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10 things to keep in mind (1)

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Election

IN a couple of days, Nigerians will be heading for the polling booths to exercise their franchise in an effort to elect political leaders, first at the National level and then at the sub-National level. This has been one of the longest campaign periods in Nigeria’s political history. For some, the campaigns started in 2012, barely one year after the last elections and the recent six weeks extension should have enabled everyone to exhaust themselves. The stakes have been heightened this electoral season by the emergence of a virile opposition represented by the All Progressives Congress (APC) which is determined to vigorously challenge the apparent monopoly of power at the Federal level by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last 16 years of the Fourth Republic. There is, therefore, palpable tension in the air. Many People (Nigerians and foreigners) are worried about the outcomes and consequences of the elections. There have been all kinds of predictions and projections. But for me, the matter is on our hands under God. Hence I plead with all Nigerians to keep the following in mind as we go to vote:

1. The election is not a warfare
This election is not a war between one part of the country and another. Neither is it a war between Nigeria and another country. In this election we are not dealing with any enemies anywhere. All those contesting for political positions at all levels are bonafide Nigerians who are only offering themselves to bear the burdens of our respective states and nation. Shorn of all the trappings and abuses, political positions are merely opportunities to serve and help lead our states or country to desired future and in essence should not cause warfare. So all those gathering guns, machetes, explosives, fire bombs and all of such, should put them away. If they must use them, then they should head to the Sambisa forest in Borno State to help rout the retreating Boko Haram who have declared war against Nigeria. I believe they are the only enemies Nigerians have as today. If we must fight, let us join the military and the civilian JTF to fight Boko Haram. We must not fight our fellow Nigerians because of elections please.

2. It is all about democratic choice
The elections are only about democratic choices. Two or three Fellow Nigerians offer themselves to serve in a particular position, using political parties as platforms. Maybe they are all qualified to serve us. But individually, the constitution gives us the right to make a choice. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes is given the opportunity to occupy the position. That does not make the other candidates bad or terrible, nor does it make our individual choices bad or terrible. Because we are human beings and many times see things differently, so our choices may be different and our motivations may also be different. It is also important to emphasize that what is of great importance to me, may not be of much importance to you, but the fact that we put different weights on different issues, does not make any of us wrong or evil, it’s just the way we are wired. We must keep in mind that everybody’s voice is heard at elections but the loudest voice is given sway. In democracy, the majority carries the day. That does not make them right, and the minority wrong, it’s just that we must have a way to take a decision.

3. Election is not a magic wand
Yes politicians may promise heaven on earth and it is human nature to desire Eldorado, where there is no poverty, no hunger, no pain, no sickness, no injustice, no crime and if possible no problems at all, we must keep in mind that these can only happen in the world after, not in this world. This is partly because of the fallen Nature of Man and the consequences of disobedience but also partly to the fact that in many instances, the solution of one problem often creates a new problem. When government clears squatters on a piece of land to build schools or when shanties or houses are bulldozed to create way for a new road, some people feel disadvantaged, offended and discriminated against because a new problem of homelessness manifests. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu stated that a critical reason for staging 1966 coup was to fight corruption, Murtala Muhammed the same, Olusegun Obasanjo the same (even on two occasions), and then Gen. Buhari as a military Head of State and yet corruption is a key campaign issue in 2015. So let’s keep in mind that no government can solve all of our problems, at least not at the same time. Some problems, will be solved, some will be left unsolved, and some new problems will be created, no matter which government. So let’s moderate our expectations and our frenzy.

4.Liberty and freedom are the key issues
During election campaigns, many issues are canvassed and some times all the issues are made to look equally important. At other times, apparently minor issues are made to look more important than they actually are. So at times, the electorate get confused as to what are the most critical issues. I agree that there are many issues but for me, I think the most critical issues in a democracy are liberty and freedom. Man’s greatest need after air, water and food is freedom. Freedom to move about, freedom to speak your mind, freedom to hold your views, freedom of association and freedom of religion amongst many other forms of freedom. People have fought to grant us the democratic freedoms we have today. Many have died to grant us the liberty and freedoms from slavery and other forms of human exploitation and imposition of one’s will over the other, wily nilly. Perhaps those who have experienced deprivations fully understand the importance of freedom and how it is such a great human need. So as we go to vote, we must avoid putting in power those who may constrain our freedoms. This is one major reason, the world abhors military rule, despite the discipline it may bring and forced behaviour modulations it may exact, the consequent abridgements and trampling of people’s freedoms are regarded as anathema and seen as anachronistic. In the face of abridged freedoms, everything else becomes less important or not important at all.

5. Economy and security are the next issues
After Freedom and Liberty, the next most important issues in my view are the Economy and Security. Sometimes, they stand alone and sometimes they are mixed. The questions we must ask are: will our economy grow? Will food be more abundant? Will unemployment decline? Will there be pro-business and pro-private sector policies? Will the quality of lives of Nigerians improve? These are important issues and we must scrutinise the records of each candidate to see how they have tackled the economic issues in the past and how they plan for the future and be certain that they understand how modern economies are managed. Because if our economy begins to decline and goods and services become scarce and inflation begins to jump, we may understand that the economy cannot be dictated to but must be wholesomely managed.
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa (OFR) is an industrialist



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