At the end of a popular episode of Rick and Morty, President Morty says ‘….speeches are for campaigning. Now is the time for action...” As he says these words, he stares into the distant horizon of the citadel he governs. Behind him, bodyguards evacuate the warm, bullet riddled corpses of his enemies.
When I was ten, the governor of my state, on the eve of an election, commissioned a water project in the community I called home. Two days later, his re-election bid sailed through. A landslide victory at the polling unit up the road from our house. A landslide victory state wide. One week later, the taps ran out of water, a situation which persisted at the time I packed my dreams into a bag and moved to Lagos four years ago.
Each time an election approaches, everything feels different. A plague of optimism rages through the country and the nation assembles at the precipice of optimism, divided along political and tribal lines, but converged in one place all the same. At the edge of expectations. If you stick your tongue out during election season, you would taste the droplets of hope, the irrational expectations of the Nigerian people.
In Nigeria, dividends of democracy are the currency of elections. Each round of elections is won by handfuls of hollow promises pulled out of agbadas brimming with the same assurances which won the last round of elections. Good roads, education, an improved commitment to infrastructure. The Nigerian voter is easily swayed by promises of good roads and the politician knows it so he tosses handful after handful of stale promises. Sometimes, freshly minted naira notes rend the air as well.
Unlike that episode of Rick and Morty, it is never the time for action in Nigeria. At least, not proactive, well thought out action. Government policy is a knee jerk reaction to external stimuli. A component of a chain reaction it never initiates. A track record of policy direction or the lack of it does nothing for the Nigerian people.
Like that episode of Rick and Morty, elections in Nigeria often end with corpses piled high. More often than not, the genuine winners of Nigerian elections are those at the receiving end of fatal electoral violence. When you are dead, Nigeria cannot kill you again. All you are is a badly reported statistic. Government policy or the lack of it, has nothing to do with you. You see nothing, you feel nothing, you are nothing.
The declaration of results marks the end as well as the commencement of the vicious circle that is the Nigerian reality. In Nigeria, the reality of governance very often imitates the stages of grief but with an extra step. Denial. At the emergence of a new crop of leaders who very quickly moult into the skins of their predecessors. Anger. At the realization that election promises were little more than what they were, promises. Bargaining. The defiant refusal to accept the umpteenth coming of the Nigerian political reality. Negotiation. A subtle, feeble attempt to strong-arm the political class. Newspaper columns, online petitions, tweets. Acceptance. Of the status quo. Hope. Irrational optimism birthed by the appearance of politicians, their mouths and agbadas brimming with rancid promises.
Pause. Play. Repeat. Some things never change.
Photo by Oshomah Abubakar on Unsplash
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