Before It is Too Late

Anthony Kila writes about the need for every Nigerian of voting age to properly scrutinise all candidates vying for 2023 elective positions and determine their suitability to represent the citizenry

Dear Readers,

For close to two and a half years, “come 2023…” has been recurrent phrase in the national Nigerian political discourse and it is easy to see why so many people and so many groups were looking forward to that year.

Well, 2023 is not here. Let us be clear, in the political discourse, the two months that matter most are the months of February and that of May. For politicians, May is the month of assuming office, better still getting their hands on the reins of power, February is the month of winning the battle for mantle of power.

Thankfully, the battle for power in a democratic system is or should be battle of wit, a presentation of alternative and competitive ideas by gladiators called flagbearers (candidates) chosen by their platforms (parties) because they are deemed to be the most suitable persons to pass the test of character, capability and competence that the historic moment, defined by topical issues, requires.

It is important to hold clear the notion of historic moment, defined by topical issues, because contrary to what many tend to assume democracy does not ensure that the absolute best of us rules.

What democracy can at best ensure is that the most suitable person in that specific moment emerges because it is generally assumed that he or she has the best temperament or perceived skills to deal with the issues of the moment.

That is why a leader popular in times of war might not be the one popular when the issue to deal with is unemployment.

Nigeria offers a peculiar case study to the literature of modern democracy: For many politicians in Nigeria, the starting point to convince members of their party and later the general body of voters of that they deserve to lead is ethnical and such mindset has generated concepts like zoning and rotation in the context of a system that can be termed as “Turn by turn Nigerian unlimited”, for some other politicians the ticket to contest and win in February in order to be sworn into power in May is based on loyalty and philanthropy.

A lot of observers and even many analysts argue that these peculiarities are due to and indeed inevitable given the constitution and structure of Nigeria, I disagree. In my personal and strongly held view, what we are dealing with is a failure of elites (leaders) that in both the public and private sectors have not been able to live up to the basic but crucial call of successfully leading the country in the process of nurturing a state or geographical expression into a viable nation. This is a blatant and dangerous failure that needs to be addressed and corrected before it is too late.

For citizens, February is the month to choose and May the month to start to hope for the best and to start and endure anything that comes out of the choice of February and its ratification in May.

A sort of a one-way ticket for at least four years. Today’s epistle is written with the simple and hopefully clear intention of publicly, passionately and for the records remind we the citizens that things do not have to continue the way they are at the moment and that our choices can define our immediate and long-term future.

After May, it becomes very difficult to change our fortunes but before February, we can correct things before it is too late. Before May comes the first task, we the citizens need to absolve is to make sure that those vying to lead our affairs and to manage our commonwealth do their vying through a process that shows they effectively understand our needs and concerns and appreciate our status as citizens.

Parents and students who care about education should be looking to see if the candidate they want to vote for or against really understands and care about education or not.

They need to check if the candidate of their choice finds it appalling that educational institutions in the country are closed for long periods or that they offer good and useful education when open.

Business people that want to build and invest need to carefully check to see if the candidate of their choice can make sure that proposed government policies (manifestos and election promises) truly understand and appreciate the importance of business and its place in the society: a source for generating wealth and jobs through ideas and risk taking.

They need to see if the candidate they are considering to vote has a good idea of the problems business are dealing with and above all that the candidate can solve these problems.

As a people, we all have to deal with security, it is important therefore that we make sure that the candidate we are considering to vote for sees security issue as a crucial issue connected to everything we do and want to do.

Left alone to their devices, candidates will not talk about these issues let alone show their capacity to solve these problems and lead others to prosperity, the natural instinct is to find their way into power through gossips, emotional rhetoric, insults and vague promises and once in power they think of self-preservation and consolidation of power.

It is important at this stage to notice that politicians know how to reach out for what they want. A simple and very visible proof is their ability to make sure their campaign posters are affixed in every nook and corner of even forsaken parts of the country only to disappear once they get power at that point it is too late to negotiate. Before it is too late, we the people need to learn to negotiate what matters to us. We need to use these few days leading to election to decide what matters to us and insist that politicians negotiate on our terms and conditions.

We need to make sure we insist that politicians know what we truly care about and we need to make sure only those we think want to solve our problems and have the capacity to do so get into power.

There is a general call for people to go out and vote, that is an essential element but it is not enough. Democracy is a game of numbers, to make sure we get what we want, it also important that we make sure that we do not leave those who do not care about us to decide who gets into power, before it is too late, we need to convince others to avoid errors that can lead to disastrous outcome for us come May this year.

Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.

-Prof Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos.

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