“We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God..” (1999 Constitution)
At most we have only 31 months until the 2015 general elections and if we really want change for the better in Nigeria then we all need to start getting ready because those who are benefiting from the status quo are preparing hard.
Let no one make any mistake — 2015 is already in play and for some the result of the election is already as good as in the bag…or cap as the case maybe. Sadly, while every sector, level and arm of government is suffering from decades of neglect, mismanagement and poor leadership and is badly in need of sustained, zealous care from those in government, the next 30 months are going to be spent mainly on the business of elections. Just this week alone we have heard that the South East has endorsed a second term for President Jonathan, that ex presidents Obasanjo and Babangida have plans to float a new party to challenge the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and PDP in its celebration of its 14th anniversary has unilaterally congratulated itself for a job well done and is promising to ‘capture’ the South West in 2015 and continue to inflict its special brand of politics on us.
What is at stake for the majority of Nigerians is simple: we want a better life for ourselves and our children and we want the basic amenities, services and rights which come with being citizens of a properly functioning state. This is not what we have now and until we show clearly how much this means to us, we will not get the type of government we dream of. There are three key routes open to ordinary citizens who want their representatives in government to live up to their responsibilities. One, free and fair elections with educated and enlightened voters who will eschew ethnicity and religion and where only one vote per eligible, physically present person will count and two, process and systems to increase the level of transparency in government and hold officers accountable for their actions. And the third is hope: not lie-in-bed-all-day-and-pray-for-food-to-fall-into-my-mouth-hope, but active I-will-participate-and-do-my-share-and-I-know-it-is-possible-hope.
Free and fair elections
It is extremely hard to get to the truth in Nigeria, especially when it comes to politics and governance and as C.S. Lewis says ‘there are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer’. (Then there is never more than one). There are at least two narratives around the 2011 elections. One is that the majority of Nigerians voted for President Jonathan believing that he was the right person to improve things. Another is that the rigging which took place during the 2011 elections was unprecedented and in line with the elections we have had since 1999 where with each successive election the violence, intimidation and electoral fraud has continued to increase exponentially. Whatever the case maybe, proponents of both theories — mindful of the deep anger and growing resentment that people have over the state of affairs, should be ready to ensure that the 2015 elections are a massive improvement on the 2011 elections. There are ways to ensure that Nigerians get value for the trillions which go to INEC every election cycle by providing that among other things, we have an electronic voter register, electronic voting, polling station verification and the release of the results of every single polling station.
Transparency & accountability
This is where we fail the most and it should be the simplest measure we can employ. We might not have visibility over government’s processes and might get confused with budget details but we have two simple tests. One, have our lives improved or worsened? Forget the headlines that tell you about growth without employment or Nigeria’s potential as a global emerging market — we have been living on unrealized potential for 50 years while a small percentage have fully realized their dreams and the dreams of their future generations at our detriment. Those who are in government now — as elected and appointed officials should be measured according to their contribution to the positive development in our lives and where they are found lacking, should be shown the door.
There is no room to ‘repeat’ as ex governor Lucky Igbinedion’s father would have us believe. Two, are those in government — either in elected or appointive positions living beyond their means? Even if we have no proof — because obviously we are not called to witness transactions– we can deduce from their life styles, their utterances and policies if they can empathize with us and feel a modicum of shame or good sense, that they should not openly enjoy so much while the majority have so little. Look around your states, local governments and the constituencies under your legislators…has anything improved since they came into office? If the answer is negative —no amount of religious and ethnic cajoling from religious leaders and traditional rulers should sway you.
If you are Hausa from Jigawa and believe that Raji Fashola will be a better governor in your state – go and beg him to come and contest and manage your state for you. And if you are a Christian worried about living an Islamic state – think about how you love to go holidaying in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Malaysia and forget about what the exploiters in government would have you believe. Vote for a good person with a track record and leave the rest to God. When your children, siblings and loved ones die daily in plane crashes, road accidents or mortuaries disguised as hospitals – no one asks — ‘who is Christian or Muslim’ before the axe of corruption and mismanagement falls — we all suffer.
If we start holding those in government accountable with these small, seemingly unscientific measures, those who get into government will start behaving better and will put in place the more objective measures of assessing government. By this yardstick —only Babangida, Obasanjo and their coterie of governors and hopefully shrinking band of sycophants should belong to the new party. Obasanjo of the President of Nigeria and Minister of Petroleum, third term agenda and presidential library fame is directly responsible for the government we have had since 2007 and indirectly for everything that has befallen us since then. Obasanjo, Babangida and others like them should not be trusted until they redeem themselves.
When Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton answered the call to vie for the presidency from the Democratic Party platform many were convinced the world was going to suffer another term of Republicans. A woman or a Negro? Not in the America most know. But it happened — with hope and organization and the commitment of ordinary people. Obama raised half a billion dollars for his campaign from people who gave as little as $80. 10 million Nigerians giving N100 each is N1 billion towards the campaigns of honest, hard working candidates who deserve a chance more than the same old recycled politicians and their family members.
We can no longer afford to be complacent and we can no longer indulge apathy and unproductive anger. Blind hope can only take us so far. If a black man of African descent can become president of the United States of America, then Nigerians can organize and legally vote in good people, with strong wills, who care about the majority of Nigerians and have the liver to do what needs to be done to realize our potential and truly make us great.