By Francis Ewherido
The party primaries are over and we now have a clear idea of politicians who want to rule and represent us from 2019 to 2023. Some are incumbents; others are aspiring to replace the incumbents.
Government is arguably the biggest external factor shaping family life in Nigeria. Government plays a major role in our sources of livelihood, education, health, infrastructure, etc., in Nigeria. Being aloof of who governs or represents us is no longer an option.
This is not only about belonging to a political party, not everybody has the stomach for what we call partisan politics in Nigeria. But even as imperfect as our democracy is, I know that power still belongs to the people. Electoral malpractices or not, voters will determine who governs them in 2019.
Consequently, the electorates need to start asking critical questions. The major challenge though is that the electorates are confronted with multi-faced afflictions; they are mentally and physically pauperized, perplexed and totally drained. They do not even realize the enormous powers they wield anymore. But the voters must still remember that they are afflicted in every side, but not crushed; perplexed,but not in despair;persecuted,but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed (II Corinthians 4:8-9). They still hold the ace and it is time to deliver the joker.
Family units must come together and begin to ask critical questions. Judgment day is here and the criteria for judgment are the very promises each political office holder made. How has your family fared? How far have these promises been fulfilled? If you are satisfied with the level of fulfillment of previous campaign promises, you may vote for the candidate again. But if he has not fulfilled his promises, he has to tell you why.
If you are satisfied with his explanations and you feel he is better than his challengers, vote for him. But if a better candidate is challenging him, let “better take over from “good. But where he does not even deem it fit to tell you why he failed, vote him out. Also where he does not even know he has failed or thinks his mediocre performance is good enough, vote him out.
As for other contenders for positions, what are their antecedents? Nobody drops from the sky. They must have held positions before, either in the public or private sector. Are they the kind of people who understand our peculiar needs and can put policies in place to solve them? Do their campaign promises suggest that they understand the issues dear to the people they want to govern. The latter must be better than the former.
Also the electorate need to have some clarity of what they really want so that they can know what to demand and expect from the candidates asking for their votes. Right from the national to state levels, what are the critical issues now? Nigerians need a better performing economy. We need jobs, we need stable electricity. We need good roads, good rails and other efficient means of transportation.
We need a friendly business environment so that the small and medium scale businesses that employ millions of Nigerians can strive again. We need to retune our educational system to suit our current circumstances. We produce too many graduates who are not functional to themselves and the society. We need a new health system that takes care of everybody’s basic needs at a base cost and can also handle the more complicated cases that costs millions of Naira. Since many Nigerians cannot afford expensive medical treatment, we need to come up with a functional health insurance scheme to help make advanced medical treatment affordable to the ordinary Nigerian.
Nigeria has enormous potentials, but we need leaders who have the capacity and courage to unlock these potentials for the rapid transformation of Nigeria and Nigerians. Our growth is currently being stunted because of the economic and political weakness of the confederating units (we are not a operating a federation in the true sense). We need a true federal system of government. The Federal Government is too big and powerful, and it is an impediment to the speedy development of Nigeria. We need to take some powers from the central government and create stronger regional units closer to the people, not these ineffectual local government areas. We need men of courage and intellectual capacity both in the executive and legislature to do this.
In this onerous task of charting a new course; let us put gender consideration by the side. The truth is that just like the men, some of the women, who have been in government, have been good while others have been horrendous. What we need are courageous and visionary Nigerians, male or female. Gender considerations should be secondary. In addition, Nigeria has competent people from all parts, so even if we want to bring in zoning or federal character, each zone should bring its first 11. We do not need mediocres at this critical stage of our development.
A source of worry though is the allure of immediate gains. People going into elections are being drained. Voters collect money before they vote, delegates collect money before voting; everybody is just into what I can get now. Notwithstanding what you choose to do on the short term, please let us focus on the long term. What can N5000 or even $5000 immediate gain do for you over the next four years? But good roads, good schools, good health care system, strong economy can do you and your family a world of good over the next four years. These are issues we should be concerned with.
Now, I know many of our people are illiterates and even many who can read and write need guidance. Beyond your immediate families, those among us with the capacity need to move around and enlighten those around them so that the scales can fall their eyes. We need a new paradigm. Do not be encumbered by ethnicity, gender, religion, party affiliations and lure of personal and immediate gains. Let us elect people who have the capacity to fix our society.
The power is in the hands of voters. Voters come from family units, so the power is in the hands of families. When they say Nigeria has 87 million people who are extremely poor, it is not just statistics; they are talking about fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, children, cousins, nephews and nieces. They are talking about families. Nigerian families must take their destinies in their hands, beginning from now.