Elections 2019 and the people’s consciousness
The popular consciousness of the people is an extremely crucial factor in every democratic setting because it enables them to be `aware of their rights and benefits under the law. It also gives them insights to assessing the performances of the government in order to determine whether it has been able to accomplish its responsibilities to the citizenry or not. Therefore, the ruling party usually capitalizes on electioneering period to showcase their achievements and projections; while the oppositions criticize the government’s shortcomings and put forward their own plans to make things better. It is therefore, not surprising that various colourful, energy-sapping, tension-soaked and very interesting carnival-like political campaigns are ongoing across the country.
Consequently, the social media platforms have been buzzing with numerous posts, videos, audios and the likes to augment these efforts towards securing the supports and votes of the electorates at the polls. Unfortunately, some unpatriotic, unprogressive and unreasonable elements have been abusing the process with their uncultured, derogatory and destructive propagandism which are capable of fuelling chaotic and violent conflicts in the polity. Therefore, it will be in the collective national interest to enjoin these `self serving activists` to desist from their undesirable acts in order not to pass damaging legacies to the upcoming generations.
Now that the elections are few days away; it is very important to use this medium to sensitize the electorates of the task ahead in order to put them in the `right frame of mind` to do the needful. You have been presented with the options of choosing between `continuity` and `change`. In this situation, the ruling party/government represents continuity; while those in opposition represent change. Therefore, you are expected to compare the situations in the country under the immediate past, and the present administrations to determine whether to support the moving of the present state of the nation to the `next level` or for you to `atikulate` or to seek solace in `others` (without prejudice to any candidate/party). You are as free as air to `decide your future` by the choice you make. As a result, it will not be out of place for you to put such factors as infrastructural developments; rate of unemployment; level of poverty; security of lives and properties; religious and tribal tolerance; level of corruption; and, respect for the rule of law into considerations as guiding principles to making your `best choice`. At this point, the next important thing is to ensure that your Permanent Voter`s Card (PVC) is handy because it is your licence to vote.
However, it should be noted that this `right to vote` can only be activated by your physical presence at the appropriate polling booth for accreditation and voting within the time frame stipulated by INEC. You are expected to also note that your PVC does not permit you to vote at any other constituency or polling booth where you did not register. You have the right to keep your choice secret; thus, you can vote your candidate/party without allowing any other person (including parties` supporters and agents, security operatives, independent observers, and even the INEC officials) to know the candidate/party you voted for. You must be vigilant before, during and after the exercise and ensure to promptly report any suspicious movements or nefarious activities to the appropriate quarters. You do not need to wait until you are invited to be a `witness` at the Election Petition Tribunal before blowing the whistle. “If you see something, say something immediately for the world to know”.
Do not allow yourself to be intimidated or dissuaded from exercising your civic right. It is very important that your votes must count because the outcome will have impact on your well-being or otherwise over the next four years. The old adage says; “he that wears the shoe, knows where it hurts”; therefore, it is expected that you are already conversant with the `state of the nation` and would not need to be `compelled` or `induced` to do the needful. Try as much as possible to comport yourselves and maintain decorum during the exercise. Ensure you do not do anything that can instigate unnecessary fracas that will undermine the rights of others to participate. You must eschew violence and allow peace to reign. Do not allow any politician to use you to foment trouble as was the case in the past when majority of the youths were used to perpetrate all sorts of nefarious activities at the risk of their lives; while their (politicians) own children relax in the comfort of their homes. At the end of the day, it is the gullible and unfortunate youths that usually end up in prison or rest in the mortuaries. So, do not be deceived by their assurance to cover your back` to do the dirty jobs; you might end up miserably and unable to enjoy the token they paid to buy your conscience and sanity. The gale of defections from one party to another is enough evidence to show that the leaders know themselves too well and can always settle their differences within a twinkle of an eye. Therefore, it is advisable for you to free yourselves from the shackles of their manipulations and slavery by embracing a non-violent free and fair process.
All Security Operatives should endeavour to carry out their assigned responsibilities diligently and patriotically. Your primary function is to ensure law and order before, during and after the elections by securing the lives and properties of the people and, curtailing any act that could snowball into violence and crises. Desperate politicians and trouble promoters who are bent on perpetrating electoral malpractices and throwing the country into chaos must be brought to book and made to face the full wrath of the law. Your loyalty should be to the country and its citizenry and not to any particular party(ies) or person(s). You are expected to be professional and apolitical in the discharge of your duties to sustain our democracy and ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen gallant officers and those that are presently in the battle fields (for us to be safe and united) must not go down the drain. It will be in your interest and that of the nation to let the world know that your `respect and loyalty to your professional-calling outweighs partisan considerations`.
Also, personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and their ad hoc staff must ensure that they live above board in the conduct of the elections. The Commission is required to carry out its functions as an unbiased and neutral umpire as required by the law. You should not allow yourselves to be used as instruments to subvert the popular resolve of the electorates. You are to ensure the conduct of the elections on a `one man, one vote basis`. Endeavour to carry out your duties without fear or favour by ensuring that you do not succumb to any forms of intimidation or inducement. The electorates` collective will must be allowed to speak volume and act as deterrent to leaders who believe that their conscience have been bought and permanently pocketed for election purposes. It is your constitutional responsibilities to make the elections free, fair and credible.
The world is watching and your conducts will go a long way to determining the fate of our democracy Let me also use this medium to specifically appeal to the Chairman to use this opportunity to become an `Icon of Democracy`. No amount of money can buy this honour; and, it will be a lifetime honour to be a `man of honour` by doing the needful. Please nottorates who will reciprocate by voting for continuity at the polls. If on the other hand, the government lived below expectations; the people will equally reciprocate by voting for change. You will agree with me that if this guiding principle of democracy is strictly, jealously and consistently embraced; no government will ever take the issues of security and wellbeing of its citizenry for granted.
At this juncture, it is also instructive to advise the people of the South-East Region to have a rethink about their calls for boycott of the exercise. The Region forms an important part of the country; and, abstaining from the elections will translate to depriving the electorates of that area from having a say in this `crucial decision` that will shape governance for the next four years. If the planned action is intended to make a political statement in support of a referendum towards self independence; then, it is the most irrational step to take (with all due respect) because no responsible governments or international institutions will be positively disposed to supporting any such aspiration that is tainted with undemocratic tendencies. In today`s world politics; it would amount to efforts in futility to strive to attain independence or self reliance through `unconstitutional and illegal means` So, from whichever ways you tend to look at it; it will be more beneficial and result oriented to mobilize the electorates to come out in their large numbers to vote and make a `louder statement` for the world to hear and see that the Region cannot be pushed aside in the country`s political calculations.
Finally, journalists and media practitioners should ensure that they carry out their duties responsibly and professionally. You are the image makers of the country and the whole world will be looking up to you for concise reportage. Do not indulge in transmitting biased and provocative information (including false and unverified results) that are capable of causing confusion and chaos in the polity. You must ensure that the unity and progress of this country is put first in the performance of your assigned responsibilities.
From the above, it is obvious that `the popular consciousness of the people` is very key to determining the outcome of the coming elections and the future of our country; thus, it will be in the overall interest of all and sundry to join hands together to do the needful.
May God help us.
Oise-Oghaede is Public Policy Analyst/Commentator, wrote from Suru-Lere, Lagos.