Elections in Nigeria will finally start with voters going to cast their ballots this weekend for the presidential election. The presidential and National assembly election was moved from valentine’s day to March 28, 2015. Has anyone been at any campaign event or witnessed any rally? It’s been quite an experience to watch the two largest political parties APC and PDP go at each other, manufacture stories, slander each other, and just provide general entertainment and many times embarrassment to Nigerians. The two main candidates are the current president Goodluck Jonathan and one time military head of state Muhammad Buhari. To me, this is the most intensely contested elections so far. Nigerians are beginning to ask questions, although we still have people whose politics are based on ethnic and religious sentiments, but I think we are making progress, albeit a slow one. The response of the political parties to this awakening is to give away money and ‘goodies’ to the man on the street, which is a little bit sad.
To be fair, politics all over the world is usually based on some giving and taking, last minute lobbying and discrete allocations of funding to different development schemes. Take the UK for example, with the forthcoming elections and before the two months (or so) embargo on new public spending before elections (which it looks like Nigeria doesn’t have or maybe we just do not implement?), the Tory government is giving funds to community development programmes, schools initiatives, charities, and conducting the announcements and press releases themselves. This is a final push and bid to look good and ‘earn’ votes. I know some charities which have received sudden funding for projects that were not funded previously. We are talking about grants up to one million pounds to recognised bodies who will of course do development work and show evidence. First world lobbying eh?
Now this is a slight difference from the Naija model which has seen politicians distributing branded phone recharge cards, bags of rice branded APC or PDP. The last one I saw yesterday was branded sachet of garri, sugar, and groundnut. Haba! Why are people wicked like this? No milk included, I find it really upsetting, at least add milk if you must share garri, and I hope it was ijebu garri. It smacks of laziness, ignorance, greed, a disrespect of the people, and just sheer poverty. Why do we think these people will do anything worth doing if their style of lobbying is agbalumo and garri? I will take a new road quickly constructed in my home town, or scholarships quickly paid out for six years for some bright financially disadvantaged students. I will take hospitals being revamped and programmes for free and expedited treatments set up, a borehole renovated for clean water, or a community centre for the elderly built or renovated.
I will take a new programme providing meals in schools, research grants for universities, training for the police, and small and medium enterprise grants over agbalumo, bags of rice and groundnut oil. But this is what you get in a country where a shocking percentage of the population lives under one dollar a day. This is what you get in a country where people are murdered and justice is committed to God because we do not have a system that works; the police is either not competent enough or not equipped enough to find the criminals. Or maybe it is both. This is why we have such intense proliferation of religion which does not translate into social change; because God is our police, our NEPA, our only recourse to surviving the reckless driving on the Abuja-Lokoja expressway and malaria. But that’s a post for another day.
Has anyone been to the airports or to the motor parks in the last couple of days? People are leaving in droves, it is as though there is war in Nigeria. I wonder if we are making too much of this situation of if this will indeed be the bloodiest election that Nigeria has ever seen. Which ever way one looks at it, it is quite scary to be honest; that we are in such a defining moment in our history and it could be marred by dishonesty and blood shed. I hope it does the opposite, I hope it sets Nigeria on the path to dealing conclusively with evil such as Boko Haram. I hope the country remains the largest economy in Africa, and an emerging market where the world congregates economically, and where this growth reflects on our indices, social services, infrastructure and the life of the man on the street.
Yesterday, international election observers arrived to be a part of the monitoring process and the rest of the world will be watching to see what Nigeria makes of this opportunity to choose its future and to maintain peace and prosperity. So March 28th let’s go out and vote for the right president and the appropriate members of the National assembly. On April 11th, vote for the right governor and members of the state house of assembly.
Do not vote for those who will loot the national treasury and instead of fixing our social services, spend it on educating their children at the most exclusive schools around the world (anywhere but Nigeria right?) or go to the best hospitals in the US or Europe to treat migraines while Nigerians take panadol and die from the simplest infections. Do not re-elect anybody who you know was not akin to Dangote before he became Governor, and now suddenly, his children are driving porches and Lamborghini on instagram. Now he/she owns houses in London High street Kensington and hosts lavish and vulgar weddings for their children. May we get it right. Vote your conscience.
Say no to pre, during and post elections violence. Stay safe. God bless Nigeria.