Nigeria Decides: Issues At Stake
Nigeria is at the threshold of another general elections into the various arms of government in the nation. A critical look at the political, financial and developmental stages of the nation is not too assuring when you consider all variables. For some time now, people in Nigeria and the Diaspora have expressed the fear that the country may seize to exist as a corporate united country after 2015 particularly if the next general election is handled with levity and the wish of the people is truncated.
Several reasons for this position have been adduced. The nation has been polarized along tribal, religious and primordial interest which has in turn eroded the citizens’s trust and confidence in the ability of the leadership to take them to the promised Eldorado. A recent study conducted reveals that many Nigerians believe the economic policies of recent governments have not been of help and that the government at the center has not shown any quality that it is capable enough to ensure their general welfare. A report also claims that more than seventy percent of the Nigerian population are living below poverty line; Nigeria is a country where each citizen provide their own security, generate their own electricity, where holders of Ph.D degree certificates rush to apply for driving appointments, where finding the means of survival have been very challenging.
Cries of marginalization, divide and rule system have permeated the polity, unemployment is at the highest peak and corruption assuming alarming rate never witnessed in the annals of the country’s history. Insecurity has become the order of the day! What with the Boko Haram insurgency where most part of Northern Nigeria have been taken over by the rebels. Nigerians in the North East have become destitutes in their own traditional homes; impunity has become the order of the day, the rule of law is being trampled upon on a daily basis and the center does not seem to be able to hold. The leadership have failed the nation!
In contrast, the very few people who are in government live in opulence and affluence, displaying so much wealth that will make the ordinary citizen ask whether life itself is worth living at all. They see people in whom they have put their confidence to represent them in exchange for a better life accumulate so much money and become billionaires overnight. At best, they organize vocational trainings which end with no money to buy equipments or start up the trainee in business. You see them launch a borehole for the community with so much fanfare and one wonders whether its not the same borehole a good spirited youth corper singlehandedly donated to the community of his service year, How Sad!
Across the nation, particularly in the last two months, governance has been pushed to the background in preference for politicking. You hardly hear or see what state governments are doing rather you hear them campaigning subtly for a second term or new ones trying to convince us of their ability to salvage our situation if voted into power. Even when the scorecards of incumbents are full of red ink, they still come asking for our votes to occupy the same seat on which they have achieved nothing. Sometimes I ask myself if our politicians have taken us for fools, and the answer I seem to get is a capital Yes! Why not? You ask again! The electorate over the years, have proven their ever increasing appetite for the newly acquired syndrome of ‘stomach infrastructure’. Politicians on the other hand understands this and produces so much of this when elections approaches.
In the midst of all these however is the belief that life must continue, afterall the legendary Afrobeat king, late Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang the song, ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’ painting the picture of our resilience and ability to adjust to situations however unpleasant they may be. As we approach the General elections in February 2015, what lessons have we learnt from previous election results that have brought us thus far and what are the issues that the candidates should take note of and find urgent solutions to in the quest to take Nigeria to the next level?
Free and Fair Elections
On the part of INEC, the electoral body, what assurance do we have that the body is well prepared, ready, willing and able to conduct a free and fair election? The question becomes pertinent when one takes a look at the slip-shod arrangement that characterized the voter registration and issuance of the permanent voters card exercise? If for instance in Lagos state, where more than half eligible voters cant find their names on the registration list, if the governor’s immediate family’s name is missing on the list, what happens to the ordinary man on the street? All across the nation, the story is not different. Not a few people have advised Prof Jega to speak out now, spelling out the handicaps facing his commission so that the federal government can address them on time. Anything short of that, the commission may be seen as an accomplice to an election that has been programmed to fail or at best, favouring the party in government. INEC must of necessity put its house in order so as to be seen as an unbiased umpire. Efforts to strengthen its database to ensure that no eligible voter is disenfranchised; Proper delineation of wards, local and states should be perfected; movement of election materials monitored to avoid diversion and or tampering are areas the commission needs to concentrate and get spot-on! Information management is also crucial just as training of election personnels.
The APC National Conference have come and gone, the result is not secret to the entire world any longer. Whilst some say the result was predictable, others expressed contrary opinions. All the contenders acquitted themselves very well. The coverage which lasted more than 48hours eventually produced a four time contender Alhaji Mohammadu Buhari. The process that led to his emergence vis-à-vis the conduct of the primaries are legion and could serve as lessons in organized, peaceful and orderly conduct of elections at party level, be it ward, council, state or national. It shows that there is hope for a rancor-free, rigging-free elections. However it must be noted that the APC as a party, the contenders as individuals and the delegates were determined to have a free and fair process, worked towards it and achieved it. It is therefore apt to say at this point that if and when our interest is in the peaceful outcome of elections, where the electorates’ voice is not muscled, where voting materials are not tampered with, where every Nigerian involved in the election process perform their jobs according to stipulated rules in the electoral act, where there are no ballot snatching or box stuffing, where security men are restricted to ensuring security alone, electoral officers are diligent in the discharge of their duties, Nigeria can and will irrespective of the candidate that emerges, say confidently that their voices have been heard, their votes counted and the declared winner is the choice of the people of Nigeria.
Do or Die Politics
It is important to point out that no politician is worth dying for and no one deserve to die because of an election. History shows that the utterances of some political gladiators during electioneering are clear pointers that motivate violent tendencies in the electorates. Therefore, it is high time we start holding our leaders responsible for their unguided utterances in the run-up to elections. It still beat my imaginations that in this year and age some people still participate in political thuggery without the political godfathers and their children leading the way in the streets. It is totally against the law of fairness for politicians to incite the masses to kill themselves on the streets during elections while their children are sent to the most expensive schools abroad studying. Nigerians must do away with the politics of tribe, religion and region, the politicians have played this card for too long, its high time we concentrated more on issues. Winners and losers must understand that even in defeat, you can be dignified and humble.
Security of Lives and Property
Fast forward 2014, the Fulani man carrying stick before is now carrying gun. The repentant Niger Delta militants carrying guns before are now warship importers. The Boko Harams carrying AK47 before are now controlling Armoured Personnel Carriers.
For close to 230days, over 200 girls have been abducted in Chibok with any trace of their whereabout, the government claims to be doing its best but the evidence of the girls’ recovery is the only thing that can assuage the frustration and anger of the people. Whilst so much of Nigerian money is seized abroad in the name of trying to purchase arms, one is apt to think that efforts should be intensified at reaching a truce with Boko Haram and other recalcitrant groups rather than the various senseless killings around us.
One is constrained to comment on the issue of the relationship between incumbents and their deputies, with the spate of strained relationship particularly between state governors and the deputies in many states, it becomes very necessary to ask what brings so much tension between them such that a once happy blossoming relationship suddenly turns sours almost immediately after taking their oath of offices and rising to the boiling point when another election is around the corner. Does the constitution not specify the duties of a deputy governor? Enugu, Ogun, Taraba States, scattered everywhere is this governor deputy duels that one begins to wonder if we are really matured enough for this democracy or the constitution is too silent on such an important aspect. All these brings to question, the selection process, who picks the vice president, deputy governor? Is it the governor, governor in conjunction with the party or the party picks for the governor?
The Nigerian constitution seems silent on so many issues, though the President Jonathan administration convened a National conference recently, the reports are still be debated on the floor of the National Assembly and the average Nigeria is still left to rue the confusion created by the interpretation, misinterpretation or absence of so many clauses in the Nigerian constitution.
It is crystal clear from the moves of the central government that the Nigerian economy is gradually running aground and something drastic needs be done. Nigeria’s external debt stands at about $10billion now as against $3.98 billion in 2009. Nigeria has the highest borrow rate in Africa. According to Business Eye, Nigeria has become the largest recipient of loans from the International Development Agency (IDA) arm of the World Bank between 2009 and 2013 and currently has the largest outstanding IDA portfolio in Africa, ahead of Kenya and Tanzania. Additional loans like the $1 Billion to supposedly fight Boko Haram, paint a picture of a nation that lives off financial indebtedness. The domestic debt stands at almost $50 Billion as at November 2014. There has been a 22% yearly increase in domestic indebtedness from 2009 to 2014 and this shot up even higher in 2014. BusinessDay says that what is worrying about this worsening profile is that these debts are used for fruitless and “unproductive” ventures. Based on current oil prices, with the barrel price dropping from $111 to below $60/barrel as speculative and futuristic trade, Nigeria may be dragged on her face. With corruption and lack of reasonable plans to diversify the economy, save surpluses—which always end up being looted and used to finance the billionaire private jet loving cabal—Nigeria has nothing to save itself with and cannot afford to pay the Jonathan loans based on current oil prices. The rebasing of Nigeria’s economy in 2014 has put the nation in a more dire state as this was just an incentive to seek and be given more loans.
Elections 2015 is another opportunity for Nigerians to choose who governs them and for Nigeria to start on a new pedestal to the next level. Our political aspirants may need to take a lesson in putting others first before self, the interest of the electorates should be uppermost in their hearts. Not again should they become scarce and incommunicado to the electorates whom they wined and dined with ‘yesterday’. One would also expect that money voted for constituency projects are not seen as pocket money or personal allowance. Four years may seem a long time but sooner than it start, its gone and they’ll come back to the electorate and it will be reckoning time when answers to scripts are marked, there will be no chance to repeat the same class. Time was, when the father of a former governor pleaded for his son to be allowed to repeat the class after his scripts were marked zero. Did he perform any better in the second attempt? No! Ahead of time therefore, all aspirants should know and realize that they have only one chance to prove their sincerity at governance!