The last elections in Nigeria which ended up re-electing Mohammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria for another four-year term and other elections that followed threw up a lot of questions on what Nigerian electorates really want or find more important over other indices of good governance. In developed countries democracy is a vehicle of attaining leadership positions and as means of electing qualified candidates to political office. Sadly, this is not so in Nigeria. The last thing most Nigerian will bother their head about is who occupies which political office as long as he or she is able to meet daily needs. One cannot blame them because our leaders have over the years engaged in politics with their heads buried in filthy lucre. Nigeria has been reduced to a rat-race nation where anything goes and the survival of the fittest is the rule of the game. Poverty is often used as a weapon to whip the masses on line so that those in positions of authority can exploit them in other to maximize financial aggrandizement in the corridors of power by looting our common wealth.
When photographs of contestants during the governorship elections in some state which were branded on bags of rice and other food items went viral in various social media platforms, it depicts us as a people who don’t take matters of governance and democracy seriously. At some point, a social media platform revealed that the bags of rice some, of which had expired, were imported into the country and branded for the purpose of distributing them to electorates.
How could this have happened? What about the health hazards the rice could pose to the lives of Nigerians who were unfortunate to be among those who traded their voter’s card for a bag of rice? Though it was disclaimed that the rice had expired, we are yet to hear from the campaign managers of the newly elected governor for a rebuttal. Someone whispered to me that as it is in war, so it is in electoral battles where all is fair and just. However, I beg to defer. It is morally corrupt and unfair to the electorates to use the instrument and exploit them for the benefit of one man and his party.
Is this practice the norm in other democracies? Definitely no.Unfortunately, Nigerians are known for lapping up to strange practices that are not obtainable elsewhere and turn it into the standard practice. We have allowed the world to laugh us to scorn with photographs of poor and hungry-looking Nigerians who are easily swayed by political aspirants with food items only to renege on electoral promises when they get into office. As soon as they assume their elective offices, the immediate agenda will be how to recoup the huge amount of money spent on the campaigns.
During the last local government elections in my home state, I observed some opposition party men and women separating those who voted for their party and offered them with as much as three thousand naira or more. This is an abuse of electoral process and infringement on the right of a citizen to vote out of his/her convictions that a particular candidate would fulfill on his campaign promises. Most times, politicians who engage in this brazen practice are those who perform very badly in office.
Funds budgeted for capital projects that will impact positively on the lives of Nigerians and enhance the economic growth of the state usually develop wings. While the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is doing its best, no high-profile arrest of those that indulged in such illegal practice has been recorded. Hence, the culture of impunity and lack of accountability and probity continues as an indulgence for any Nigerian politician who finds him/herself in a position of authority. This has become a tradition where unimaginable actions are carried out and everyone looks the other way. Instead, such corrupt officials are hero-worshipped and decorated with bogus chieftaincy titles and awards by his/her community for pecuniary gains.
State Houses of Assembly ought to act as checks and balances on the excesses of the executive arm of government, but are also part of the orgy of brazen assault on our collective wealth. All over Nigeria, spoils of office acquired through dubious means and looting of treasury are used to put up personal housing estates which unfortunately cannot be afforded by 95% of Nigerians. The question is, why should our collective wealth be turned to an individual’s personal estate and nothing positive is done about it to stem the ugly tide that is now affecting everyone? Why can’t our elected leaders come up with practicable and implementable budgets that can be executed to the letter to benefit a great percentage of the electorate? From the financial statistics at my disposal the salary and several allowances of elected officers should be adequate to live a comfortable life far above ordinary citizens. Yet, they have shown great sense of creativity by coming up with other avenues to lap up state funds to finance their opulence lifestyles, mistresses and several hangers-on who will do anything to have their sons and benefactors remain in office for ever as long as the crumbs keep coming.
Every day in the news, we are bombarded with the news of states that owe international financial bodies huge sums of money that may take the next generation decades to offset. However, such loans are never utilized to provide facilities for the economic benefits of the citizens. Rather, they are spent on frivolous white elephant projects that have no relevance to their economic well-being. Electorates have sold their rights for handouts to meet immediate needs while those in positions of authority wallow in their unbridled appetite for wealth acquisition.
At the end of each tenor, politicians who have ripped state coffers apart will embark on another campaign trail to deceitfully woo the electorates with their ill-gotten wealth. They have become daring because of the immunity clause which protects them from prosecution while in office and even use the instrument of foot soldiers to have the masses line up once again to ‘sell’ their votes. They would say during their campaigns, “We did it before, we will do it again”. Of course the electorates are ignorant of the fact that they were beneficiaries of the ill-gotten wealth by accepting the Greek gift offered them during campaigns.
Every Nigerian should henceforth guard their voter’s card and strive to vote in only candidates deserving of their votes who they believe will remember to provide basic needs of life when they eventually assume office.