By Sunny Ahwefeada
Nigeria has reached that stage where it can be said that Nigerians get the kind of government they deserve. Chinua Achebe, the famous novelist, disputed this thinking some forty years ago in his monograph The Trouble with Nigeria (1983). Many people stood with Achebe’s position then, but things and circumstances have changed. Achebe’s opposition to that thinking must have been predicated on the seeming helplessness of the citizens at the time as a result of ignorance, long period of military rule, lack of exposure to democratic ideals and the fact that Nigeria was then just two decades old as a sovereign nation.
Today, four decades later, Nigeria has done six decades as an independent nation, so far, since 1999, we have had twenty-four years of uninterrupted democratic governance, aided by advancement in technology, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is the body charged with the conduct of elections, has put in place definitive measures to ensure that the outcome of the elections reflect the will and wish of the people for whom governance and government are all about. What is left is for the people to take their destiny in their own hands and put Nigeria first by voting wisely.
What is at stake in the 2023 election is basically the struggle for the soul of Nigeria. Two sides are looming and looking each other in the eye. The two sides represent the ideal and the disaster. The ideal is arrayed in patriotism and everything that will lead us on the path to nationhood and rebirth. The disaster is attended to by all the forces that have conspired to unhinge Nigeria and turned it into a failed state.
Therefore, there are two choices before Nigerians: remaking our country or destroying it. Right now the country is on the verge of destruction. So much has gone wrong so that it will take only a little push and Nigeria will fall off the cliff into perdition. Observers of the Nigerian narrative are agreed on one thing which is that bad leadership remains Nigeria’s biggest problem.
Good and responsible leadership has eluded Nigeria for too long. So, the net result is the anguish that has become the lot of the citizens. There is nothing in the matrix of development that points in the right direction for Nigeria. Things that do not demand rocket science and are easily tackled elsewhere have become a mirage for Nigeria.
The antidote to bad leadership in times like this dwells in the electoral system. And INEC must be commended for the patriotic gusto it has demonstrated in trying to reform the electoral system in Nigeria. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, decried the electoral system that produced him as president and went on to establish a commission headed by Justice Mohammed Uwais to help reform Nigeria’s electoral mess.
From that moment till now two henchmen of INEC in Professor Attahiru Jega and Professor Mahmood Yakubu have done so much to institute a credible electoral system. Both men must be commended for their patriotism in ensuring that Nigeria gets out of the woods. Both men should also be upheld as representing the ideals that should drive intellectuals as thought leaders who are ever expanding the frontiers of development and new beginnings for their societies. Jega and Mahmood are university men and our universities have so much to learn from their courage, grit and patriotism in not only repositioning our universities, but Nigeria.
The point has become too apparent that it cannot be well with any of us until it is well with Nigeria. The struggle to reclaim and redeem Nigeria should thus be seen as a personal and collective struggle for all.
So much has been said and done in the last one year preceding the elections.
The primaries that threw up the candidates were held and many schemes including judicial interventions happened. The campaign season followed and the politicians took their messages across the length and breadth of Nigeria. So far the leading candidates are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). Over 93 million Nigerians will determine who among the trio will carry the day. Of the 93 million, young people between 18 and 35 make up 37 million which is 39% of the voting demography. The next group with age and psychological affinity is the 35 to 49 year old group which makes up 33 million voters which is 35% of the voting population.
Therefore the voting age of 18 to 49 which in every parameter can be regarded as the young population accounts for 60 million votes. The emphasis on this group of voters derive from the following logic: the future is about them, they are highly exposed, most of them belong to the woke generation, they are technology savvy, they have suffered the most in terms of how Nigeria has shortchanged its citizens, they are desperate for change and want a new order, etc.
The assumption therefore is that we have a large population of informed voters who have keenly followed the chequered fortune of Nigeria. INEC has done well in terms of political education.
Other civil society organizations have also done a lot to sensitize the citizens. But the best teacher in all of these is our affliction which all of us are eager to reject. Nigerians should therefore let the fear of the affliction and anguish of sixty years stir us away from the path of disaster as we go to the polls tomorrow.
Despite the many failures that have assailed us there is hope that all will be well if we get it right at the polls. What we need is the altruism and the will to push it through. What confronts us as we tender our PVC and pick the ballot paper is a crossroads where we must make a choice. Two roads lay ahead of us: the road to rebirth and the road to doom. Let us take the road to rebirth.
What tomorrow’s election offers is another opportunity to get it right.
The instrument of getting it right is the ballot paper and it is in our hands. The fate of Nigeria is therefore in our hands. Gone were the days of military rule when soldiers stole power with the gun and citizens have no say or choice but to submit to misrule. Gone also were the days between 1999 and 2015 when elections were rigged at the expense of the people’s choice. We have come some way and INEC has done so much to make sure that the votes now count. It is now left for citizens to show good faith and demonstrate allegiance to Nigeria. We pray a lot and disturb God, but the solutions to our prayers lies in the choice that we make. We certainly do need God in our lives, but there are things we could easily do without disturbing God.
Let us all, the 93 million registered voters, come out to vote tomorrow and vote well and God will, by that token, answer our prayers. Then the next day, a Sunday, we can go and thank God. Two things will militate against our prayers: not coming out to vote and allowing your vote to be bought and voting against your conscience.
Then we would have relapsed into what we thought we were fleeing from. Therefore, as we go to the polls tomorrow, let us vote well. Let us vote for Nigeria. Nigeria will be reborn and we shall come together in joy and celebration and rock the earth with a new dance. Yes, it is possible and it is about to happen because it will happen sooner than soon if we all concur and vote for Nigeria.