Towards 2011 General Elections

There comes a time in the life of a nation or group of people when imminent change is either desired and/or thrust on same. Instances abound in history: From the German theologian-led Reformation in the 14th century; the revolution in France against the Bourbons from 1789 to 1799; the dismissal of racial segregation and political/economic/legal discrimination in South Africa to the dethronement of despotism (and other forms of absolutism) particularly across the African continent; the list is inexhaustible.

Whether these crusades were individuals’ ideas or hatched on the platform of social mass movements by pressure groups is inconsequential. What counts is the fact that the people were either enlightened or oppressed in a sufficient manner to rebuff subjugation and status quo.

In Nigeria at the moment, the sensation you get (which is almost tactual) is that of great displeasure of the populace towards their ‘leaders’. This disapproval has no ethnic, religious or cultural affiliation as leadership has failed across the entire nation – corruption in the North has a hardworking companion in the South, bad roads exist across all the geo-political zones while leadership at all levels reeks of incompetence and corruptness. Though they might appear helpless, the people are beginning to realise that indeed true power lies with them and they can choose to vest such power with any individual(s) they so desire. 2011 elections present to them an excellent opportunity to sack sleazy and effete leadership in order to reinstate service and accountability. It is all for them to lose this momentous chance.

Indeed, 2011 might not be the El Dorado when milk will begin to flow from our taps and honey, fall as rain. Howbeit, it presents a rare opportunity to mark the beginning of a most desirous change. I believe a group of people pivotal to this cause are the elites. Of course, this is no reference to political autocrats (who christen themselves democrats) who have held this nation down in the dungeons of self-aggrandisement. I am referring to that supposedly eroded (but emerging) middle class, particularly individuals who fall between the 20 to 45 years age stool. They enjoy superior intellectual, social and economic status. They have the numbers. They hold the ace! Alas, these people by their inaction and residing in their ‘comfort zones’ have fortified the chains binding us.

In a power failure situation, they generate their own power. Public water works are more of relics of the past; hence they sink their own boreholes. With the decay of public schools, they enrol their wards in expensive private schools. They flee from our abattoir public hospitals to patronise prestigious private ones either at home or abroad. Of a truth, expecting government security agencies to provide security is akin to suicide. Hence, they engage private security outfits. On election days, they sit at home to watch the charade called elections. They stay away from the murky waters of government and politics, desiring to be ‘home and dry’ with no wet feet. Yet, at the slightest chance, they complain (still within their ‘comfort zones’) about government, politics, education, security, health, etc. They are eager to blog, write, comment, criticise, condemn, write off or complain about any social ill. Interestingly, that is all they do!

I believe certain issues must be addressed by this class of people (who hold the ace) if indeed we are to experience the change we long for after the 2011 elections would have come and gone.

Without doubt, it is not out of place to criticise government behind a computer screen, through the internet portals or on the pages of newspapers. While this has its place in social crusade, it should not come all its own. It is a shame to this generation of people when individuals a la Wole Soyinka, Anthony Enahoro, Late Gani Fawehinmi and Abraham Adesanya and many others (in their 70’s) are still at the vanguard of social protest against appalling leadership. They take to the streets under the scourging sun while this class of people watch them on TV. Our ‘comfort zones’, we must leave and engage our ‘leaders’ where the rubber hits the road. Howbeit, it is comforting to discover that this is changing going by the recent rallies successfully executed by various youth fora. It is soothing to see celebrities and VIPs lending support to these mass meetings. Nonetheless, care must be taken not to be carried away by staging euphoric protests as these on their own do not guarantee change. When push comes to shove, how many of us are ready to do what really counts and stay on course to see this country through the change we desire? Mail bags of foreign consulars are bursting at their seams with our HSMP, Canadian Immigration Residence/Work Permit and US visa lottery applications as we are ready to take off at the least harassment or discomfort. We should be wary of individuals seeking cheesy recognition.

We must take active participation in electoral processes. Pressure should be sustained on the National Assembly to amend essential sections of the electoral act before the elections with preference given to true independence of INEC, independent candidacy, resolution of electoral disputes, penalties for electoral malpractices and participation of the myriad of Nigerians in the Diaspora.

Enrolment on the voters’ register is indeed a step to take in the right direction. We must get involved in grassroots politicking not necessarily as politicians but in procedures and decisions that throw up political candidates. How many of us know (either by name or face) our councillors and local government chairmen? In the build-up to 2011 general elections we should lend a voice to deciding whose names get on the ballot papers and who eventually secures our votes. Fundamental to this is the facilitating of town hall meetings. Aspirants should be called on to present and defend their manifestos. We should be spared mundane talks about provision of roads, pipe borne water, etc as campaign items – not in the 21st century! Let us engage all political aspirants (councillors, council chairmen, state house members, governors, presidents, senators and representatives) in deliberating on real issues – diversification of the economy, IGRs, healthcare, taxes, pension reforms, education, infrastructural, agricultural, industrial and manpower development. The media (particularly TV and radio stations) have a key role to play in facilitating live town hall meetings. Someone once suggested political aspirants should be subjected (during their campaign tenure) to the drills and rigours of the Mark Burnett’s The Apprentice. Let us know what businesses they have managed, associations they have led and ideas they have hatched, successfully.

Before and during elections, creating awareness among the general public and monitoring elections cannot be overemphasised. The populace should know that true power lies with them and in their votes. The political cabal may want us to believe our votes do not count – you wonder, why do they kill and maim for it? Nevertheless, through effective monitoring they would be made to realise one man’s vote can be deciding. Volunteering to ensure the elections are what we want, must involve registering with non-partisan pressure and monitoring groups. On election days, let us employ all possible technological facilities (pen recorders, camcorders, phones, cameras, etc) to monitor elections. Intellectual strategy and scheming is our key weapon.

‘Area boys’? We are the real ‘area boys’. We do it in style!

Written by
Adewale Ajani
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