By Laz Ahangba
The loud music blares out in the quiet night. Tarkule, a middle aged Man of about 43 is awakened from his hard narrow bed. He stands up and peers out of his small window. He sees a number of cars parked at Chief’s residence across the road. Chief is a political godfather and a Party Chieftain of note. All political aspirants pay him homage to smoothen their path to victory. Tonight, scores of aspirants have come to do him obeisance as usual. Tarkule hisses, looks at the time on his wall clock to discover it is past 2.00 am. He slowly walks back to bed and lies down to endure the noise and nuisance.
These are the days of politicking. Scenarios like the one described above are common place. Politicians are busy crisscrossing every nook and cranny of Nigeria soliciting for votes. They are selling their candidatures under the auspices of the different political parties. The political aspirants have different slogans, different songs, but same nothingness, full of promises but short of issues.
Elections in Nigeria and their processes have been this way from time immemorial. Political party structures are hijacked by godfathers and moneybags made of all shades of people, usually deficient in civility and accountability. These ones manipulate the party systems to throw up candidates of their choice. The chosen candidates are forced on the electorate into office. Once elected, the apparatus of government becomes the joystick of the godfathers and moneybags. They play around the system to milk out their investments in terms of contracts, appointments and other compensations. This system plays out at all levels of governance. The consequences of this age-long tradition is poverty, lack of accountability, impunity, gross corruption, violations of the rights of citizens and worst of all, loss of democratic values. Political aspirants, rather than sell themselves to the electorate, mortgage themselves to the political godfathers knowing that without them, their victories at the polls are not guaranteed. How wrong!
The electoral process is likened to two-parallel lines but arriving at the same destination. It is between the election candidate on one line soliciting for votes from the electorate and the electorate demanding that his issues be addressed by the candidate on the other line, thereby leading all to the same destination called good governance. This process is only made possible through issue-based campaigns and issue-based voting. The election candidates should strictly carry out campaigns based on issues while the electorate vote based on the issues, quid pro quo.
The quality of electoral campaigns is a forerunner to the quality of governance after a winner has emerged and vice versa. As the 2019 general elections draws near, has there been any issue-based campaigns from any of the candidates across political parties yet? Has the electorate positioned itself for issue-based voting across Nigeria? Have there been any tangible moves by citizen-groups to begin to engage elections candidates on issues bothering them and their communities? A brief environmental scan on the political Eco-system at all levels of governance across Nigeria shows little or no active issue-based campaigns from the candidates and there has not been strong body language from the electorate towards making demands for same. At the national level, for example, of the over 75 presidential candidates, only very few have plans that could culminate into issue-based campaigns. What has dominated the media (especially the social media) space is mudslinging and gutter-language campaigns. The same scenario is playing out at the sub national levels. Rather than base their campaigns on issues, most governorship candidates across the country are busy mudslinging one another while also employing unsavory propaganda.
The electorate, especially the youth are also culpable. Rather than engage the election candidates on common issues bedeviling their communities, they resort to real and cyber thuggery. Social media platforms which should ordinarily serve as a useful resource for the youths and other electorate have become a battle ground of some sorts. Any question, or comment directed at any election candidate is viewed by his supporters as an attack worthy of reprisal often in very harsh and derogatory language. This attitude is denying the electorate the opportunity to objectively engage the election candidates on issue-based campaigns which this election cycle desperately needs.
As we approach the 2019 general elections, the following are recommended as measures we should endeavor to put in place in order to bring about the change Nigeria desperately needs:
Profile all our election candidates across all political parties at all levels of governance
Undertake a study of the most pressing issues confronting our communities, state and country in general
Demand for issue-based campaigns from election candidates and vote candidates whose campaigns issues resonate with those of our communities, states and country
Present to electoral candidates citizens’ charter of demands based on the prevailing issues across communities, states and country with monitoring and evaluation indicators
Vote based on issues contained in the citizens’ charter of demand
Monitor and implement evaluation indicators.
As Tarkule finally drifts into sleep, the campaign vehicles begin to drive away. Again, he startles out of sleep and hisses in anger. He could hear the singer praise singing the candidate. He calls him the sun, the moon and star of his community. “What rubbish!” He thinks out loud. As the sound of the campaign songs fades away, Tarkule wonders if the singer and his ilk bother about improvement in power supply, job creation, heath care system, infrastructural development, agriculture and all the other challenges bedeviling the society. With these thoughts, he slowly drifts back into sleep