Rather than express outrage at the wrongs visited rough shod on them as in other climes, Nigerians are legendary for their long suffering. It is on account of this quaint trait, to suffer fools gladly, that in spite of the untold privations they once faced, they were awarded the trophy of the happiest people in the world. It is a docile disposition, which the Afro-beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, once lampooned as “suffering and smiling”.
If forbearance is an ennobling attribute, our reckless and irresponsible leaders have since taken advantage of it. They have used it wantonly to deliberately renege in delivering good governance and to outrightly betray the people who put them in exalted positions.
The upshot of this perseverance (on the part of Nigerians) and the resultant betrayal of Nigerians by the ruling class is that as at now, 93.7% of Nigerians live below the poverty line. Electricity, which used to be epileptic is now unavailable, with districts in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) going for days on end in pitch darkness. Queues of vehicles continue to lengthen at petrol stations across the country in spite of solemn pledges by the government that the inconvenience of fuel scarcity will be transient.
As if that were not bad enough, the price of petroleum products continues to shoot through the stratosphere thereby increasing the costs associated with living and manufacturing. Not a few businesses have been forced to shut down or downsize their staff as a result. Inflation is upward bound with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announcing that it has surpassed the 15% mark.
Instead of our worsening security situation to abate, ours is a daily tale of woe. Towns and villages are either wickedly sacked by trigger-happy bandits or innocent citizens are being mowed down by unhinged herdsmen. The nation, which was once truly placid and happy with itself has suddenly transformed from one of anomie to one of angst.
The nation’s currency, the Naira, once traded at par with the American Dollar. It now exchanges at nearly 600 to the Dollar. A nation, which once called the bluff of the UK and the United States, and for good measure thump chested its arrival on the world stage, proclaiming that “Africa had come of age,” is, alas, burrowed deep in debt peonage. The nation’s universities which once ranked amongst the best in the world are now distinguished by keeping the rear. Public secondary and primary schools are eyesores. Things have plunged to their nadir, from the heights we once attained, prompting a distraught, come-backing member of the musical P-Square to wonder aloud if anything else works in Nigeria.
There is no doubt that our state of affair is both grim and despairing. And this gloom is surely wont to inform our national discussion. It is also likely to influence us to view issues darkly, to lament and throw up our hands in surrender. But “despair.” Benjamin Disraeli, the British statesman once warned, “is the conclusion of fools”. It is also a costly mistake. Once we give in to despondency, we give ready ammunition to the charlatans who have visited this misery on us in the first instance. It emboldens them to carry on untrammeled and unchecked. Furthermore, we grant them easy victory to our collective perdition.
The rational and viable thing to do is to never give up in spite of the fact that the system keeps throwing up the usual villains and “the usual suspects.” Apart from refusing stubbornly to give up, we must, as a matter of urgency, go for candidates that are credible and patriotic. Such candidates must have a pedigree of integrity, excellence and fair-mindedness. They should be ready to work with other Nigerians who set store by excellence and hard work. As the good book espouses, only the deep can call to the deep and iron sharpens iron.
By the same token, a man of excellence and a genuine nationalist whose mindset is broad, and not obtuse, should be able to beckon on to, and work with, similar persons of excellence and broad-mindedness. Such candidates should be nimble-minded and supple such that they can accommodate and subscribe to superior arguments and ideas.
We should go for candidates who have high-minded agenda(s) and whose actions, pronouncements and carriages over the years reinforce or agree with their newly touted agenda(s). We should go for candidates who do not view issues through the narrow prisms of race, religion or ethnicity since these are not in tandem with our diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious character. We should go for candidates who are exposed and can stand their own intellectually among leaders of the First World.
As the case may be, our candidates must be presidential, gubernatorial and senatorial. Their deportment, demeanor and pronouncements must, at all times, reflect the elevation of their offices. They must be imbued with uplifting values. And they must demonstrate these values in the way they execute their offices.
We must go for candidates who inspire hope, who spur us to achieve and to celebrate great things. We must go for leaders who brim with confidence, compassion and brio in times of difficulty. We should root for candidates who will show true fellow-feeling when we are hurting and will lift us from despair with their zest and gung-ho spirit.
In spite of the acute failings of our political class, this writer believes that there are persons with the above qualities on the Nigerian firmament. We should be encouraged to look for persons who possess these salutary attributes and to come out in large numbers to vote for them in the next general elections. We should do this consciously and in the knowledge that our salvation is in our hands. Only we, Nigerians, can redeem ourselves from bad governance and the terrible place we find ourselves today. It is a good thing to forbear our “leaders.”
But it is a better duty to firmly reject those who have betrayed us. We should go for candidates who are genuinely concerned with extricating us from the quagmire in which we are bogged and putting us on a solid place. We should not be content with persons who are indifferent to our plight or whose obsessions are to use their offices as conduits to salt away the nation’s wealth.
We should also be encouraged to come out in huge numbers and to vote decisively for credible candidates given the fact that the newly enacted Electoral Act 2022 has invested the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the power to use technology in such a fashion as to add transparency to our elections, plug loopholes for rigging and enable the voter to view and track the outcome of elections at Polling Units(PUs).
The INEC Election Results Viewing portal (IReV) and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) ensure that only eligible voters are accredited to vote and that results of elections at PUs which can be viewed, real time, are transmitted electronically to Collation Centres. These technologies and other measures that add transparency and integrity to the electoral process should serve as further spur and fillip for Nigerian voters who earnestly crave for credible candidates, and by extension, good governance.
This is not a time to lament or to whine endlessly over our misfortune. It is a time to act. It is a time to change our parlous condition and to reclaim our rightful place in the comity of nations.
Dazang is the immediate past director of Media and Public Enlightenment of INEC.