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Political office seekers should focus on positively winning the hearts of the people, not excuses and falsehood, writes Monday Philips Ekpe 

The heat generated by the races for various elective positions will reach its climax in a matter of days. While some candidates are hopeful of triumph, others can perceive that things have gone awry, and would take the back seat and start planning to try their luck some other time. Yet, there are those who move against reason and the clear signs of impending electoral failure. It is such persons who scream that powers more powerful than them have already sealed their fate. Accusations of favouritism, pre-meditated rigging and other alleged opponents’ transgressions proceed from that mindset.

But I particularly like what the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said about the body’s neutrality when he addressed election supervisory presiding officers (SPOs) last weekend in Abuja. His words: “The commission is determined that the 2023 general election will be the best ever and you are the people that will help the commission to make it happen and help to ensure that Nigeria has a pleasant experience on election day. INEC is not a political party. INEC has no candidate in the election. Our only interest is in the processes. The choice of who becomes what in Nigeria is left to the Nigerian people to decide. You are the people who supervise those who will work at the most important level, the Polling Units (PUs) level. That is the only place where voting takes place.

“The collation officers at the polling units’ level are collating results from the PUs. When collation officers at the PUs go to the local government level, they are collating results from the PUs. When they go to the state level, they are collating results from the PUs and when they come to Abuja, where we collate the presidential result, it would have passed through all these processes. So, by the time the results come to Abuja, Nigerians would have known the outcome of the election. Our responsibility is simply to collate. So, you are playing a very critical role. What will help you, help the commission, help Nigerians and the electoral process is your integrity as individuals.” One hard thing to do now is to get the Nigerian people to swallow without a pinch of salt whatever comes from the government or its agencies. And you can’t seriously fault them on that. In my view, however, this INEC has put some measures in place to earn some public confidence. It won’t be long before that is tested at the national stage, though. At least for the sake of our own mental health, let’s believe Prof. Yakubu for now.

While the rest citizens do so, politicians may have to return to the proverbial drawing board and get re-invigorated for the task at hand. Put differently, this is no time to drop the momentum ball. For, next week, Nigerians will vote for their choices of president of the federal republic and members of the National Assembly, the first set of polls in this year’s general election. Voters will seek to satisfy a couple of expectations. First, their own conscience, that adults are capable of rising up and taking responsibility for the emergence of credible leadership to steer this rich but heavily encumbered ship called Nigeria. Second, letting it be on record for future generations that genuine efforts were made in deciding who governs the country and its diverse constituencies. Third, that, the world, having become increasingly smaller and more interconnected, Nigeria is not left behind in the comity of progressive, democratic nations; that it be viewed more favourably, instead.

In countries where the civic duty of participating in elections is considered sacred and treated as such, there’s a periodic reinforcement of the grounds stated earlier to further enlist the devotion of citizens. Truth is, there can’t be any meaningful or enduring socio-political engineering without an entrenched voting culture. It is for this reason that serious governments, civil society groups, the media and other key components of society mobilise resources towards achieving mass commitment and involvement.

Talking of galvanising corporate or social stimulus towards achieving common objectives and, in our present circumstances, electing competent people into executive and legislative positions nationwide. John Maxwell, world acclaimed author and leadership expert, declares in one of his cerebral works, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, that, “momentum is a leader’s best friend.” I sincerely hope that the candidates in the forthcoming elections, particularly the frontrunners, have given that counsel adequate thought. The book outlines seven critical points about momentum. Here’s my understanding about them: One, whenever momentum manifests, it tends to magnify all the positive energies of the individual, organisation or occasion. It creates a force that exaggerates the importance or viability of the subject. Two, it adds more value to the affected leaders. Onlookers and even some insiders would most likely think kindly of the qualities of their leader, which should yield desirable dividends. Three, momentum enhances the capacity of members of the team to invest more resources therein and perform optimally. The prospect of success usually becomes more real and, of a truth, nothing fuels enthusiasm more.

Four, many times, the early direction of momentum is difficult to identify and control. Once begun, however, piloting it is made easier, especially if the leaders are able to place their hands on the vital buttons and, ultimately, take the ship to the target destination. Five, momentum is arguably among the most potent weapons of change for the simple reason that, many times, what people actually need to key into transformation are leaders they can trust in terms of clarity of purpose, capability and track-record. They would willingly jettison their own familiar, comfort zones and dive into a future well painted by their performing captains.

Six, momentum has a lot to do with a leader who sets the tone, designs the roadmap, chooses the team, monitors the progress, interprets the dynamism or otherwise, and, in some cases, determines the course. These possible modes of intervention by leaders differ from field to field. They are certainly more unpredictable in volatile areas like politics. And, lastly, seven. Momentum may not end with a leader but it surely starts with him. He is the visionary, touch-bearer, pacesetter. The alpha, in short. His passion about set goals must be strong and contagious enough to get others on board and possibly make them drop other own engagements to follow him, the dear leader, on the mission.

Just one example here. The run up to these elections has produced one phenomenon that should be properly situated and understood. Those who dismiss Mr. Peter Obi, presidential standard-bearer of Labour Party, as structureless, a mere south east candidate and social media giant may be insincere, mischievous or ill-informed. His near-folk status in the ongoing contest is occasioned by the yearnings of a frustrated generation for something different, for someone closer to its age grades and who exhibits a distinguished knowledge of its potential and aspirations. It’s remarkable that the momentum generated by his candidacy since the middle of last year hasn’t waned, contrary to dissenting projections. With due respect to the criticisms against the opinion polls that have so far favoured Obi, it’s clear that he is the symbol of an un-envisaged movement. Cynics and sceptics may deny or despise its ability to bite, to their discomfitures.

My take is that Nigerians are desperately in search of salvation from their numerous torments, a condition arguably worse than the pre-2015 polls’ atmosphere. Victory will likely go the way of those who can engage the electorate constructively and concertedly to the end. They’re not too distracted to vote sensibly. Hopefully.

Dr Ekpe is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board

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