Politics

Opinion: As 2015 General Elections Approaches

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“No duty the Executive has to perform is so trying as to put the right man in the right place”. – Thomas Jefferson.

 

AS we approach the 2015 general elections, voters again, have another opportunity to ensure, that their votes count while insisting on supporting only, those who are able to give good or positive account of their stewardship?

A basic challenge we must do away with is this mentality that our votes will not count due to manipulation. We should ‘fight’ to make our votes count and make democracy work because it is a known fact that those in privileged positions never give them up without a fight. We must also down play ethnicity, religion (the present ‘war’ should explain), “paddy paddy” support, undermine the gifts and party affiliations and be simply Nigerians to put the right people in the right place. That way, we can force our politicians to’ behave responsibly and speak responsibly’.

Thomas Jefferson’s statement above though not directed at Nigeria at the time he made it, somehow, may be responsible for the level of mediocrity at various levels of leadership in government today – presidential, governorship, local government chairmanship and legislature – borne out of those selected or elected and appointed into positions of responsibility. If a non-performing person is selected or elected into office, he would also surround him or herself with like minds. As we approach 2015, we should note that those we allow into leadership positions can make development faster, better or worse.

2015 should be time to avoid lip service and punish politicians responsible for our suffering at all levels (Federal, State, Local Government or Legislature) by voting them or their parties out in the coming elections? This way, we would be ready for a better tomorrow and national greatness?

Now, without prejudice, let us compare our political system with the American, we try to imitate more wrongly than rightly. In the American system we have adopted, campaigns start anywhere from several months to several years before election days. The first part of any campaign for a candidate is deciding to run. Prospective candidates will often speak with family, friends, professional associates, elected officials, community leaders, and the leaders of the political parties before deciding to run.

Once a person decides to run, he or she will make a public announcement and is open to public scrutiny. He or she would seek Public Relations (PR) Counsel. PR people advise such clients to create a plan-before a crisis occurs-to minimize damage and protect reputations. This is a deliberate strategy by a prospective candidate, either to “test the waters” or to keep the media’s attention. Also during this period, candidates travel around the area they intend to run for elections to meet with would be voters. This allows voters to get a better picture of who a candidate is than what they read in the paper or see on television. The candidate equally has first hand information about the needs of the people and their aspirations.

“To test the waters” prospective candidates are allowed to move freely without hindrance in their pursuit. Under this process, a prospective candidate’s ears are to the ground, to perceive the rumblings that can either encourage or discourage them from participating in the coming elections. They do not donate cars, motor-cycles, tricycles, sewing machines or grinding machines etc or cash to solicit for votes. In the American democratic system, the people have the right to elect whom they want. This perhaps explains why they do better.

In the Nigerian system however, in a deceptive manner, a few unserious candidates seeking for relevance or bargaining power for positions, are the first to start campaigns in the media, a tool to bargain for positions later. Next are some godfathers, with doubtful character who would later show interest even against the odds, finance personal supporters, some social or, ethnic groups to run media campaigns and print posters in their favour, begging or urging them to run for elective offices.

Some money bags not credible to run for political offices also show interest by running publicity or print posters of their eligibility, to ‘test the waters’. When the campaigns receive negative response, the prospects deny such ambition. Some relate such campaign to the work of opponents or element of coincidence, over their unannounced ambition to run for elective offices. Whether true or false, in his novel “False Impression” Jeffrey Archer wrote, ‘An FBI Maxim says never believe in coincidences but never dismiss them’.

There are those in government, who have made illegal wealth from the system and believe they have intimidating credentials based on wealth to run for elective offices. They intimidate prospective voters for support in anticipation of financial gains.

There are also those who leave their political parties for the opposition to find room for eligibility by creating confusion and blaming their former parties for the woes of the society. Remember these new opposition candidates once received awards for those parties and also sang their praises when the going was good.

There are some others who may be genuine prospects, out of fear, in order not to offend the Godfathers, President or Governors regarded as party leaders with the power to nominate candidates for elective positions, play the waiting game and shy away from making their intentions known. There is nothing wrong with power if used correctly, to improve our strength in terms of moral and economic power – but are we doing just that?

For the very qualified and with good intentions to perform creditably if elected, but who would not condone mediocrity, their inability to afford the financial burden of running for elective offices in Nigeria stops them. No matter how a candidate comes out in Nigeria he or she would face hindrances – thugs, kidnapping, abuses, destruction of campaign materials and physical attacks amongst others.

Because most voters believe that their votes would never count, as elections are usually rigged and candidates selected, they want their votes to be on “cash and carry” basis. Many other voters would rather not vote. The “cash and carry” voters would sell their votes, to the highest bidder irrespective of the character.

The ‘cash and carry’ politicians are already at what they know to do best. They are already on a drive towards 2015 without declaring their intentions giving out so called dividends of democracy – cars, motor-cycles, tricycles, sewing machines or grinding machines and cash amongst others to solicit for votes.

Nobody is asking where the funds for the goodies come from. In our democracy,it is believed, that the godfathers, the wealthy and party leaders are the ones with the right to elect whom they want and not the people. No wonder progress is so slow.

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David Ifodo, a current affairs analyst writes in from Lagos

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