Opinion: Looking beyond popularity contests in Nigeria’s elections

Nigerians are being fed with a popularity contest. Two big names, GMB and GEJ, are on display. Who will win the majority’s sympathy and support? Who would outdo the other in the contest? What pains me is that while all this noise is going on, only very few people are asking the right questions.

A popular and well sung president does not directly translate to tangible, directional, cohesive and enduring development. Shouldn’t we be doing more than electing popular names or parties? Shouldn’t we have learnt by now how to vote for credible policies, plans and teams?

Some people say I have my heads up in the clouds. That I am talking meaningless ideals. One is even bold enough to say my vote doesn’t count! I am suprised. It looks like we have had so much mediocrity in our political cycle over the years that we have come to settle in it.

Think of it. Since 1999, when did Nigerians talk of voting for a new set policies? When did Nigerians talk of voting for a practical re-awakening of our country in education, jobs, income distribution, law and order? I have had glimpses at what people running for political offices in the U.S face when they go on campaign tours. People don’t just come out and play music all through, just hailing them and asking them no questions. The electorate go out to ask them, ‘This is the problem we have. You expect us to vote for you, so we suppose you’ve done your homework to understand the peculiarity of our situation. What plans have you come up with to address the issue?’ There are tons of t.v programmes that discuss the nation’s problems and critic the answers the political candidates are offering.
At the end of the day, the people have a fair idea of what they are voting for. They aren’t just voting for a black man, or a democrat, or a republican. They are voting for their expectations.

I absolutely think that it is a pitiable case of inferiority complex when a Nigerian sees this and starts to tell me, ‘Oh, that is America. This is Nigeria, let’s face reality.’ We have been facing dumb ‘reality’ since 1999! I think it’s time to use our minds.

What do we really want- a popular president, a new face in office, or a demonstrable change in the conditions of our country? We all witness the last gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State. The people ostensibly voted for a popular figure and a fresh face in office. Many of us outside Ekiti were shocked that the people would vote the way they did. I know people here who criticized the Ekiti electorate for voting ‘a bag of rice’ into office.

They seemed to forget that in a democracy, people have the free choice to vote as they see fit. These ‘friends’ were more concerned that these people had not taken care for tangible development in making their choices. At that time, they didn’t say, ‘this is Nigeria, let’s face reality.’

If that election proved anything, I believe it is this: Nigerians are poor voters. We hardly think deeply about the impact of our political choices on the state of the nation. We mostly think in terms of who has done his campaign more colourfully and, looks like a good fellow.
We are on the same path again, and this time on a national scale.

This leads me to my next point. I have found that when a person wins an election on a political party’s platform, he is expected to remain in that party, at least until his tenure in office runs out. If he crosses to another party, the of his former party immediately instigate an impeachment procedure against him. I don’t know if you’ve thought of it, but the implication of this trend is that we aren’t really voting persons into offices; We are voting in political parties and their personal agendas. We have opposition parties who are actually fighting to get their own agendas empowered. And at what cost? Is it really for the benefit of the voter?

The other day we saw our law makers on T.V, trying to pull down the gates of the House. Some even scaled the fence! I wondered, ‘For the love of country or the love of self and party?’

Are these parties interested in producing a ‘Can Do’ team of contestants who will deliver for the country, or popular names that can pull a simple majority? Think about it.

I wish I could share all the campaign lines used in 2011. Those lines have not changed. The mentality back then is still prevalent. And if we don’t take time to reflect, in 2015, we would be having a new four years to experience, without having an expected and outlined road map to a credible destination. We’d resort to ‘praying for our leaders’, asking God to give them vision and wisdom. Nonsense. Why can’t they get the vision and wisdom before they get elected?

I won’t tell any soul about my preferred candidate in these elections. I consider that an absolutely personal choice for which each one is independently responsible for. All I am asking is that as we sound our drums for our various preferences, we should think and ask relevant questions on our course beyond 2015.

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About Johnson Boyede

Johnson Boyede, B.Sc in International Relations. He wrote 'Addressing terrorism in Nigeria and possible spill over into West Africa' for his Long Essay. He contributes scholarly writings to an open facebook group, 'League of Diplomats'. He agrees and runs with the opinion of Paul Romer that, "Knowledge is a non-rival nature and only partly excludable... In an open society, knowledge's non-rival nature means that a piece of new information can be used over and over again, by different people, in varying contexts and to make new things...one good piece of knowledge will live several lifetimes, undergo different iterations and be put to ever more unique purposes."
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