Why can’t politicians be like footballers? Why can’t all the contestants to an elective post line themselves up before the election starts and shake one another? Why don’t they play according to the rules of the game and help their opponents back to their feet when down? And most importantly, at the end of the election, why can they not congratulate the winning party even though they have lost?
All these are utopian ideals only and cannot suo motu be achieved in contemporary Nigeria. Indeed I was amazed at the behaviour of the Nigerian under-17 players when they lost out to Ivory Coast in the ghastly penalty shoot-out of the CAF Under-17 Nations Cup finals. Most of the Nigerian players immediately started shedding tears at their grievous misfortune and indeed, a number of them had to be dragged out of the pitch by the coaching team. I was also astounded by the coaches when they took it upon themselves to console the players, reminding them that this was just the instigation of their nascent and burgeoning career.True to the words of Martin Luther ‘we must live together as brothers or die together as fools’
I was also flabbergasted when I learnt that the players had swapped their shorts with the victorious Cote d’Ivorians. I was immediately struck by the symbolism of this act and its implications. It symbolised friendship and support for the Ivorian team as the best in contemporary Africa. I could not but contrast this with the events which immediately follow-up any election in Nigeria. In Nigeria, on the election date, no two opposing politician must see eye-eye before the election. This would spark off instantaneous trouble and riots.I mean this would stir up the hornet’s nest.Two contending politicians must never vote in the same polling centre. Rather, each contestant must go to his capital, where he feels he has the strongest support to cast his vote. If by any slight mistake, two contending politicians come athwart each other on the polling day, nothing more than a glance is expected to pass between them. This is in stark contrast with the behaviour of football players on the pitch.
When the election results are released, is there any law, statutory or judicial, that prohibits and restrain candidates from shaking hands? Is there any judicial decision to the effect that the court frowns upon a losing candidate congratulating his victorious opponent? Why can’t the party chairmen throw a party to congratulate the winning party? Is it even a taboo for a candidate to cry openly when he discovers that he has lost the election? The brave Nigerian players did not hesitate to cry after the match, and there is no doubt that the tears contributed to their catharsis. If politicians cry after hearing the results of an election? The tears would help to purge them of any ill feeling towards their opponent.
As to the symbolic act of exchange of jerseys, I wonder if there is any provision in the Electoral Act, express or implied, to the effect that exchange of party memorabilia is an offence.
Why am I stating all these observations? In a few weeks from today, the faculty of law would be having her own in-house elections. It is expected that the players in this election play according to the ropes of the game. But what happens when these rules are not effective, or worse still, there are no rules? It is time for us Nigerians to awaken from a dogmatic slumber and be alert to the shenanigans of dubious politicians.
Politicians come with the mind-set that they have guided missiles but most times the reverse is the always the case. Let us vote with our foot when ‘carroted’ by any politician. For no man can lead the people without their consent. The voice of the people cannot be undermined and their vote is the microphone of the Government. So let us choose leaders that have developmental calculus and not those with flowery words to fill empty stomachs. Rather, leaders who will lead the way, show the way and go the way. For indeed the ballot is the rightful successor of the bullet.