They want Nigeria for themselves

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LOOK at politics as a business and you would notice that the politicians hardly lose. The major losers are the voters whom they have turned into ‘commodities’ to be purchased as the elections draw near. All the decampings and defections are about politicians not losing out in the power game.

WHERE do these place the people? Unfortunately, they are nowhere. The people are meant to vote and that ends their contribution. The din that rises from shouting “votes will count” appears to be a threat to those votes. If votes don’t count, what else would? The allusions to the possibilities of rigging the elections are implied.

ASPIRANTS are not telling us anything new. They are all happy with the electoral schedule, which shields them from public scrutiny until 18 November when campaigns start for the presidency and National Assembly seats. How do the future inheritors of Nigeria intend to run the country?

THINGS are so bad that we can be sold on that “better country” lingo, but we have seen a lot. We have also heard a lot. There is little time left for us to interrogate, investigate and situate those who want to take charge of Nigeria in 2019. Who are the candidates? What is their idea of Nigeria? Have they tested these ideas elsewhere?

ON December 8 last year, in Oyo State, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu at a retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners, repeated the election schedule. The timetable for the elections was first released in March 2017, two years to the elections. Then on January 9 this year, INEC Secretary Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu announced the full timetable for the elections.

POLITICIANS are talking to themselves. They are conspiring. They are deciding all by themselves who would be what and who should not be what. Their reasons are ‘personal to them or, at best, ‘political’.

THEIR interests would have little, if anything, to do with the larger interest of Nigerians, interests that seem ordinary, yet they are all the people have to cling to, in their daily existence.

ALL the things that ought to be public are being kept secret. They would be public so late that the people would have little opportunity to react. The elections are here.

ON Friday August 18, 2018, INEC will give notice of the 2019 elections, as the law provides. From Friday, political parties can collect forms, and should conclude their primaries by October 17.

WITHIN that period, we should also be dealing with the restiveness in the polity for changes in party membership. The National Assembly being on recess is another matter that could take attention away from asking politicians core questions about what there is in Nigeria for Nigerians.

THE ‘short notice’ of the elections serves the politicians well. Everything from Friday would be in a matter of weeks. The intrigues by the parties would be easier to execute because everyone would be working towards deadlines. Excuses about the shortness of time become the major weapon for currying favour and avoiding exposure to the public.

A DELIBERATE ploy of politicians is to wait out the demands of the electorate and turn up at the last minute as the messiah. It would be the same story in 2019 unless we start now to ask what individual politicians, across the political parties are offering.

THE choices are clear. We would choose between progress and further regression. The mistake that is often made is to make the choices counting only on the words of those we hear more. The louder voices tend to be mistaken for those capable of achieving results.

EXPERIENCE, recent experience does not bear this out. Many of those running for office do not understand the issues, as they belatedly say in explaining their failings. They make fantastic promises. Their delivery is often short of what they promised. By then, it would have been late for the electorate; they would be in office, asking for patience, and sometimes blaming the voters for showing no understanding of how government works.

PARTISANSHIP of politicians has been held up above issues that affect the ordinary people. The prism for reaching decisions has increasingly been based on regions and religions. National interests that constitutional provisions were meant to guarantee have been rejected. In their place have been laid layers of contradictions about what Nigerians need to live better lives than the imprecations they receive from elected officials.

A LOT is at stake, particularly the future of Nigeria, and the shape in which that future would arrive. The national question is what some call it. Others talk in terms of restructuring the country. There are agitations for outright dismembering of the country so that different parts could pursue their different interests.

DEEP issues would not find much accommodation in the election debates unless we start raising them early. With all the media attention that corruption gets, for example, there is no proof that there are any meaningful efforts to minimise it. With all the songs about the importance of transparency in government’s decisions, they are becoming more opaque by the day.

ATTEMPTS to abridge freedoms of association and speech are dangerous, not just for the elections, but our future. Power is being abused constantly in this regard. Opposition candidates do not have access to national or state media. In some instances, they are denied use of venues for their political meetings. There are no initiatives to stop these breaches that harm democracy and growth of our political practices.

CANDIDATES for the elections should make themselves known to the voters. They should engage the electorate. They should have creative ideas about managing the challenges Nigeria faces. The challenges are increasing, but the will to check them is weltering. The challenges would not vanish with the elections.

EVERY election is about the future of Nigeria. The 2019 elections are more so. The future of Nigeria, for the ordinary people, is encased in hopes that it would be a better Nigeria than we have been through. The hopes are becoming waning.

AWAY from the hunger issues that would dominate the campaigns, Nigerians need to elect candidates who have personal values for lives, who care, and who think that lives of Nigerians matter, always – not just when their votes are needed.