There is this story my friend told me far back in 2011. It was about the man that represents my constituency at the assembly. As funny as the story sounds, it makes me uneasy and full of regrets and disappointment each time I recall it.
It was at the heat of the 2011 general elections as it is now. According to my friend, an opponent of my legislator came to paste his posters at the community of my legislator. When one of his numerous aides saw the man pasting his campaign posters all over the ward considered to be one of my legislator’s strongholds, he ran back to his master and told him: ‘Sir I saw one of your opponents pasting his posters in the community’. The legislator turned back and asked his informant with some sort of disdain: ‘Is the man also pasting money? Go and tell him that pasting posters is not how to win election. He should also be pasting money, this election is not about posters but about money.’
At a first glance, his response may appear warped and weird, but it has a tinge of truth even when veiled with some raucous and brassy tone. Fortunately enough, it is another election year again, but what are the contestants pasting? Is it money or posters? I’m afraid to say that many are pasting both, and more terrified to say also that but some, without the compunctious visitings of nature—to borrow Shakespeare’s phrase— may advance and perfect the perfidy further by pasting guns and guns and guns!
What my friend told me is the character of the Nigerian politician, whether educated or illiterate. He believes, like Machiavelli, that it is the end that justifies the means even when he tramples upon the people and bends the rules to the misleading curve of personal desire. For him, foul is fair and fair is foul!
However, it is another election year, and a very crucial year for that matter. How are we preparing to midwife good governance? How are we preparing to make sure that our beloved country will remain intact and united after this episode? How can we turn back the drumbeats of war as each politician from the federal to the state level prepares to grab his opponent’s jugular and flesh out John Campbell’s prediction that there will be no Nigeria in 2015? I’m afraid, terribly afraid. My state Ebonyi has become a theatre for the absurd. Ambition, which Shakespeare says should be ‘made of sterner stuff, has torn brothers apart in the quest for power. The maddening and desperate tone the struggle is taking has punctured and pierced with bayonet the delicate peace in the state. President Jonathan will visit Ebonyi state today for his nationwide campaign, but what he is going to see is a house divided against itself. And I’m sorry to say this, what is happening in Ebonyi state is being replicated in many states. And all these points to the fact that Nigeria is on the cliff edge of doom, we don’t need soothsayers to remind us that our country is in serious need of divine deliverance from the claws of our self-seeking politicians.
We need to rethink the trajectory of governance in Nigeria if we must save this country from the slippery slope. We need a clear paradigm shift to lift this country from the doldrums and this general election coming up in February 2015 is that opportunity the masses have been waiting for to make a clear departure from the past. Good governance starts from the people. When the people are educated enough to know that religion, ethnicity and party sentiments have nothing to do with good governance, they will shun primordial sentiments and other cleavages to vote right. They will vote candidate A or B not because he or she is Christian or Muslim and belongs to this or that party and comes from this or that village or tribe, but because he or she is the candidate that can deliver. He will vote for candidate C because of his patriotism and antecedents and shun the candidate pasting and distributing money and rice. But the lack of ideological leaning among our political parties has circumscribed our political space, making it difficult for the masses to choose.
The 2015 general election is the opportunity for INEC to convince us that it is capable to conduct a clear, clean and transparent election that will unite the nation instead of dividing us as in the past. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has promised for the umpteenth to conduct a flawless election, but how that will be possible in an election he is a candidate will be known in a matter of days. Already, preparations on ground for that exercise do not give any sanguine prospect INEC will live up to the billing. For the over 68 million registered voters, not up to half of that population have collected their Permanent Voters Card, PVC. How can such people exercise their civic duty by voting for candidates of their choice? Some parties are already crying that the electoral umpire is not giving the cards to their supporters in areas they consider their fortress.
As we prepare for another round of elections, we need a new crop of leaders who think different. We need leaders who think more of the people and nation and less of self. Because of greed and selfishness our political class has become the “Me Generation,” they think first on how to fatten their pockets instead of how to bring the ripe fruits of democracy on the table of the masses. As if to put them to shame, just last week, it was on the news that members of the Burkina Faso parliament voted to reduce their salary by 50% because of the prevailing economic crunch in the country. They did this out of patriotic love of their people and fatherland. But in our country today, the naira has depreciated to the lowest ebb against major currencies but our legislators at both the national and state assemblies are still talking of increasing their salaries even when they are the highest paid law makers in the world. Oil, our major foreign exchange earner, has crashed to almost $40 per barrel from its Olympian height of $120, but none of our governors or the president has considered the need to readjust his security vote in line with the new reality.
Nigeria is on the march again, but not like the June 12 episode where a cabal thwarted the movement of the people. The will of the people must prevail this time around. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured it will be difficult to rig the election, but we want the body to make the election impossible to rig. We shall be transitioning to a new vista of democratic life when our politicians play politics not with the mindset to rig but with the mindset of a sportsman who must play according to the rules and be ready to accept the outcome. And I call on them to imbibe that spirit of sportsmanship.
The path to our greatness is in the ballot box. The voters must understand that politicians cannot rig election when they do not collude with them to do so. This time around they must vote right and protect their votes to make their voices heard. And it is only when this happens that the likes of my legislator will know that it is not by pasting money as we paste posters that win an election but good and quality representation that delivers the riches and ripe fruits of democracy on the plates of the masses.