carries a profound message about life and its inevitabilities. It is also one that resonates, especially as we learn more about how Mr. Patrick Sawyer (who imported the Ebola Virus into Nigeria), left his country apparently thinking he could run away from what eventually became his fate.
From all available facts, by the time Sawyer boarded his last flight from Monrovia to Lagos, he knew he had contracted the Ebola virus from his deceased sister. Because he chose to live in denial, he played a fast one on the Liberian health authorities and but for the vigilance and professionalism displayed at the First Consultants, the Lagos private hospital which diagnosed his ailment, he would have wreaked more havoc than he has already done even from his grave. Unfortunately, the Sawyer story is not an isolated one with regards to how the deadly virus has spread so fast within the West African sub-region.
Indeed, if there is anything that has contributed to the Ebola menace, especially in Guinea and Liberia, it is the fact that many of their citizens refused to accept the reality of the situation. I watched a television documentary last week in the United States where most of the people spoken to in both Guinea and Liberia denied the existence of Ebola. In fact one Liberian journalist who was interviewed on camera said: “We all know where this is coming from. Our government is very broke, everybody knows that; so they have come up with this Ebola scam to collect money from international donors.” Others were seen eating dried monkey meat, despite the fact that their government had placed a ban on such “delicacy”, just to make the point that there is nothing like Ebola.
It is heart-warming, however, that the relevant authorities in our country have handled the Ebola case with a high sense of responsibility. Health Minister, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola and President Goodluck Jonathan have demonstrated leadership on the issue and they deserve commendation. For once, the president acted with despatch–without setting up any committee on Ebola!
However, there are still glaring inadequacies in the manner with which we are handling the issue. I say that because I arrived back to Nigeria yesterday morning and at the immigration point in Abuja airport, we were subjected to Ebola “screening” in which some ladies wielding something that looked like torch-light beamed a ray of light on everyone’s head. How that would detect whether anybody carries the Ebola Virus I still don’t know but the real joke of it was that all the “big people”, including those who have no official designation but were not on the queue, evaded the “screening”.
Unfortunately, if there is any lesson that the death of Sawyer should teach, it is that Ebola does not recognise any “big man”. I understand that the late Liberian-American actually carried a diplomatic passport and wielded considerable influence. That perhaps accounted for why the ECOWAS protocol official who was with him (and had innocently assisted the Liberian in his moment of distress, by offering him his mobile phone to make calls) is now also deceased. So if Ebola could get Sawyer, it can get anybody.
As a nation, we must do all within our power to contain this dreaded disease that at the moment has no known cure. But we won’t succeed in doing that by festering public hysteria or stigmatising those unfortunate to catch the virus. Neither would isolating victims and practically leaving them to die without medical attention in the name of quarantine. If we continue to adopt such a cynical approach, people who contract the virus would not come out (one of the Lagos Nurse under observation ran away to Enugu yesterday) and everybody would be at risk. What we should all bear in mind is that it would be a tragedy of monumental proportion if we end up with Ebola epidemics on top of all that ails us in Nigeria today.
The Verdict Written By Olusegun Adeniyi and Culled from Thisday; [email protected]
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