BY law, a citizen who is 18 years of age is entitled to vote and be voted for in any election. Indeed, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in its Article 13 prescribes that “every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with provisions of the law.” It is not going to be so easy for any Nigerian presently to freely and fully exercise this right, in the prevailing circumstances of the current season, due largely to a number of factors which shall hereinafter be considered.
It is the season of elections presently. By the guidelines released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold this Saturday on February 16 whilst the governorship and House of Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, March 2, 2019. But the question on every one’s lip is just one simple poser: who do we vote for? In the circumstance of the present day Nigeria, it would seem that political parties are having it easy with the electorate, just invading their space and spitting clearly empty promises. This is not strange though, considering the clear provisions of Section 221 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, that “no association other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at any election.” Clearly therefore, the status, ideology, appeal, acceptability and track record of the political parties should ordinarily determine the votes of the electorates. But guess what? That is not the way of politicians, at least not in Nigeria.
I recently had a chat with a friend who is involved in the political race and I asked him pointedly, how he was coping with Nigerian politicians. His answer resolved many other issues in my mind. He said the typical Nigerian politician is the one who is deliberately telling you a lie, he knows that you know that he has told a lie, but he expects you to believe him nonetheless.
Presently, it would seem that only the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are truly in the race. The African Action Congress (AAC) has performed incredibly well in its campaigns, which has cut across all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and even beyond, with Omoyele Sowore showing so much zeal and political enterprise, even as a first timer. But why on earth will I ever cast my vote for the APC? Why? A political party that is so clueless and insincere, with no clear direction or goal, but just to grab power for the sake of it. A political party that will openly deride, deny and renounce its own manifesto which it willingly endorsed and deployed to canvass for votes in 2015. A party of strange bed fellows, which has so perfected the game of imposition, dictatorship and impunity to the extent that there is virtually a court case arising from each primary election conducted by the party in every state. The basic yearning of Nigerians for restructuring the APC has deliberately truncated, the desire for state police has been recklessly frustrated by the APC and the demand for resource control by the people of Nigeria has been willfully bastardised by the party on the altar of political expediency and yet this same party wants to return to power! APC? Please, don’t even go there at all.
But come to think of it. As a voter, the greater dilemma is to even contemplate PDP as an alternative to the APC. So, if one does not vote for APC or Buhari, who or what then is the better option? A post is currently circulating on the social media, which is said to have been the headline of The Guardian of London, to the extent that APC’s Buhari is a “stingy dictator” whilst PDP’s Atiku is “a confirmed kleptomania.” PDP to rule Nigeria again? Let’s perish the thought. That political party that basks in election rigging and vote manipulation, with such brazen impunity as to totally eclipse any previous African record in leadership through fraud. This same political party that was in power from 1999 to 2015 and could not guaranty just 12 hours of power supply across the nation? Those that have been alleged to be sharing the national treasury freely, only among themselves and their cronies, they should come back again for the final kill? It is totally unthinkable that PDP will take charge at Aso Rock again.
But the voter still cannot ignore the APC and the PDP, as Kingsley Moghalu and Fela Durotoye have not been so visible, no major campaigns beyond television debates and interviews. They have not been able to reach out to the core of the voters, especially the illiterate ones in the hinterlands. Our own Mama that we thought would carry the banner to a higher level was mid-way ambushed by her associates, who are now threatening her with court action for alleged failure to give account of campaign funds. Some voters were looking towards the Duke of the Niger Delta, but just overnight, his people suddenly pulled the rug from under his feet. They tried at first to wrest his mandate through the court and when he survived that on appeal, they then unleashed the trump card, by openly adopting the candidate of another political party, whilst our friend was still busy campaigning! So, what exactly should a voter do in this season, especially on February 16?
The voter should first sit down and think. How did we get here? What went wrong? The party in power had promised to amend the Constitution to achieve fundamental reforms in our electoral system, but it failed to do so and we just sat down since 2015, either hailing or wailing. The ruling party had promised devolution of powers by which the elections February 16 would have become less competitive or attractive, but it just kept going round and round until it craftily foisted this situation of complete helplessness upon all Nigerians. So, the voter should accept first and foremost that this present situation is self inflicted. As it is said in law, volenti non fit injuria, that is you cannot be heard to complain from an injury caused through a voluntarily act. We have been too passive as a people, tolerating the PDP for these harrowing 16 years and now gleefully enduring this monstrous APC for these four gruesome years. In simple terms, we are back to 2015, when the choice was between the Devil and the Dragon.
Many have said that they will vote for PDP and Atiku just to escape the killings across the land, the mindless propaganda of the ruling APC, which has so much polarised us as a people along tribal and religious lines like never before. Many others will rather prefer to pitch their tents with APC and Buhari, as a Devil known is far better than an Angel on the way. The real problem however is not even so much of the present dilemma but that it will continue even till 2023, after we must have accepted another four years of some visionless leaders, only to be back to square one. So, the other option then is whether to stay aloof. Can that be an option, for a patriotic citizen, who bears a civic burden to participate in all elections? The truth is self evident that when good people stand aloof and do nothing, then they should be prepared to be led and ruled by people of the other side.
The other option for the voters now is not to be confused by the noises of election propaganda but to allow reason and sense to prevail. There has to be a critical assessment of the objective conditions of the Nigerian state since 1999 till now, to be able to assess the performance or otherwise of those canvassing for votes across the land. Who amongst them can be trusted and which political party has a working document that speaks to the real issues confronting Nigeria, that is binding and enforceable, not just based upon some trumpeted goodwill or alleged managerial capacity. So, I don’t envy any voter in this season at all, who is busy trying to resolve the knotty dilemma of who to vote for and which political party to support. But one thing is clear and certain that, the man to rescue Nigeria is not yet amongst these contenders. The search for that mystery man must start now and continue for the next four years, so that come 2023, we are not repeating the dilemma of this season. That indeed is the task before all voters, as we go to the polls this week and in March.
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