A Formula For Democracy 9: Elections

By S.O.K Shillings

Voters on queue during an election

The absolute monarchs of pristine times were above laws. They were the laws of their respective domains. They rule their territories in fiefdom with both community and personal interests rolled in one. They defended their territories and conquered weaker ones. They had no tenures and their success was the success of the kingdom. The greatness of their rulership caused the belief that since the genetic composure were passed to their generations, the prowess and acumen of great leaders continued in hereditary succession. Besides, it was difficult to dare them and hereditary succession was a matter of course.

There were abundance of bad rulers who ate human flesh in public. So, as societies grew, the clamour for a new order was natural. The struggle for economic participation championed by the bourgeois that resulted in capitalism gave impetus to the drive for political emancipation and the subsequent clamour for universal adult sufferage. Election is the first symbol of democracy. People must choose their leaders, the direct opposite of hereditary monarchy in which leadership is restricted.

Medieval powers hearkened to the clamour but were careful in implementation such that the average american would think that he has appointed the President albeit he only participated. In europe and the parliamentary governments, the voter only votes for the legislators, query who chose the British Prime Minister. Definitely not the voters.

Election is a concept of contradictions. Adult sufferage presumes that 18+ years old (wo)man is capable of making decisions, yet so many rules are made to guide his/her thoughts because in truth we know (s)he does not know. If (s)he knows, why is the law setting the age, academic and other qualifications of the contestants. It ought to be left to the direct judgment of the voter. Even in the associations of elites, the voter is not trusted. Eligibility qualifications are still stated for contestants. Incidentally, good candidates have been disqualified on account of those qualifications as if it were an examination. In extreme situation, the candidates of a party in a whole state were disqualified for infractions not related to ability.

Election offers a misappropriation of human valuation. A professor has a vote as an almajeri. In fact, the politician prefers the almajeri who asks no questions but will vote as directed. So, the man who has more almajeris will triumph over the one who has equal number of graduates.

Conversely, by the concept of functional illiteracy, a professor may be a nonentity in political analysis and judgment. Political knowledge is more of philosophy than academics. This is why the basic qualification for contest is the basic acceptable standard of an educated person. Comrade Kim Il Sung, former leader of North Korea, did not receive formal education. He would not have qualified in a democracy. The falacy of basic qualification is exemplified by the election of a gentleman to the House of Representatives in 1999. ‘Honourable’ Salisu Buhari contested and became the Speaker of the House only to be removed when he was found not to possess the certificates and the age he claimed. He was otherwise a good leader.

Democracy has a major setback. The amount of power given to the people is the relative weakness of the ruler. A ruler who will be elected by universal adult sufferage will have to go and discuss with adults of all shades. That is why our leaders visit scoundrels, crooks, looters, wicked former rulers and bandits. They negotiate (compromise) with them in order to get their votes. It is now common knowledge that one of the ways to beat prosecution is to join a ruling party and give support. Because it is a ‘game’ of number.

Election is an expensive project for both the state and the contestant and is full of shenanigans. In Nigeria, we have reached the level that major political parties struggle to organise rallies. With near a million polling booths, only an extremely rich candidate can win a primary election and power a meaningful presidential campaign. It has reached a crescendo and there must be a better way to it. For those who spend so much, there is desperation. And for return on investment, governance is compromised ab initio.

How well have contestants and political parties respected the electoral process. The leadership of the various political parties adopted the system that suits their whims. Elections have hardly been free and fair all over. The election of Mr. Trump was allegedly rigged by, of all people, the Russian leader who allegedly hacked into the election computers in America. Mrs. Clinton was persuaded to accept the result to save the face of America and the larger project of democracy.

Disqualifications by courts is a most undemocratic practice. Whatever prevents the people from making the choice is not the intendment of democracy. Disqualifications for breach of rules must be made before the close of nominations lest it becomes ‘legitocracy’.

Elections do not make good leaders and the elites know it. It is only in Africa that the masses elect the President and leader of Government. The current Prime Minister of Britain was not even elected by the parliament. He was chosen by his party. To the world, he simply emerged. His predecessor resigned because her friends did not pool money for her to run an election.

The number of votes hardly change the pattern. 60% of a thousand is not different from 60% of a million. So, the call for more people to obtain PVC (voter’s cards) changes nothing. For as long as votes could be bought, for as long as religion and ethnicity dominate the thought pattern; and, for as long as elections are rigged, the people only have their say, the elites have their ways and democracy is a scam.

S. O. K. Shillings Esq., writes from Ikorodu

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