By Dan Amor
The game is up. We are midway into the climax. But there appears to be no rules for the game. Yet the players are jostling for action and attention. Gladiators are defecting from one platform to another as a result of the game. It is yet injury time for some platforms. For some others, the game is welcome. Splendid is the current. Yet, what manner of game is this? Is it another game of blame? What evidence do we have on ground to prove that this game is free from equivocation, intimidation and compromise? Are the players out to play yet another terrible joke on the collective destiny of the innocent spectators of this game? Now, let us talk about the game itself. If the stage is set, as long as the defending champion is still defending his adorable trophy and so long as his fellow competitors are willing to play, let us talk about the rules of the game in question. Let us talk about the referee of the game, his background, his preparedness and his shortsightedness being our departure points. Let us talk in whatever language we can understand and in whatever style and form we can discern.
But what, then, is the position of the referee in a competitive game or sport? What is his peculiar status in relation to the players? The usual answer is that in a competitive game or sport, the referee represents the rules of the game. This answer presupposes, indeed, that the two sides recognize the rules as valid for the game being played. If not, either they would not be playing it at all, or that they would be playing a different game altogether. Such a recognition naturally reflects a decision, both personal and collective, to observe the rules and to submit to it in the course of the game. These rules define the limits of the competitors’ freedom of play and their mock combat. In this sense, they prohibit a certain degree of acts and moves, but at the same time circumscribe, negatively, the acts and moves permitted, that is to say, the relatively interdeterminate field of action in which acts occurring during the competition may be considered lawful.
“It is forbidden to buy votes at the polling booth”, signifies that all votes bought outside the polling booth are legal. The question is: what does the constitution say about vote-buying? Do we know what the rules say? What do we do when the defending champion has openly kicked against observing the rules as pure form? Why must the rules be subjected to “national security” or “national interests”? What does he mean by such jargons? By what they forbid the rules give focus to the struggle; the competitors must strive to win within the field defined by the rules of the game, which thus close it off, giving it a relatively determinate and systematic form within which they are free to act as they choose. There is, of course, a constant danger of the rules being broken- the latent risk that the players may be carried away and their desire to win become stronger than their original commitment to observe the rules defining their ultimate participation in the game. Unfortunately, in our kind of game, there are practically no rules on ground to dictate the actions of the players. And the referee is helpless as to which rules to adopt in the performance of his role as a mediator in this game of numbers.
The risk involved is, then, that, one side might win without observing the rules of the game since, after all, there are no rules to observe. This reminds us of the fable of the cheat who wins a different game from the one that he is playing, to the extent that he chooses deliberately and consciously not to play the game as defined by the set rules. He plays the game as though there is no referee. And in this case the spectators ought to raise the alarm. In the first instance, must the defending champion be allowed to appoint the referee? If yes, what judgment do we expect from the referee? The news around town is that the referee could influence the outcome of the game. Alas! At 58, Nigeria has ironically been reduced to a cocoa-yam republic as the giant seems mocked by history itself. The current referee has never superintended any free and fair game ever since he was appointed by the defending champion. From Kogo to Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, and the recent Osun, the processes and the outcomes have been questionable. If the referee is the alter ego of the game, then this referee has not lived up to his bidding. What does he mean by the game being “inconclusive” when there is a clear winner?
The referee, as we have said, represents the rules of the game. By his presence he incarnates the pure form of the agon by which his particular game is defined. We could conceive of a “pure referee” who would in a sense be the rules in themselves as they give form to the whole set of actions constituting a “match” by closing them off in a system of play. The referee can and must be no more than the rules as pure form, otherwise he would cease to be a referee. No doubt, subjectively, he may have his own feelings and emotions, his desire that one side should win rather than the other. But in this, he is no referee. This, he can be only if the representation of the rules of which he is the signifier and his own subjectivity, are effectively kept apart from each other. At the same time, however, this force of the rules exists only by virtue of the polemical action of the forces of the players, that is, only because those forces confront one another within the framework and according to the schema outlined by the rules and ultimately only because the game is played. If there were no actual game, if it existed only as the possibility of play, there would be no need for a referee.
Let us produce a referee who will formulate the actual rules of the game, scrutinize and approve them before the actual game commences. This would guide us against embarking on yet another game of blame. For, our kind of game is one that involves the destiny of the over 190 million people. The game must have rules. For, although vast, fearful, capricious like an ocean, life hinges all its activities on laid down rules and regulations. You told Nigerians that you were ready to change the procedure in respect to the rules of the game and a few months to the game, you have still not been able to address the major challenges confronting the game. You have stubbornly refused to sign the Electoral Act into law three consecutive times and you say you are a democrat. It’s obvious from the last game played in Ekiti and the recent one in Osun, that the rules are still largely observed in the breaches. The referee can no longer be trusted to superintend this game. The INEC chairman must resign before December. Otherwise, he would rig the election in favour of the ruling party. The polity itself, I mean, the country, must also have agreeable rules as to how power must be shared amongst the brother nationalities that constitute it. We must come together to formulate these rules. This game of blame would no longer suffice. Nigeria must be made governable by law.