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The Bazaar gates open

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[FILE PHOTO] Nigeria has finally opened the gates to the 2019 bazaar. The good times are here again. Money will now flow and perhaps some blood will flow with it unfortunately.

Nigeria has finally opened the gates to the 2019 bazaar. The good times are here again. Money will now flow and perhaps some blood will flow with it unfortunately.

All the savings made in the last three years or so will be released to be frittered away in another season of political intoxication. Is it good or bad?

Depends on where you are coming from. From the point of view of the suffering masses of Nigeria, I think it is good time in the short run.

The money that some governments refused to spend in the last three years will be spent in the next three months or so. Workers who were not paid, contractors and vendors whose invoices have remained untouched may be lucky.

Some salaries and overdue pension benefits may be paid this season as a way of “ bribing” the beleaguered civil servants.

Some long outstanding invoices may be paid now with “mandatory discount”. The political jobbers are back to business, renting crowd including thugs.

Transporters are in season. Ordinarily, Christmas and end of year is good season for transporters, but this pre-election Christmas is added bonus.

Hoteliers and food vendors are ready for the boom. The entertainers have greased their voices, hips and musical instruments. It will now be-buy the gala, pass the booze!

Is anybody the losers at this game? All of us in the long run! National wealth, attention and priority are being diverted to “buy” votes.

All the money to be spent by the government and the politicians at this season belong to us all and all that it will be used for, is to buy our votes.

Which again is not completely bad if only we can appropriately price our votes. The tragedy is that most of us will cheat ourselves by selling our votes cheaply- some for one thousand Naira only!

The truth is that most Nigerian voters are not interested in manifestos nor do they care about promises. Many have come to the painful conclusion that politicians never keep their promises.

Otherwise, they would have gotten better price for their votes. Because if they were wise, they would ask certain pertinent questions to the politicians who want to buy their votes: “The promises you made us last time, how many did you fulfill?” They would take the manifestos and tick the promises fulfilled, mark those unfulfilled and those outrightly denied by those who made the promises.

If they were able to engage them in this way, it would be possible to properly negotiate the price of their votes. The man who fulfilled most or some of his promises would pay less whereas the guy who failed all or most of his promises would pay more.

The guy who never made promises before but has something to show that he could do something will pay somewhat less whereas the guy who never made promises before, but comes now to say he would build a sky-scraper but can not show a two-story building he has built before, will pay much much more.

That way we can get real value for our votes. But because we seem to treat all politicians and their promises the same way, we undervalue our votes.

Also because we do not care about their manifestos, they come telling us another whole load of cock’n’ bull, and we acquiesce for little change.

The question then arises, ‘suppose, they refuse to give anything and go on to write the election result to suit their purposes, what shall we do?” Nothing! Just complain.

Then the bazaar will shift to the courts- Election tribunals, appeal courts and Supreme Court and the courts will then decide for us.

Thank God for the courts. Sometimes they give us Barabas, other times they give us Judas.

My worry therefore is, how long must this continue? When will Nigerians be in a position to make a righteous choice of leadership at all levels of our political architecture?

Must we continue to sell our votes or in the alternative be forced to accept imposition of leadership? Both situations are reprehensible and can not represent true democracy.

Often we blame INEC but the question is, “ Are Nigerian citizens as helpless as they seem or have we voluntarily capitulated to the whims and caprices of politicians?” The power truly belongs to the people but because of our political underdevelopment and naivety, we allow the politicians have the upper hand and ride us.

Many Nigerian voters are not prepared to ask any body any questions. Their choice of candidates is determined by relationships- ethnicity, tribalism, religion, and expectations of personal benefit or profit that will accrue.

Some base their choice on rumors or what some candidates say about their competitors.

Some politicians and political parties know how to carry propaganda against their opponents and many electorates buy these smear campaign, line, hook and sinker without interrogating the stories. Yes, they buy our votes( some on cash, others on I-owe-you).

Only a small percentage of Nigerians do proper analysis and vote according to their conscience or on the superior performance of one candidate against the other.

Many candidates have won elections in Nigeria, after refusing to participate in any debates-online or offline.

Many discerning Nigerians wonder why a political office holder in Nigeria would be performing poorly, visible to all most every one, yet the officer gets more popular.

That’s because in Nigeria, criteria for assuming political leadership may not always be rational or logical. Which is why we seem to be moving in a cycle and for many, we often end moving backwards.

Am I happy that another election season has arrived? To be true I have mixed feelings. Yes, it is good that we have a seeming opportunity to hold government to account, to question them about their past and current performance.

As a man that feels for the common man, I am happy that the politicians( in power and out of power) will release cash into the economy and some may trickle to many at the large base of Nigeria’s economy.

I am hopeful that with some luck and divine intervention( as we had in 2015), Nigerians may have their way in a number of cases to put their preferred candidates in office. But when I consider the cost to the economy, I become saddened.

Imagine the billions given to INEC to conduct elections( Nearly 200 billion Naira), imagine the money budgeted for the Police and security forces( not less than 50 billion Naira), imagine the money that will be spent by the nearly 70Presidential candidates, about 750 Gubernatorial, nearly 1500 for Senatorial, close to 7000 for House of Representatives, and about 15000 for State Houses of Assembly, and you will understand why I am not quite happy.

Can you imagine If all this money which may run into a trillion Naira was invested in Education, Healthcare and Infrastructure? And that is not all.

Many of the politicians who will take IOU to fund their elections and pay legal fees in some cases will spend at least the next two years in office settling those debts and that will come largely from national coffers.

Is there no other way to conduct elections in Nigeria without this cyclical waste that puts so much pressure on our economic well-being? Perhaps this is why those who truly love this Nation are clamoring for restructuring.

We need to restructure everything concerning this Country including our electoral processes and procedure.

Nigeria’s electoral expenses must be one of the highest on per capita basis. Truly, we need to do something drastic about this!

Mazi Ohuabunwa wrote from Lagos


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