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Elections 2011: Politics & selective amnesia

By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor

Please, turn off that radio.   I’m tired of all these campaign jingles,” said this mother to her teenage undergraduate daughter.

“But mum, you must persevere.  We need to know what package these political parties have in store for citizens.”

“What good will that do you; knowing what promises they’re making?  They are just blowing hot air; all the political parties.  Don’t expect them to carry out their promises. They have no intention of fulfulling them.”

“Why won’t they, mum?  They can’t just be wasting their time, money and reputation, campaigning this furiously if they have no intention of keeping their promises to us.

Ah, I went to queue up for hours to register, so that I can vote for the party that can best take care of our needs; water, stable electricity supply, free education, free healthcare, clean environment,  good roads, jobs as soon as we finish our national service, and security.  I have all these points listed out in a notebook.  Our pastor told us to do that, and then vote for the party that promises to fulfill those needs.”

“I see.  Then get ready to vote for all the parties. I hope you did multiple registration to enable you to do

“Multiple registration, mum?  Isn’t that a criminal offence?”

“It is, but that’s what you need if you’re going to vote for those parties that promise you those things.  This is because everyone of them knows what our problems are, and they assure us they’re the ones to fix them.  They never do.  I don’t trust any politician here.  Most of them are liars.  You vote for them, and when elected into power, they do nothing. I’m through with them.  One day, God will call them into account.”

“Does that mean you’re not going to vote?” I wanted to know.  “Didn’t you register?”

“I didn’t register.  What’s the use?  Waste of votes, if you ask me.  Look, Helen.  You and I are old enough to know that most promises made over the years by our politicians are never fulfilled. They always choose to forget their promises.  Nobody holds them to account, so, they continue to get away with failed promises.  Why should I be part of those who vote them into power?”

“Your observation is true, but this is another generation.  Don’t you see the number of young people who are standing for elections? I’m convinced some of them may have something concrete to actually offer.  You should have registered so that you can vote for the party you believe will perform. Don’t expect 100 per cent success, but at least be part of the exercise.”

“You’re on your own there.  I’ve been enthusiastic in the past; going to register to vote, attending elections campaigns, voting, etc.  What good did that do me?  Useless exercise. Nothing changed. Let them mess up the country as much as they like in the name of democracy.”

How sad!  But then, can you blame this lady?  Campaigns are really in full gear at the moment and many people are caught up in the elections fever.  This time round, instead of the three major political parties in the limelight,  like at the last elections, other parties are getting to be reckoned with, as people who were denied the mandate to contest in the other three parties, cross over to them in order to realise their political ambitions.

This criss-cross that we’ve witnessed much of, this year, is it a good thing for the nation? I thought that one is a member of a political party because one believes in its ideologies. Granted that in a third world country which is struggling to embrace democracy, these ideologies are bound to be almost the same, since they are to be used to tackle the problems the country is facing, but there should be some integrity when decamping.

It shouldn’t just be a case of joining any party that will give you a mandate to contest, when actually you’re joining strange bed-fellows.  If you believe in a party,  you remain loyal to it, even if your ambition is scuttled.  That’s what it should be if one has principles.  Thus, it would be easy for us the masses,  to identify a particular political party with certain policies in governance.

In the United States of America, citizens know what to expect when the Democrats, or the Republicans are in power.  In the United Kingdom, they know what to expect when Labour or the Conservatives are in power.
In this country, we don’t have such stability in the policies of our political parties yet.  We just coast  along with whoever has the means to make us feel good enough to vote for him/her.

Later, we discover that we’ve voted in misfits. As things stand now, there’s this selective amnesia where elections promises are readily forgotten with impunity.  The first thing elected rulers do, when they get into office, is to look into the coffers in their domain, and then cry out that there’s no money left there.
I think that could be a ploy to tell us not to expect their election promises to be kept, because their predecessor had emptied the till.

I’m not saying that their claims may not be true in some cases, but how about looking at the projects on the ground first, and deciding which ones to bring to conclusion?

You then look into the coffers to find out how much there is for you to use.  Our current habit of throwing out the projects of our predecessors is a gross waste of money, unless you feel that those projects are useless to the people. For accountability, you should explain to them why you need to discard those projects.  Your predecessor is not your enemy!  Complete the laudable projects he/she initiated, and save us money.  After this, you start yours.

Many of our rulers spend half their term in office, vilifying their predecessors and engaging in words of war with them.  The second half, they use in plotting their re-election!  So, when is concrete work done?

This is where, if passed into law, the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, would be helpful, because, at any given time, the media and individuals can apply to have access to information   on the financial state of any government, government agencies, companies, etc., among other things.  In short, the public will know how our money is being spent, and who’s performing.

This may not totally eliminate stealing/embezzlement of public money, but it will reduce it, as public officers know that the income and expenditure in their states/organizations, can be up for scrutiny at any given time.

This may compel some of them to keep their elections  promises, because they know we’re watching their every move, and waiting for them to perform.

Also, those politicians who think that there’s no difference between public money and their own personal funds, would think twice before going to contest for elective positions.  They may find that it’s better for them to stay away from active politics and stick to their businesses, than have their every spending step monitored by the rest of us.


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