POLITICS

Political interest and Nigeria’s democracy

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KINGSLEY UGWU

THE Managing Editor, Avalon Daily, Ayo Adio described political engagements and elections in Nigeria as exercises not cast on strong issues line but tailored much on populism.

Other experts had lampooned Nigeria’s laggard development in the past 60 years of her Independence as a failing nation whose many woes hinge on poor leadership. Opinions of many respectable Nigerians and others have alluded to this conclusion and amplified in the last Independence anniversary of the country.

Nigeria, like other notable great countries in the moulds of United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France to mention but a few, undergoes processes that produce her leadership; hence, her periodic electoral exercises.

Surprisingly, decades into the millennium, Nigeria is yet to get her footings on electoral exercises that could avail the country any desired leadership, despite resources that go with each electoral outing. The electoral culture in Nigeria has been as bizzare as its leadership outcomes that not a few would wish a holistic change in the system.

A post- mortem of modern democracy in Nigeria gives the 2015 presidential election fair ranking over avalanche of similar shams of exercise. Probably, its strongest point being allowing the defeat of an incumbent without recourse to truncating the whole exercise with a punch of the restart button but went whole hog to usher-in a new hand.

Not in the history of the country had citizens been primed to vote through machine assisted process until the 2015 version of the general election. That in more than one way, attempted to usher-in advancement that could have settled substantial shortfalls in the system. The issue of over voting and illegal thumbprints of ballot papers by fraudulent political office seekers would have been nailed by now.

Regrettably, the unconvincing application of the voting machines in the conduct of the exercise subdued the envisaged gains in the estimation of many critical thinking Nigerians. Five years after the introduction of the machine, the system has not been cleared of inefficiency, ambiguity and unacceptability.

Edo guber election has come and gone with incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki winning his closest rivals in the keenly contested election. The polls have been described by many as remarkable improvement on the part of INEC, security personnel and voters as well, whose collective parts in adhering to rules and regulations of the process helped in giving the exercise positive points in the score line.

Despite obvious lapses at some points, there was credibility in the process and the wishes of the simple majority expressed through the poll were made to count.

Aside from the number of votes collated, counted and announced from the process, personnel and materials that played part in the process did not fail to reckon in the estimation of both observers and players. Obaseki and his People’s Democratic Party emerged winners but not without throwing up some issues.

First,, was the scorecard of the incumbent governor in his first term of office. The manifesto of the governor before getting the mandate of the people for service calls for critical evaluation to ascertain if he truly deserves another chance, given an ideal democracy. Delivery on promises ought to count much on the success or failure of incumbents during an election, more than party affiliations that often take the biggest concentration at that stage in Nigerian version of democracy.

Second is the growing abandonment of duties by governors in their respective states in the name mobilising support to their candidates in the run of elections; thus, challenging their priorities placement. This is even more ridiculous given that campaigns must have been over by then. Then, the questions of whose interests these crops of politicians serve call for serious examination.

Could it be admission of competence issue on the part of the incumbent in the first term that made it impossible to register total alliance of his subjects through its verifiable works to the people? If the performance indices are convincing enough, why should a contesting sitting governor call for external support of his contemporaries before he can win a new round of elections in his own backyard? Fact remains that only the guilty is afraid.

In thinking service based leadership, the hallmark of qualitative service, candidates’ fulfilment of promises expressed through their manifestoes before getting into elective positions should drive the consideration of a second chance. This implies that any government that could not convincingly give their subjects reason to believe in them should be allowed to sink.

In Ondo State, their gubernatorial election has taken centre stage of major discoursses in the past weeks, culminating into election on Saturday.. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu won the election with substantial margin, beating Jegede Martin and Agboola Ajayi of the PDP and ZLP parties respectively in the contest. Much as he deserves plaudit, a deeper self appraisal by Akeredolu should follow the election victory for him to ascertain if policies floated by his government had in actual sense yielded his success at the poll or some other factors.

There were reports of vote buying during both Edo and Ondo States elections. There were also pockets of violence as reported by individuals and group observers but in all, they agreed that the conduct had been relatively fair and indeed significant improvement from the last general elections held across the country.

In the next four years, the scorecard will show whether the people had made better choice or not. However, expectation is that the leadership they have settled on should not let them down.

This brings to the fore the question whether party and candidate’s manifestoes do count in the final execution of governance in the polity. Going by popular belief that the bane of Nigeria’s laggard growth is rooted on her leadership; the process that produces her leadership should not slip any inch lower than near optimum at this age in her development.

The state of Nigeria after 60 years of growth underscores the need to get its politics and polity on progressive path. This can only be possible when the electoral processes become free of encumbrances. The multifarious encumbrances include but not limited to ethic interest, favouritism, corruption and unwanton manipulations.

According to renowned scholar, Akachi Ezeigbo, “if Nigeria gets its politics right, the economy will bounce back and grow.” Suffice this to say that deep in the heart of Nigeria’s problems remains leadership. Much as this fact is known, it still has so far not been able to be resolved.

Perhaps, the massive vote buying allegations against political parties and their cronies continue to pose obstacles to quality choice of representatives and undermine clinical electoral process that meets the yearning for desired leadership.

Overtime, political violence had characterised the country’s electoral processes. The youth had always been used as hatchet tools for personal political gains of the politicians. In the end, the same youths are abandoned to their fate once the politicians achieve their goal.

Interestingly, a new dawn is unfolding; the vehemence and resistance put up by the youth in protesting against continued presence of Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) in the police formation and police brutality on civilians, are pointers to discerning minds that there is a convolution in the country that may set a cataclysmic detour in the long practiced culture that brought Nigeria where she is currently.

It is time indeed to act fast in fortifying the foundations of the country’s unity by strengthening the instructions that sustain its existence. Now is the time for a new political direction that can give Nigeria current for economic development and political stability.