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Published On: Sun, Aug 10th, 2014

Nigeria: Poverty and voting behavior

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By Olukoya Obafemi

Traditionally, poverty is often defined as lack of adequate income transfer and severed access to basic and pressing amenities. But, I beg to redefine it as lack of access to standard social life, as in the case of contemporary Nigeria. De facto the rhetoric that democracy demagogically is ambled expected to ease the poverty of the people more than any other form of government; contemporary Nigerian democracy has failed to give credence to this cliché.

Voting at a rural polling place thinkafricapress.com Ditto the foofaraw democracy creed, the welfare and social desires of the poor is never adequately transferred and interpreted into administrational programs which will make the creed pass the expected logic test. Politically, there are three kinds of citizen: the elite, the urban poor and the rural poor. The populations of the urban poor and rural poor postulated the hypothesis that democracy should respond to the popular want, which is the voice of the poor. Since in democracy, sovereignty belongs to the people. This is what commonsense demands.

Meanwhile, no ostensible poverty alleviation program in the third world democratization has adequately addressed poverty, Nigeria capitally inclusive. But we must applaud the fact that there has been axiomatic growth in the Nigeria economy, 7.4 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) precisely, according to World Bank 2014. But the salient inequality rates still remain the lingering onus. The inequality in Nigerian citizenry cannot be over emphasised. I doubt if there is any other country in the world that is more unequal than Nigeria.

However, not every democracy in Africa passes to claim the name democracy. Most of which oscillate between electoral authoritarianism and fascism. Evidently, such crass is made obvious by the repression tactics of the incumbent party in Nigeria, PDP. In electoral authoritarianism, opposition will be allowed to participate, yet under tight authoritarian control which include severe and systemic manipulations which is however used to cement their continuous hold on power. Further emphasised in the case of the recently held election in Ekiti State, where the ‘orders from above’ restricted and trampled on the constitutional rights of the opposition party members from attending a scheduled campaign. That was yet one of the noir days of Nigerian democracy. We can only hope nothing resuscitate such moment again in the history of Nigeria democracy. Such repression of the opposition party comes at a cost which is harmful to the vault of the nation’s finance. But that means nothing to the incumbent party which has nominal missing 20billion dollars in their spending arsenal.

Arguably, no democratic administration is a deliberate euthenics expert; the extent of benignity is a function of the proportional pressure mounted by the opposition party. The response of an incumbent government to the yarning and wailing of the poor populace is a function of the criticism it receives from the opposition who intends to assume power too. Hence, criticism has been axiomatically known has the strength of democracy. Empirically, only a pseudo-democracy exists in the absence of opposition, but sadly, that is the lane president Jonathan is driving Nigeria, vis-à-vis the recent flaunting of his impeachment power which targets only the opposition office. Such of which comes yet at a very high cost, but on the state fund. Such is the power of the incumbent.

Parenthetically, democracy entails some group of elites coming together to form a party, the party offers platforms, and the common vote for these platforms. This leaves democracy hanging between plebiscites-ism and authoritarianism. Moreover, various factors affects the choice of platform the common vote for, such include religion, gender, psychological factors and social-economic status (poverty). But in the Nigerian context, poverty is the most overriding factor. This is made evident during the election periods, when parties go head to head in the electoral arena. Particularistic divisibles are distributed, such which include perishables like bag of rice and others. The party with the most assuring assurance of such benefits in the now, later and future wins the race of loyalty from the poor. Such assurance include evidence of them being incorporated into the future spoil sharing system, hence loyalty is symbiotic in the Nigerian system. Assurance of incorporation into the present and future particularistic spoils sharing system wins the most loyalty.

Such assurance of caste spoil sharing system has given birth to thuggery in Nigeria contemporary democracy. The loyalty, in guise of poverty makes the poor very vulnerable to being used as political thugs. Staggering spoil sharing system always gives rise to mass exodus of loyalist to the paltry knocking opposition which presents better assurance. This also follows with reciprocal punishment from the incumbent; such punishments include deliberate dereliction and ignominy. This is further proven in the words of President Jonathan who promises to place Ekiti State under gibbous developmental grandeur only if Ayo Fayose wins the election. Meaning, he has placed the State under deliberate denigration because it was controlled by the opposition party. Thus is how far the Nigeria democracy has come. But the question is this; can you seduce the loyalty of an American by mere giving a bag of rice? That will be synonymous to seeking utopian Eldorado, because the poverty rate is barely the north of zero in such country.

Poverty as we know shouldn’t be addressed only on political platforms, but also scientifically. Common wisdom demands the chlorination of the source of drinking water rather than disbursing free prophylactics such as vaccines. Rhetorically, our government prefers to cultivate a crop of regime dependent rural poor, than to make poverty alleviating programs live beyond paper works. Nominally proven by the recent acclaimed disbursement of millions of Naira to the families of the abducted children in Borno, rather than use such fund to prevent future occurrence of such abduction. I cry for the Nigerian democracy. This isn’t what our martyrs of democracy died for; this isn’t the democracy they craved. But this is how far we have come.

Olukoya Obafemi is on Twitter: @arcfemi

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