We Vote and Then What Next?
Thoughts on Nigeria, our present and future, as we elect new leaders
In a few days, many Nigerians will troop to the polls to elect a new President and members of the Federal Legislature. Two weeks after that, the process will be repeated as we vote for state Governors and members of state houses of assembly. The elections have been highly anticipated and for the first time in a long time, many people appear interested in participating. Would voter turnout exceed previous numbers? Only time will tell.
It has been a very long and interesting last few months leading to the actual elections. We have heard from many candidates, whether they presented themselves for public debates or decided to have their town hall meetings. We have seen and heard the best and the worst of many candidates and their followers. We have experienced many comical moments featuring new phrases and expressions. We have been shocked and we have been amused. We have even wondered why some candidates are over-campaigning or whether others are serious about their candidacy.
Throughout this process, the electorate has had the opportunity to determine for themselves, which candidates they should support and why. This decision has either been a tough or easy one depending on the criteria each individual has determined to be most important to them. Sadly, many politicians have been poor in ideology, leaving many people’s decision-making to be influenced by sentiments. How many people even deeply understand why they are supporting their candidates?
The electoral process is a good opportunity to express our desires and many have taken advantage of it before votes have even been cast by rooting for their preferred candidates. The focus of this election season has also been largely on the Presidency, it seems many people don’t even realise that there are elections for other federal and state positions as the airwaves have been dominated by the most prominent presidential candidates.
This electoral season has also revealed the true nature of many Nigerians. The passionate ones who have eagerly championed the causes of their candidates, dutifully providing information about their plans and programmes and patiently trying to convert undecided voters. Those who have allowed themselves to become weapons of mass destruction, both physically and virtually, by attacking every perceived opponent that comes across their path. Those who couldn’t care less and those who are optimistic, those who see no future and those who are eager to build a new country.
The average Nigerian is fed up. People are tired of the status quo, everyone wants a better country. We expect more and we are ready to demand more. We can’t go on like this and this is why so many people appear to be so invested in this process. The clamour for voter registration and encouragement to vote has been high.
I keep wondering what the attraction of political office is though because I would not even consider taking responsibility for fixing the gargantuan mess that other people have created. Practically every sector desperately needs help and attention, where does one start from and how long would it take to address the most critical problems? Are any of the candidates truly prepared for the work ahead or are they just lining up to claim their turn?
We have had numerous attempts to get our leadership right but our constant search for a saviour usually leads us down the wrong path. Even now, many still seek a saviour in their candidate but what happens when he does not save us? What are the core expectations we have and are they realistic? Are we ready to adjust to the definite, uncomfortable changes that would come along with the implementation of programmes geared towards delivering the saviour’s manifesto? Does your candidate even have a practical manifesto?
And why do we seek one saviour when we should focus on all elected government officials across the federal, state, and local governments? Our obsession with seeking an incorruptible President has blinded us from focusing on the elected officials that are closer to us (the local government officials) and those who have the power to review and enact laws (the legislature). Maybe if we looked away from the centre and gave as much energy to the elected officials closer to us, things would be much better.
So throughout this process, what have we learnt about ourselves? It is important to understand this because the journey to the nation we desire will not end. First of all, we can band together and move towards a goal if we are determined and motivated. I see the campaign structure of the political parties and the informal support from others who may not be party members but are convinced of the party’s candidate. We can channel this collectiveness into so many other areas.
We, the people, have the power to decide our future but do we understand what we need to do to create the future we see? the future we believe we deserve? Are we ready to do what needs to be done? The Nigeria we desire can only be built when we decide to do so and it would take as many of us as possible being “the saviour”: doing the right things at the right times.
So, where do we go from here? Elections will end and candidates will be sworn into office. Life will continue. Your candidate may win, congratulations! What role will you play in ensuring that they keep to their campaign promises and focus on turning around our country? What if your candidate doesn’t win? Are you ready for that? Have you contemplated that reality? You still have a role in ensuring that whoever gets elected into office fulfils their mandate. Rather than griping and taunting supporters of the winning party, it would be time to focus on ensuring that the winners are accountable to the citizens.
The office of the citizen is one which many of us need to become more acquainted with. We need to become more politically aware: elections only come in cycles but life happens every day. We should not get used to waiting for elections until we make our voices heard. The energy that has been displayed throughout this period is still very much needed every day. From the councillors at the local governments to the President, we need to focus on holding all elected officials accountable. We must also refrain from becoming complicit in corruption.
Truth be told, the days ahead will be tough. The current stewards of this ship have almost run us aground so a lot of work will be required from the new stewards to point us in a new direction. We will suffer in some areas but hopefully, we will enjoy later. May we all work towards and experience the new Nigeria we desire. As always, this is the way I see things today.