An Election Day Diary, By Ose Oyamendan
Elections are supposed to be a good thing. It’s the one time every four years that a voter can stick up his or her middle finger at the leadership and not risk getting shot by a stray bullet. It’s like one of those rare cosmic events, the one time talakawas like us really matter, before they snatch the ballot boxes or jam the card readers.
In Nigeria, polling days have the feel of an approaching natural disaster. People stock up on food. Some flee to their hometowns. Others lock themselves in. Wives who have been craving the attention of their husbands for months wave the white flag before midday. Men used to crying over the soccer fortunes of teams in foreign lands that look at us as one of God’s diseased accidents get feverish waiting for the matches to begin.
Since they claimed the election of February 16 was the most important in our lives, I decided to record a mental diary of the day. I started on election eve because that was when I dropped my oga off at the local airport on his way to Bauchi to vote for “Sai Baba”. My oga believes the President needs his vote more in his hometown than in Lagos because with the Garrison Commander of the Southwest on his Bourdillon throne, Lagos is a done deal.
I drove to the international wing where I dropped off Oga’s girlfriend who was fleeing to Dubai to avoid the election. My Oga who couldn’t loan me a N10, 000 salary advance to pay my son’s school fees bought his girlfriend a business class ticket. Sometimes I wonder if he realizes his life is in my hands.
After dropping madam off, I was left with Oga’s Jeep and a full tank of gas. It was time to do my own runs. I love the eve of elections. There are few things that compare to it. Maybe Christmas Eve for a kid. Or, a girl’s last night with her boyfriend before she flies off to marry some mugu in London who thought he met a thirty-year-old virgin when he came home for Christmas two years ago?
The air of hope hangs in the air like a perfume on the eve of elections. Hope comes with the dream of a better future, even in Nigeria where hope fades into a nightmare faster than a policeman pocketing a bribe in traffic. But, you can’t knock hope. It’s the engine of the masses. Without hope, we drift from semi-existence to death.
As I left the airport, I saw this jolly crowd parting the mob of hustlers, moneychangers, drivers, charlatans, security men and visitors outside the arrival hall as if they were the Red Sea. A short, rugged man whose accent sounded like it was the offspring of English ruffians and American ghetto lords emerged and ran into the embrace of the crowd. He had made it into the country on one of the last flights before the airport was shut. In Nigeria, we close the borders for elections, not against Boko Haram. If we don’t shut the borders, a stupid foreigner may come and snatch the ballot boxes or rig the elections. Nigerians are already experts at that. No need for foreign technical advisers.
The man hungrily kissed a woman who would have been a bit prettier without the ghostly make up on her face, then screamed to all that in another eight days, she would be his wife.
I left the airport, picked up a friend who had some last minute business with an APC chieftain. My friend is an influential member of the Labor Party who controls a few wards. But he’s not blind neither is he a fool. He knows who butters the bread in Nigeria. We met the party chieftain in a hotel in Ikeja around midnight.
Dude was already celebrating. He had a lady on either side of him. One was a Coca-Cola; the other was a Fanta with dark spots. The table was filled with suya. His boys were drinking and smoking outside, preparatory to being unleashed in the morning. He offered us suya. I attacked the suya as if we had a family problem that dates back before independence.
My friend took a bite then stopped when the PDP candidate in his constituency joined us and sat between his own Coca-Cola and Fanta. The APC Chieftain told him of my friend’s plan. He modified it, signed off and buried his head between the sizeable, warm comfort of his Fanta’s breasts. My friend who is betraying his own party was disappointed that the leading challengers are sharing plans, drinks, suya and women a few hours before voting started.
I got home, opened the window to let in fresh air. Baba Mukaila’s acerbic curses blew in instead. It was around three in the morning, just a few hours before he would use that same mouth to call the faithful to prayers. I went outside and found out why he was angry. INEC had postponed the election.
I was not surprised INEC postponed the election. INEC has postponed every election this decade. But, I was stunned they did it in the middle of the night. If they postpone an election in the middle of the night, what else would they do while we are asleep? I went to bed with a pre-election hangover.
I woke up the next day expecting a city pounding with rage. But, it was quiet. Nigeria is like a graveyard on polling day. My mood wasn’t good. Nkechi, my girlfriend, had gone to Enugu to vote for Atiku/Obi. I’d tried to convince her that Atiku/Obi needs her vote more in Lagos but she thought I was just trying to keep her in town to keep me warm.
I called one of Nkechi’s friends who “eyes” me sometimes. She was happy to ride in the jeep and pretend we were somebody. We went to a beer joint in Lekki where my Oga brings his girlfriends. The bartenders are my friends because we’ve done some funny accounting with Oga’s bills a few times together. I settled down to a nice beer with Nkechi’s friend who reminded me she was free all weekend. Thank you, Eros!
As we left the bar, I saw the woman from the airport with the foreign fiancée in tears on the balcony of a house on the street. Turns out since the election was postponed till the next Saturday, the wedding cannot hold because the town must die for the election to hold successfully. But, the dude can’t stay past the Monday after because he only has a two-week leave from work. Our girl is not sure the bobo will come back. I felt bad for her. What God was about to join together, INEC has put asunder.
Ose is on twitter at iam_ose