2019 elections and Nigeria’s future
As the nation prepares to go to the polls to elect leaders into different offices starting February 16, most citizens, have been puzzled and disappointed that the campaigns have been, so far, so barren on a scale never seen before. Hardly have there been any profound or visionary ideas canvassed and hardly have there been concrete issues presented by office seekers for discussions.
Even on the symbolic level, in vain have the people looked for grand orators and oracles whose witty words would have lightened up the political season and found their ways unto the marble. Rather, Nigerians have been insultingly treated to trivia, to accusations and counter-accusations on the level of corruption perpetrated by different individuals from different political parties. Also, focus, even in the media, seems to have been on the personalities of the so-called front-runners and a few other articulate contenders in a field of about 70 presidential candidates. This, certainly, has been far less than edifying of democracy, 20 years into the experiment in Nigeria.
Where are the visionaries in the likes of those founding fathers of the Nigerian State? Where are the men and women with deep political convictions, a sense of the nation’s history, well-articulated worldviews and an understanding of the global forces that have shaped the nation’s destiny? Where are the economic blueprints for a radical transformation of the infrastructure deficit, which Nigeria suffers from? Where are the big ideas that could leapfrog Nigeria from blinding poverty to wealth and prosperity? Why has the field been so barren? Why is money such a deciding factor in politics, by which billions of naira are spent on bribing potential voters? What is the reason for a certain palpable fear of a corruption of the process, capable of producing non-democratic elections?
All Nigerians must know that the forthcoming elections are not just about Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar or any other candidate for whatever position. The fate of Nigeria and the future of the citizens of this badly run nation are at stake. Over the years, Nigerians have been saddled with leaders who are bereft of any new offerings on the national agenda and who have made Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations. The immortal former president of South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela could not have captured the lofty expectation of all Africans better when he once said: “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence.”
This is an expectation, even a responsibility, this nation must fulfil.Yet, a new cycle of elections are here and the giant is once again floundering in the wilderness of inanities and threats of wanton violence. The threat to a free and fair democratic process is real. Instructively, some western nations have stepped into the fray to warn politicians against violence and rigging during or after voting. The political parties seem to be prepared for war and not a game of persuading the people to cast their ballots. There is fear that instruments of state – the police, the DSS and the Army – will be deployed to subvert the will of the people. This must not happen.
The Nigeria Army, for instance, has no business with elections and should therefore be out of sight. The impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be seen to be total. And the palpable crisis of confidence must be banished.It is obvious that there is great disenchantment in the land because the two main political parties are two sides of a coin with presidential candidates who carry such moral and political burdens as give little cause for cheer. As for the other candidates who have eloquently expressed bright ideas, there is no indication that they have had the muscle and capacity to reach out to the millions of voters in a satisfactory and convincing manner. So, Nigerians seem to be fixated on the PDP and APC, two parties, which are essentially birds of a feather. They generate little enthusiasm and hardly inspire hope of a better tomorrow. The nauseating image of indicted politicians crossing from the ousted party into the ruling party and suddenly becoming saints is an insult to the Nigerian people. Nigerians need not be told again that the major political parties lack ideological standpoints or principles to confront the problems that confront the nation.
Many of the current gladiators who have been indicted have no moral right to show up in any political party. They lack character, that capacity to maintain ideals when placed in a position of trust. Rather the nation now has men who practise prebendal politics and ignore the demands of the common good seeking to lead it. There have been too many scoundrels, men and women without an iota of honour, in the corridors of power. The revenue of the state is cornered by a few individuals who act above the law and plunder the treasury in order to acquire or remain in power.
State institutions’ sanctity has been violated by powerful people. In the states, the legislative houses are virtually in the pockets of the governors. How did Nigeria descend into this cesspit of dishonour, incredulous thievery and rampaging greed? Where is a glimmer of hope, even after February 16 and March 2, 2019?
About 60 years after independence, the structure and future of the republic is still in doubt because the nature of federalism being practised is detrimental and inimical to the very notion and process of development. The ethnic and religious groups have not learnt how to live in harmony. The question is: Do we really know and understand ourselves? Is the identity question settled? In our first national anthem, we prayed to have a “nation where no man is oppressed” and “where peace and justice reign.” Many years after, justice and equity are still not guaranteed by government or in the courts because of the level of corruption among officials. What is worse, a nation which, shares the revenue accruing from one product monthly, leaving the other constituent parts to the goodwill of the naturally-blessed states is not prepared for the 21st century.
There are salient and fundamental issues confronting the Nigerian people. No nation, which wishes to develop its full potential, can afford to leave education prostrate as Nigeria has done. The nation’s public universities were on shutdown for three months because of a strike by academic employees. Public primary and secondary schools are a national disgrace because of the absence of facilities and good teachers. The level of technical education is abysmal. Yet, Nigerians are not going to pick their new leaders on the basis of known solutions proffered by office seekers at all levels.
There is hunger and poverty in the land occasioned by the haphazard and unstable economic policies of the governments at different levels. Families can hardly afford to feed properly. Staple food commodities are priced out of the reach of the common man. Wages are criminally out of tune with the economic realities in the land. Long term planning has long been abandoned for short fixes. Nigeria has slipped behind India as centre of poverty in the world. In spite of the much-vaunted efforts of the current government, Nigeria has also dipped in the ratings of Transparency International. Yet, these are not what would inform the elections this year.
Security is virtually non-existent because lives are routinely violated by criminals masquerading as herdsmen. The northeast is still ravaged by Boko Haram, with men of the Nigeria Army sometimes losing ground to the scoundrels of fanaticism, extremism and ideological confusion. Some of the nation’s daughters, as symbolised by Leah Sharibu, are still in the captivity of the vagabonds. The security of the Nigerian state is being threatened by acts of religious extremism and official brigandage.
In the midst of these nearly impossible social and economic conditions that have been caused by decades of irresponsible leadership, have the electorate been summoned to cast their ballots on February 16 and March 2. Well, vote Nigerians must and will.
All the political parties must, however, swear to respect the will of the people when they freely and fairly perform their civic obligations on those days. Rigging or vote buying should not be part of the equation. The electorate must defend their votes and ensure that the ballot boxes truly determine who emerges as winner in the process. People must not run away from vigilance. They should organise instead of agonising.
The nation is in dire straits, and therefore in need of statesmen whose dream would be to create a modern state, devoid of the shenanigans that have dominated the political landscape in the last 60 years. Let Nigerians, even in this barren political landscape, elect people who can be held accountable to the promise of providing credible and honest leadership to lift the country out of poverty and despair. The 84 million registered Nigerians should troop out and wisely cast their ballots with a view to electing officials of their choice from any of the political parties. It does bear reiteration that the elections are indeed about Nigeria and Nigerians, not about the contestants. It is about the destiny of a great nation and hope of the entire black race.
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