Nigeria’s “Tale of Two Election Day Silences”

There was considerable peace and “silence” during the 2015 Nigerian general elections yesterday. It was good news that apart from the “I am above the law” behaviour of some senior politicians there might have been no incidences of chaos or violence at all. The inefficiencies of (Independent National Electoral Commission) INEC would have usually caused alarm but Nigerians demonstrated they can be patient, tolerant, well-behaved and disciplined in the face of delays, procrastination and uncertainty like any other nationals. Really! Nigerians silent when they would usually vex and “rake”?

Using (Nnimmo) Bassey’s uncertainty approach derived from his travelogue Taking To The Sky From Lagos To Bamako, about a trip to Mali at a time when some West Africa nations encumbered with incidences of Ebola, usually boisterous Nigerians tend to be silent and contained when there is teeming uncertainty surrounding them. The uncertainty posed to supporters of Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and other candidates contesting elections perhaps has created the silence.

A thorough scan of social media shows that the usual partisan extremists are silent and most of the chaos-creating rhetoric that could inflame minds seemed to be dead in the water as soon as they were published. On the ground in Nigeria as earlier mentioned, the spiky “them versus us” attitude of All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party supporters towards appeared to be forgotten. Everyone just wanted the vote to go ahead.

President Barack Obama’s counsel to Nigeria about the elections must have played a role in the election silence. Citizens journalism and digital mobile technology also played a role in the silence; you misbehave you get caught on camera. We must also praise the inward reflections of Nigerians that prompted them to be peaceful and orderly during the elections. It must be reaffirmed that it is senior politicians and special interests groups that have always created violence and disorder during elections and not ordinary citizens.

Bassey’s uncertainty approach also effectively explains this incidence of silence during the elections. It was as if there was a ‘national resignation’ of citizens towards this uncertainty concerning who will win the elections. Put another way, citizens instinctively knew the time had come and only the ballot box results could and should speak. Is it uncertainty that democrats and statocrats have used to Nigerians silent in the face of their tyranny? It needs some looking into.

There was also another interesting silence. Patrick Obahiagbon, former member of the House of Representatives and political activist, has not said much about the 2015 general elections recently except for twitter his quips. While many consider him a court clown, a bombastic orator, a “man strange words”, Obahiagbon is perhaps the politician and citizen most listened in Nigeria. His carefully crafted act that mixes in humorous reaction his presentations does not hide his message. Most Nigerians can summarise the political message / stance of Obahiagbon more definitively than virtually all other politicians in Nigeria.

Which politician or intellectual other than Patrick Obahiagbon in today’s Nigeria can frequently talk about social democracy, workers’ rights, endemic corruption, bad leadership, dirty politics, public indiscipline etc. without a major backlash against him or her from the Nigerian establishment? The more he is laughed away the more effective his words and influence become to Nigerian citizens. Black humour communicates much more than political speeches and party broadcast. So what is happening to Patrick Obahiagbon on Election Day?

All in all, the silent and good behaviour of Nigerian citizens during these elections was commendable after the political campaign period that was simultaneously saturated with hatred, slander, lies, threats, [political] ricism and devoid of proper political debates and reaching out to citizens. Hopefully, a standard of peaceful election has been set. The only people who can soil its precedent are politicians and special interest groups who lost or must win by all means.

However, many will not immediately forgive or forget the election postponement and the campaign bitterness it bred. Time they say heals wounds and Nigeria does need post-election healing. Elections have been finally held!

Grimot Nane

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