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If what we want as a country is development; if we desire to bring security and welfare to the people, then we must come to the conclusion that periodic elections in the manner we go about them in Nigeria today will not attain that goal.
The hope that democracy provides above other systems of governance is that, when an elected leader turns a villain, there is an opportunity to vote that leader out in the next election and replace that leader with another person of your choice. Once the opportunity to exercise that privilege is abridged whether directly or indirectly, the salt in the pudding is trampled upon.
Let’s us take our situation for instance. It is only through the instrumentality of a political party you can get to power in Nigeria today. The two major political parties that are currently sharing power between themselves, PDP/APC, (because there is no democracy where all existing parties are in power), are not interested in allowing the system to produce leaders that can bring development to the country. Rather, they are consciously and deliberately building bulwarks against the yearnings of the ordinary people to taste good leadership.
They are merely driven by a longing to grab power. They only need people who can help them grab power. Not people who can bring development to our communities. Their recruitment process for both those who work for the party bureaucracies and the candidates they present for elections, is anti-growth. There is no deliberate effort by the parties to shop for good quality to field for elections. They accept people for contests not necessarily because they passed them through any process to gauge their commitment and competence.
Regardless of how unprepared for leadership a person is, once an aspirant has the deep pocket and the political dark-side that befits the parties as capable of grabbing power for them, you are headed for office at the expense of development. The source or propriety of your deep pockets is not their business.
Elsewhere, political parties, deliberately shop for good leaders from among their communities, groom them and raise their campaign funds to push them into office to perform. Nigeria’s ruling parties and the ruling elites have looked us all in the face and made access to leadership position in Nigeria a millionaires club. If you are not a multi-millionaire, stop dreaming of becoming an elected leader in Nigeria. That’s what they have told us in clear terms with the cost of their election forms. Yet, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation NDIC, says more than 80 per cent of Nigerians do not have up to 500k in their savings. It doesn’t matter how good you are, they have weaponised money to take away our right to be voted for and they are fighting the introduction of Independent Candidacy, tooth and nail.
There is also the challenge of empty aspirations. Because of the lack of proper and challenging scrutiny in public interest, every shady character with some bucks is propping up to run for office because they know they are the only ones that will afford the requirements. They have all the requirements the system wants unless a clear agenda for where they want to go and occupy.
So you see people telling you, I am running for a legislative position for instance. Ask them what bills do you have in mind to pursue and what oversight functions that will improve our appropriation? And you hear answers like, “We no need more laws for Nigeria. There are enough laws already.”
“No be that one dey win election. I want to go and help my people. I have a program on infrastructure, sports youth development and empowerment already.”
“Manifesto no dey win election for Nigeria. No be good program dey win election. Na to understand the system.”
“The people who vote don’t know what manifesto means. Make we just try win our party ticket for primaries.”
Usually, it ends up these unprepared rogues are the ones who pick the tickets and they are nudged on to power by a transactional electorate who want their dividends in advance. Once you say you are running for office, you immediately become a public meal voucher. The bills of everyone’s social events and medicals, plus family problems of everyone, are dumped on you, just because you are aspiring and once you cannot afford to service those needs, you are automatically not suited for office. Once you can service those needs, you ride to power and steal to recoup.
There are also the hatchet men and women who just want to whip ethnic and regional sentiments to complete the power grab scheme. Not because they want to bring development either, but because their own has not been able to get access to the till.
So we have continued in this circuitous rigmarolling, wasting resources every election cycle without attaining development. Rather the system only continues to produce sudden millionaire who are essentially just stealing from the renteer system and remitting pittances to their beneficiaries to sustain the cycle. But the system has reached it’s elastic limit and there are two options, #RevolutionNow or we put elections on hold and sit down to re-write our Constitution which will restructure Nigeria, then we can call for the next election. For now, those waiting on the queue to enter and continue to steal are more than those already inside.
Citizen Agba Jalingo, Publisher of CrossRiverWatch and a rights activist, is a Cross Riverian and writes in from Lagos.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.