A leader takes the coloration of the process and people that brought them into power and so leaders all over the world are functions of the type of people that they lead.
A bad leader is a product of a bad people especially when the choice is in the hands of the people. For example we cannot have fifteen out of twenty intelligent, proactive and competent people in a group and we end up electing as our Leader from the five dull, clueless and incompetent members.
Taking America as a case study, construction of roads, provision of stable power supply, electricity, healthcare security and other popular campaign promises regularly made by Nigerian politicians has longed been regarded as non issue facing the American people and cannot be used to entice the American voters unlike in Nigeria nay Cross River.
The America electorates are one of, if not the most sophisticated electorates in the world. They are very critical of the kind of leaders they have and ensure only the best have shots in their various leadership cadres irrespective of their religion, tribe and color. And that is why we can have a Kenyan as the President of the most powerful nation in the world.
Manifesto debates is one of the most critical aspects of the electioneering process that determines the results of the election, other processes like candidates previous performance (if he/she has been there before) history, experience are also very instrumental.
Issues like candidate’s relationship with his family, ideology of his party, intelligence etc. are all of great value especially when it comes to winning the elections.
The financial muscle of the candidate has little or no role to play in the elections as people are ready to spend and sacrifice for the candidate of their choice once they are convinced he can deliver as in the case of Barack Obama.
The Nigeria political system is almost in direct contrast with what happens in the USA, here candidates’ mental sagacity, antecedents and capacity are not important factors that can determine the results of an election.
People stay in prison and win elections as in the case of Theodore Orji and Sen.Oyiola Omisore, ex- convicts and impeached political office holders are still candidates to beat in an election.
Once you have huge financial war chest or you are in the winning party or have a strong political godfather then you are good to go. In fact one of my PDP friend in Cross River boasted to me that “even if it’s a goat they present as their candidate in an election in Cross River, it will win” and you may not argue with him much because of the caliber of people that have emerged overtime as political office holders in the state as a result of the PDP abracadabra.
Debates which are to help assess candidate’s intellect, capability and vision are very insignificant in our electioneering process. During the last presidential debate the candidate for the ruling party absconded from the debate yet still went ahead to have a landslide victory at the polls while the candidate who was adjudged to have performed very well in the debate Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau came a distant 4th with paltry number of votes.
In Nigeria if you have Ideas, and passionately want to serve but don’t have money or godfather and you are looking for people especially young men who will volunteer, contribute and campaign for you like what Obama enjoyed then “you don enter one chance be that o” because you have failed from the word go.
The last gubernatorial election in Ekiti state that saw the incumbent governor Kayode Fayemi of APC losing to Ayo Fayose of PDP added a new phrase “stomach infrastructure” into our political lexicon.
Stomach infrastructure is seen as a situation where electorates prefer instant gratification to enduring legacies. It is alleged that the Ekiti voters preferred to vote Fayose who came with bags of rice than Fayemi who had served them efficiently for four years as governor.
Some said he Fayemi did not connect with the people like Fayose who spent time with the people in different joints drinking palm wine, ogogoro etc. and my question is, will someone who is engrossed with the burden of providing good governance to his people have the luxury of time moving to one joint to another across the state sharing drink with the people?
Some say he was too elitist in his policies especially in the situation where teachers were ask to write test to ascertain their competence and I ask “is teaching a job for mediocres or can you give what you don’t have?
Like Ekiti, Cross River state is one of the states in Nigeria that believes so much on the “stomach infrastructure.” In fact while the Ekiti people much rice to sell their votes, it takes as little as cabin biscuit, Maggi, pure water, moi-moi or as little as 100 naira for an average Cross River voter to mortgage his future for another four years.
Today when you try to sell a candidate to a friend the question they ask is “does he have money” or “how much does he have that he wants to be this or that?” nobody cares about where he is coming from or what he has to offer.
Our politics is now for the highest bidder and so it is he who has the cash that controls the game. From 1999 to date our political offices especially the governorship has always gone to the people who drop more cash on the table.
Very recently a certain man with no known political history came in and shook the entire political system of the state to its roots as thousands of Cross Riverians clamored for his emergence as governor not because they were convinced that he has the capacity to deliver but because he has so much money to spend.
It’s so unfortunate that the people we call “Aboki” have proven to be more politically sophisticated than us, they don’t go for leaders with deep pockets but those with proven integrity that is why a man like Gen. Muhamadu Buhari with no money can enjoy the kind of support he enjoys from the north.
Imagine if it was only Cross Riverians that were to decide who becomes the APC presidential candidate, Buhari wouldn’t have won landslide in the APC primaries, he may even had come a distant third because our people who do not see beyond deep pockets would have gone for the highest bidder.
In 2003 a secondary school principal Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau emerged from an opposition party to defeat an incumbent governor Eng. Rabiu Kwakwanso. Can that ever happen in Cross River?
No wonder political office holders can insult our sensibilities by coming to share noodles, Rice, Yams and other petty items to gullible citizens and call it Food Bank when we know the same people collect more than 30 million naira as salary every month.
Cross Riverians as we go to the polls again in February to elect leaders that will pilot over our affairs for another four years, please let us vote from our head and not from our stomach, because stomach infrastructure does not last.
Kalita Joseph Aruku is the Assistant Youth Leader of APC in Cross River State
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