IN choosing a candidate in an election to deliver on a party’s promises, there is necessarily a three-horse race involved; that is the political party, the candidate offering himself up for election and of course, the electorate.
It is pertinent to recognise three types of scenarios that usually play out in the bid to choose credible leaders that would articulate and execute the party’s programmes and policies for society’s good.
Firstly, a political party could be very attractive to the electorate having done its homework thoroughly and realistically identifying and recognising the foremost needs of the people; and painstakingly articulate same to make the manifestoes attractive to the people. Thus, the people begin to empathise and identify with such a political party the same way an imprisoned dog identifies with the man that frees it from captivity.
A typical example is the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, under the leadership of the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo between 1979 and 1983. The programmes and policies of the UPN were so attractive to the people since it centered on the needs of the people at the time, and the party was well accepted particularly in Western Nigeria.
The second scenario concerns the contestant or politician as the source of the people’s empathy and attraction. In such a case, the candidate must have magnetic charisma that may occasionally over-shadow his political party. People would necessarily hero-worship this kind of politician for a quality or the other ranging from physical, mental, financial, social, psychological attributes that make him or her irresistible to the body of voters. Two sterling examples from our own political environment would suffice. Once again, Chief Awolowo of the UPN was an epitome of the aforementioned positive and magnetic attributes in his days. You either love to hate or hate to love him for his charisma as a politician.
Another example is Professor Pat Utomi who was a very charismatic popular figure in one of the elections but whose party at the time , the ADC was colourlessly irrelevant such that people didn’t really reckon with it at the polls.
In between the two scenarios above are rare occasions when the party and the contestant are been proved to be okay, yet the electorate still decides to look the other way for best reasons known to it. This often happens in a milieu where the political socialisation is of the naïve or indifferent kind. That was the experience of Chief Awolowo and the UPN in the 1979 general elections against Alhaji Shehu Shagari and the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. Awo, as he is fondly called was a charismatic figure and the party UPN exhibited laudable programmes and policies. However, some sizable electorate still went ahead and voted for NPN, allegedly because the NPN induced voters with cash and bags of rice, apart from working the electoral books to their own advantage.
In the present dispensation, the 2019 general elections is just round the corner. The electoral timetable is being prepared and finetuned. Alignment and realignment are being initiated left, right and centre. Strategies, aims, ways and means are crystalising. Political pundits are having a field day looking into their crystal balls. Political or election thugs are raring to go in their hype, brawn and bloodletting.
However, before the “battle” begins, let us ponder on the Delta State scenario for a moment because this is my primary concern and should be the concern of the average Deltan too. So, I use this medium to address every Deltan.
First, we must reflect on what our collective attitude should be at this crucial time of our political development. We are all aware that the Niger Delta, which is our homeland is a special terrain. Special in both positive and negative senses. Yes, it is an investor’s haven brimming with all kinds of natural resources which if properly explored would transform our environment into a paradise of sorts, but if not well explored could result in unwholesome consequences for our land and people.
Regarding our expectations and attitudes in this election year, let us be circumspect, wary and thoughtful as we get acquainted with the various parties and their manifestos, as we strive consciously to elect people to offices. It is my honest view that in 2019 our emphasis should be on experience, political pedigree and credibility of the personalities involved in the race, that is, the contestants. I believe that our collective votes should not be for the political parties, but for the candidates angling for our votes.
For instance, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru comes across as a great person- the People’s General, as they fondly refer to him. The party he belongs to shouldn’t be our immediate concern but his pedigree. This is what should count to attract the voters’ attention at the polls.
As far as the Niger-Delta political history and development are concerned “Great” has proved himself an illustrious son of the Big Heart. We owe it a duty to line up behind him so that he could claim his long-denied mandate and bring his vast experience in business to bear upon governance in the state to consolidate on the modest achievements of our founding fathers.
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is another tested and proven personage with much experience in political governance. We cannot do otherwise than support and encourage him as he guns for the Delta-South Senatorial District slot in the National Assembly. The experience he has garnered over the years would come in handy at the Senate where intensive interaction and lobbying are the guiding principles .
Other contestants such as Honourable Joel-Onowakpo Thomas who had been Delta, Edo and Rivers States Coordinator of Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, who is now gunning for Isoko-North/Isoko-South slot in the House of Representatives under the All Progressive Congress, APC, is a man of quality and should be supported to further prove his suitability for public office and for him to make the expected difference in the polity.
Essentially, the bottom line here is for the electorate to reward proven ability, suitability and integrity and at the same time be flexible enough to go against the norm of bandwagon voting for political parties.
*Mr. Udogu, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.