Newspaper Column

Will You Be My Valentine To The Polling Booth?

By M. Babajide-Alabi

Its a few days to the most important date in the history and future of Nigeria in recent times – February 14, 2015. This is the day Nigerians will go to polls to determine who will rule them for the next four years. Thanks to democracy, It is a day of choice. On Saturday, we shall troop out, armed with our PVCs and make a choice of the man or woman to steer the destiny of Nigeria in the new dispensation.

To some Nigerians, it will be another ordinary day. It is good to note, by activities and events in the country of recent, that these groups of citizens will be in the minority. Everybody is anxiously looking forward to this date. It is as if we have come to the realisation, unlike before, that the future of the country will largely be determined by us.

As a result of this, nobody is taking any chance. The sensitivity towards Saturday’s election is high. Nigerians have woken up and taken the role of defenders of democracy. The queues of supporters behind the candidates shall be mixed. There shall be artisans, professionals, students, unemployed, employed, unemployable and many more. It all depends on how much they believe the manifestoes of the candidates.

It is instructive that February 14 is the date for the elections in Nigeria. Whoever, or the members of whatever committee that decided on this date for the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria must be believers in love. I have tried to justify the date selection on so many fronts, but the one that sticks is that the date was chosen for Nigerians to show how much they love themselves.

February 14 is Lovers Day, also known as Valentine Day. This event is celebrated all over the world. From Albania to Zimbabwe red will be the colour of love on this day. Lovers all over the world look forward to Valentine Day annually. As a result it is a date when floral shops sell most because every lover is ordering flowers of different shapes and smell to give to their partners.

On this day lovers, married, unmarried, and probably divorced come together and, in most cases pretend to love each other more than any other day. On this day, lovers are unusually generous with flowers, chocolates, cards and choice expensive gifts. These are exchanged in celebration of the god of love. Hotels, restaurants and eateries are booked ahead of time to avoid disappointment. You can literarily feel love in the air

However, this year while the rest of the world are checking into hotels, guest houses or restaurants to play the game of love, Nigerians shall be heading to the polling booths. This may be a new experience of “playing” and “enjoying” love. The queues at the polling booths shall, no doubt, witness a lot of smooching, kissing and ‘touching.’

Valentine Day has become a commercialised “product”. Everybody is in on it. This blame can be placed at the doorstep of social media networks. In recent times, the outpouring of love on these media is so exaggerated that Cupid will cringe. On Valentine Day, it is not uncommon to see a “serial” adulterous husband write the sweetest poem for his wife. It is just the game of “belong in”. It is common nowadays to hear Primary School kids openly discussing who their “valentine” is. Do you blame them? It is the age we live in, where the celebration of love has been over rated to divert the minds of people away from the major challenges they face or the world faces.

Back to Saturday’s election. We have seen pictures and videos of the two major presidential candidates hugging, holding each other’s hands and smiling sheepishly. President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Retired Major-General Muhammed Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were locked in exaggerated show of love. You may question their body languages, but you cannot question the symbolism of their act. This is what Valentine Day is – Exaggerated display of love.

The pictures and videos were shot at the signing of the non violence pact between the political parties on January 14, 2015. This pact has actually gone a long way in dousing tension in the land. Apart from a few loud mouthed supporters threatening violence aftermath the elections, the terrain has been okay for now. A couple of violent acts, such as burning of opposition’s campaign vehicles have been witnessed but nothing of the scale we were used to in past elections.

In line with the above and Nigeria’s position in Africa, the international community has also taken keen interest in the build up to the elections. The world at large is praying that the Nigerian voters’ behaviour will be guided by the theme of February 14. This Saturday’s election is ranked as one of the most important in the world in this quarter. The focus of the world is on us. To the international community, every election in Nigeria is a case study.

The focus on Nigeria at this time is understandable, most especially with the activities of the terrorist group, Boko Haram in the North Eastern part of the country. The world is watching if violence will be the order of the day or the god of love will have its ways. It is critical this time around for us to get it right. It’s another unique opportunity to boost the Nigerian profile in the comity of nations. Are we going to rise to this challenge or shall we fall the hands of everybody?

I have a strange feeling that we shall get it right this time around. I am not dreaming. I just feel we are seriously improving on the democratic experience in the country. It will only take a short time and we shall perfect our acts and measure up to the “international standard”. God help us.

 

Published in Sunday Vanguard February 8, 2015. Written before INEC announced a postponement of the General Elections. http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/02/will-valentine-polling-booth/

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