The Bayelsa State guber poll conjured the image of the red-blooded male. He is not distinguished by height or girth, although it helps. His distinction lies in the journey of his muscles. When shirtless, his torso is a work of art, as well as his abdominal region. For the well-fed and well-exercised, the red-blooded male presents a picture of primitive warior. Regions of his skin line up like boxes that some call six packs. Each pack tics, throbs and crackles.
Above that vista of masculine ardour stands an unpredictable visage. It might look coy, retiring, menacing. The eyes may blaze or look fazed. The muscular message below tells the onlooker that the face may be deceptive and, like Shakespeare noted, “there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” Some have faces that explode with violence and the muscles act it. Some have satiny looks but hoist blood and death, and you do not know such men until they are in charge of things.
Unlike the puny case of Kogi State, you had to be a man in the electoral trenches of Bayelsa. But muscles were not enough. Guns. Bombs. Boats. They fed the red blood.
They may be cocks, well feathered, cawing in primal rhythms and glowing with machismo. But without weapons, such men are effeminate in the electoral wars of the “Glory of all Lands.”
When APC candidate Timipre Sylva gave a press briefing last week over the cancelled poll in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, he gave a hint of the boil in the Bayelsa waters. He said on a number of times, he had to place calls to the security forces to counter the goons ferrying ballot papers and unleashing mayhem.
Waxing poetic, he said some of his calls died “like a candle in the wind.” His claim has not been denied. In Ekeremor, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobri, had to be rescued by security forces when thugs, apparently for the opposing PDP, barreled into his compound with guns and bombs.
When the results of Ekeremor Local Government were announced, an APC member rose to protest on live television. The INEC officer motioned him to sit. At the same time the PDP representative also made a counter-claim of violence. The INEC man noted on live television that there was another forum for complaint.
So, why did the INEC cancel the Southern Ijaw poll, and not Ekeremor, or Nembe or Sagbama? The law of course says an election can be cancelled in cases of violence and over-voting. If the election was cancelled on violence ground in Southern Ijaw, it was unfair to violence to respect it in one place and disrespect it in another. In the law, all violence is created equal, and should be punished accordingly. The law did not prescribe scale of violence.
The poll also provided a clear irony. The PDP – and Seriake Dickson – was ahead in six of the seven local government results, but he manifested not only anxiety but lawlessness. The snag was that Southern Ijaw could wipe out his lead and give the victory to his opponent, Sylva. He committed two wrongs that, in a normal society, he should have stepped out of the race or/ and be disqualified from the contest.
One, he visited Southern Ijaw’s capital and also the INEC office. The army, in its press briefing on Saturday, alluded to it, and claimed that his presence ratcheted up the violence in Southern Ijaw. The governor had no problem with the elections holding in his strongholds. When it got to Southern Ijaw, he quilted and turned into a lawless man in government house. He became a retailer of violence.
Two, the governor also went live on Bayelsa Radio to incite the people of the state against the Federal Government. If Nnamdi Kanu can be called a subversive for invoking Biafra, Seriake Dickson with his imperial swagger and walking stick, was Kanu’s counterpart in government. He provoked tribe, calling the Ijaw nation to rise against the plot by the centre to disenfranchise them.
Indeed some people responded and came to the street, especially some women in the colour of mourning clothes. The police had to caution him and remind the people of the state that such a rally contravened the electoral law.
If Dickson were charged to court today, he would not escape the law. What he did was criminal and in contempt of the tranquil principle of society and the dictates of the Nigerian constitution. He acted the alpha male, the red-blooded goon in official toga. He exhibited the Neanderthal spirit of the ruffian in office. He was a governor as caveman.
Southern Ijaw, according to the APC, was their stronghold. Sylva claims he has won the election because he believes the votes from that densely populated area could wipe out about 30,000 votes that Dickson had over him in other local governments. In the United States, anytime a Democrat wins a presidential election, he often lags until the California numbers come in.
That state can wipe out aggregate votes from the south. That was the scenario APC thought was emerging with Southern Ijaw. Why did the Resident Electoral Officer announce the cancellation instead of the returning officer? The returning officer was not reported sick, captured or fired.
The new INEC boss must avoid the image incompetent and bumbling umpire with inconclusive elections.
Elections are not supposed to be deathbeds of innocence or the celebration of red-blooded males. It does no glory to Bayelsa nor to Nigeria that in the 20th century, it’s not the vote of the hand but the hand of violence that determines the victor. It is even worse when the umpire presents itself without evenhandedness. Democracy is not for Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature, or for Nietzsche’s superman. It is for John Locke’s spirit of equity.
The red-blooded men are good when they guard us and foster our virtues with their strength. “Only the weak are cruel,” noted Leo Buscaglia, also known as Dr. Love. “Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.” They are not strong when they bully. Playwright Aristophanes moaned the Peloponnesian War and wrote a play in which the women withdrew sexual favours from their men in order to force them to stop violence. The play known as Lysistrata is not only good for Bayelsa but for Nigeria. To rein in the red-blooded male, take away his libido. It worked in Aristophanes in triggering negotiations about war. When a man needs weapons rather than words, he admits he has lost the argument.
In Bound to Violence, Yambo Ouologuem laments in his novel Africa’s fascination with waste and spoils. In his play, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams turns red-blooded Stanley into a mutant soul and rapist. We don’t want that in our election. But fair is fair. If INEC cancels the polls in one place, it has to do same elsewhere. If it tolerates it in one place as it has done in Yenagoa, Nembe and Ekeremor, its conscience should allow it accept the polls raked in at Southern Ijaw. Democracy fails when it is not fair.