The pressure to deliver
As human beings, particularly from a certain stage in life, we are always under pressure to deliver, to achieve a goal or goals. Sometimes society sets timelines or targets which we wittingly or unwittingly struggle, strain to achieve. At the bottom of this is the notion that at each stage of life there are certain targets that must be met by all. The more underdeveloped or primitive the society is, the more rigid people are with certain timelines. Going to university and graduating, getting a job, settling down, getting married, bearing and raising children. Also, building a personal house, sometimes one in the village and another in the city is part of the pressure. This notion ignores the fact that we all have our different capacities and destinies all guided by the Divine Providence.
There are also targets which we set for ourselves whether in our private lives or where we work. Work place targets could be debilitating, as our banker friends, former students, cousins and nieces have assured us. I have dealt with this issue in an earlier essay titled “The Sudden Death Phenomenon’ published in The Guardian of 16th April 2018. In politics the pressure to ‘deliver’ is overwhelming; and inability to deliver could mean the end of one’s political career. It drives people to taking certain steps that are unethical. The overriding question is:‘If I don’t deliver my area, how may I get another appointment? As a result people resort to vote buying, rigging, intimidation, bribery, and other forms of electoral fraud like manipulating the results sheets or outright thuggery.
Today, I have chosen to write on pressure to deliver votes through units, wards, local government areas and States because of its currency. Anyone who is familiar with the political configurations of the polity knows that the unit, the smallest part of the electioneering structure, must be delivered by the politician or political appointee who hails from the location in question. The assumption is that the individual has enough goodwill where they live to make residents vote for the party on account of their presence there. The unit may be in Kaura Namoda or Mereje or Afikpo or Ijan-Ekiti or some miserable village in the remotest part of the state.
The individual may live in the beauty of Abuja or the smelly city of Lagos, visiting the village just weeks before elections yet he is obliged to get the votes of the unit dwellers and the local government. In Nigeria, the subtext is that this must be achieved by hook or crook.
The pressure to deliver! Delivering the votes of your unit or state is not entirely dependent on the appointee’s or politician’s goodwill, though one’s relationship with the people in the area matters. As a serving minister or commissioner who is appointed from the political class as distinct from technocrats) the pressure to deliver votes is higher. For example, a minister who serves a government that is not popular where the minister hails from cannot fully guarantee all or majority of votes for his principal. There are instances however where people decide to vote for the central government because their son serves on the cabinet.
In the presidential elections of 23rd February the pressure to deliver votes through units and local government led to terrible tragedies for individuals, institutions and states. It is reported that some ministers lost their units. One report says the Vice President lost his unit in the posh area of Lagos. There was violence in two local governments in Rivers State because certain persons did not want votes delivered. In Lagos Okota and the Alimosho areas were targets of thugs to prevent voted being delivered in favour of the opposition. We must respect the rights of citizens to vote where they live or where they have registered to vote. Those areas where the ruling party in Lagos State believes they may receive ‘hostile votes’ ought to have been singled out through dialogue well before the elections. Is it roads that they need? Is it loans’ support? Should they be allowed to present councilors through the ruling party so they may identify with the dominant party in the State? They may not be able to sway everybody. But through threats and coercion these independent-minded citizens will stick to their guns.
Delivering votes is important. Much as it is desirable for votes to come from all parts of a country, it is next to the impossible to happen particularly in a country like ours that is divided along ethnic and religious lines. So delivering or getting votes should be the function of the presence of the government which one serves; not by coercion or threat of violence. Nobody has the right to prevent any citizen from exercising their constitutional right to vote. That itself is a subversion of the democratic process. To achieve massive support across the country, the different political appointees must be in touch with the grassroots and ensure that the federal presence is felt everywhere within four years.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been declared winner of the presidential election and is set to commence his second term in office. This is the time to translate the dream into action and affect the lives of the citizenry. The federal government has the capacity to reach the nooks of the country either directly or through the states which the ruling party controls. This is the time to do something about power generation and supply. This is the time to do something about mass transportation for the entire country. It does not matter whether or not some sections of the country or states did not vote for him. He is president to everybody. No foes all friends, all citizens under one big canopy. However the political class wants to handle the issue of those who did ‘not deliver’ is left to the hierarchy. But if that yardstick is used the chairman of the ruling party would become a casualty. The parties should go back to the drawing board to determine why some appointees or elected could not deliver their constituencies. There are some areas that will never vote in a certain way due to their antecedents. And we must reckon with this historical fact.
Finally I congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on his victory and hope that this time around the ordinary people will feel the power of his government through down-to-earth projects and that the anti-corruption crusade will completely be a blindfold in the universal tradition of justice for all and equality before the law.
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