It was Malek bn Nabi, the Algerian, Arab-Muslim intellectual who, in his popular work titled Conditions for Renaissance, called attention to ways by which the whole business of colonization has become a never-ending experience for the nations in the South; nations which consider the West as an exemplar and look up to the latter for direction. Two types of subjects became important for bn Nabi in this direction- the first are those who, having gone through the furnace of colonization are no longer colonised or colonisable; the second are non-Western subjects who never experienced or saw the roguish boots of the coloniser on their father’s land but have nonetheless become colonisable. In other words, colonisability is a condition of the mind. It refers to the psychology of the non-West who constantly yearns for fresh colonisation; the non-West that is dead to its cultural heritage; the non-West who, though located there in the South, desires to become an appendage and an outpost of the North.
I thought one way the non-West displays its colonisability today is this assumption that there is no alternative to democracy; the notion that the nation must come into conflict with itself in order for a select few to emerge as sovereigns. Thus whenever it is time for election in this country, I become attentive to the farcical nature of democracy; of the ways in which deceit and treachery become normal; of the ways in which politicians negotiate their individual welfare and comfort while posturing to fight for the weal of the ordinary masses.
Thus this country has entered the ‘labour room’ of democracy one more time. Previous experience as a voter and an electoral officer has taught me that at least five different categories of voters usually come to the polling booth on any day of election. I refer to the first as the ‘illiterate’ but highly passionate and committed voter who desires the very best for his country. Now the adjective ‘illiterate’ is employed here in relative terms. In other words, whereas he is unlettered with reference to the so-called ‘Western’ education, he might actually be an icon in traditional law, lore and customs. Though he did not attend any conventional school, he is nonetheless imbued with wisdom and discernment.
Whenever such voters emerge at the polling booth, they are usually at the mercy of Ward Returning Officers. They are senior citizens who have to be guided and assisted on how to thump print and on how to carefully insert their ballots into the ballot boxes in order to avoid invalid votes. Such voters are usually prepared to be at the polling booths from dusk to dawn to dusk. Despite his old age, he is prepared to weather the storm in order to cast his ballot. His circumstance is like that of the proverbial old man who is seen planting new trees in the village. Whenever he is asked why do you go through the pain of planting new trees? He responds saying: “these trees are not for me but for the coming generation!”
Standing behind the old man might be groups of educated, well-informed and passionate voters. They know where this nation has been during the past two decades and more. But they are not in agreement with reference to where it should be, going forward. Within the group are those suffering from nostalgia for the past despite its sordid and putrid taste and flavour; in the group are those suffering from amnesia- a flight from the past during which the development of this nation became ossified no thanks to humongous incidences of corruption. To each of this group, there is a manifesto; for each of the group there are passionate theorists.
On the queue of voters is the subject I would refer to as the religious-ethnic bigot who detests candidate A not because he is not qualified but simply because he is too ‘religious’ and that he represents the so-called feudal lords who, in his opinion, has held this nation by the jugular since independence.
But here comes the rare breed- the altruistic, highly philanthropic politician whose main interest while venturing into political practice is the improvement in the circumstance of the citizenry. Such politicians are as hard to come by as pearls in the sea. Such politicians do not revel and regale themselves in the acquisition of earthly empires. They live with the certitude that that which is eternal is the dignity and honesty that people know them by. They want people to remember them as incorruptible elements who sought to illuminate the dark recesses of the Nigerian life.
And here they come, the professional politicians – men and women of little or no dignity, of little or no morality. Whenever they emerge at the polling booth, they desire to inflict disorder on existing order. They operate with Adolf Hitler’s opinion that the sum total success of man shall always be determined by his originality plus his brutality. Thus when they visit mayhem and bedlam on the electorate, it is based on the notion that it is all part of democracy.
Thus as we count down to the dawn of a new era in this country, kindly join me in praying thus- “O! Almighty! Repose our affairs in the hands of the ornaments among us; not into the hands of the underlings…”