America Votes: Any Lessons For Nigeria? (2)

by Uzoma Nduka

Read Part One here

This is our chance to take democracy to another level; a level of positive politics.

In the US, politics is a match of words i.e. your words against mine. It is all about your stand on issues-ancient and modern. It is all about what you have said and done in the past and the present and what your future visions are. References are made to your thoughts and deeds, actions and inactions and voters are left to decide. Campaign ads emerge and emanate from newspaper publications, radio and television interviews, declassified government records, and data from other relevant sources.

For us to take Nigerian politics to this novel level, we have to Xerox this campaign strategy and flee from politics of thugs and assassination. To begin to count notable and less notable Nigerians who have passed on because of their involvement in politics will not do us any good. But let history judge! In effect, therefore, our politicians should distance themselves from this angle of politics which destroys rather than employ. We need to employ brains and not brawns. We need to stop lavishing lives in the name of playing politics; after all, politics should be all inclusive game.

Politics in developed countries involves every free born of that country. This is why in the US they have absentee voters. Time has come for Nigerians in the Diaspora to participate in voting despite where they are living. To my mind, I will suggest that the Federal Government of Nigeria seek the services of Professor Emeagwali to develop a system whereby Nigerians scattered all over the world can register as voters and vote for their leaders. Professor Emeagwali if charged with this responsibility will then fashion out the best route to go about it. It is important that we begin to involve our best brains in other to develop our politics. We have these human resources in all fields and in all climes. And they are tops in their chosen careers. So why can’t we get them to help us? And they are ready to serve their homeland with all in them.

US democracy is advanced because of its technological sophistication and openness. Voting methods and records are clear. The conciseness brings forth happy ending. It helps voters decipher election fraud and irregularities. It helps election agents know and fix problems on time. The lessons of previous election/s are brought to bear and constantly put into account or taken care of before a future election. But in Nigeria, we implore rhetoric over pitfalls and irregularities of previous election/s. We do not proffer panacea to problems emanating from past election/s. We, rather redesign such problems to suit our future goals and needs. It adds up to our being elected into office. It strengthens our immediate needs and that of the whole nation goes aflame. No much lesson/s is learned from past elections so that we can make future elections better and fraud free.

Democracy is always an on-going process. It has no defined barriers. And as such successes of governments are carried over and continued with the in-coming administration. In contemporary Nigeria we have myriad of ‘uncompleted projects’ in so many states of the federation. Successive governments do not want to associate themselves with the progress or otherwise of previous ones. Take for example the billions of Naira spent during the Babangida administration on party offices. These party (S.D.P. and N.R.C.) offices are now occupied by bandits, mad people, sheep, goat, rats and all sorts of things. It is derisive and sad to see these big edifices wasting away and they are simply called ‘white elephant projects’. And this makes us the third world we are. We do not develop on channels of developments. We do not build on achievements rather we want to start ours in other to reap so much money from it. American democracy is a continuum. Administrations build on the achievements of others and this energizes growth of economy and politics. We (Nigerian government) need to learn from this.

In America, people have a right to REAL freedom of speech. Take for instance the Venezuelan’s president speech to the UN a couple of months ago where he called President George W. Bush “a devil”, yet heavens were not let loose. In spite of that, citizens have the right to say what they want to say to any person no matter his/her position. They can voice their grievances on issues, for instance the Iraq war and the war on terrorism. Many Americans have aired their point/s of view/s on the above issues, some calling for the resignation of the president, some calling for the withdrawal of troops, some calling for a timeline etc. No one has been molested and thrown behind bars. No one has been traced and trailed. No one has been marked out for elimination and all that. These are landmarks of democracy. And we need to Xerox these kinds of positive politics. It is time for all of us to say “things that touches us shall be last served” according to Shakespeare. Let us for once ask what “we” will do for the nation undermining reciprocity. Let’s toe Sunny Okosuns’ line when he sang “Nigerians unite” because it is only in unity can we achieve our common goals and aspirations.

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