By Francis Ewherido
Thursday, February 14, was Valentine’s day. Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, children, uncles, nephews and nieces bought gifts for their lovers and loved ones.
Today, Nigerians of voting age go to the polls to elect a president to preside over the affairs of Nigeria from May 29, 2019 to May 29, 2023. We are also going to vote for senators and members of the House of Representatives to represent us in the red chamber and green chamber, respectively, within the same period.
In the spirit of Valentine, voters need to give Nigerians the best Valentine gift available, just as they did for their lovers and loved ones. But it is not straightforward like buying a gift for a lover or loved one. In Nigeria’s case, some are for Paul, others for Apollos.
We even have some who are for Cephas. No matter who you are for, let the interest of Nigeria be paramount because some of these people contesting elections and those promoting their candidacy have other interests, not the common good.
They are driven purely by ambitions, personal interest and selfish motives: contracts, appointments, knowing those in power and the 2023 elections. They forget that the body can only be declared healthy when all parts of the body are healthy. A boil in the armpit gives utmost discomfort, just as an eye infection sends pain waves all over the body.
It is your prerogative to vote for whoever you want to vote for, but your choice should be based on fundamental conviction. Do not vote for a candidate because you got a bag of salt or rice from him? How long will it last, eternity? Do not vote for a candidate because he will give you N1,000 before or after voting. What can N1,000 do on the long run in this economy?
Do not vote for any candidate solely because you are from the same ethnic group. Some “foreigners” have performed better than the “sons and daughters of the soil,” just as Nigeria’s pre-independence British governors-general and leaders performed better than some of our heads of state and leaders since after independence.
What are the issues that are dear to your heart and who are the candidates talking about them intelligently? It is true that many politicians never fulfil their campaign promises, but I am more comfortable with the man, who understands the issues and promises to tackle them than the man, who does not even know what the issues are. With the former, there is a chance he will tackle the issues, but with the latter, there is no chance. People do not set out to solve problems they do not know exist.
Be wary of candidates who are desperate to “serve.” They are already killing and maiming, all in a bid to “serve.” Service is not by force, it is voluntary and rendered when the receivers want you to. The churches, NGOs and other volunteer organisations are looking for people to serve, but there is scarcity of volunteers from among 200 million Nigerians.
Yet multitudes squeeze themselves into the small political space to “serve.” That should tell you that there is more to it. Be wise, look critically, all that glitters is not gold. Yet diamond might be rough, but it remains a diamond. Some candidates want the glamour of office, but have no capacity for, or interest in, the grind. Choose your president, senator and representative wisely.
For me, these are the Valentine gifts Nigeria needs. One, we need a better functioning economy. The economy is not doing well. Whether the reasons for the poor performance are recent or go to the distant past are secondary.
Moving forward, we need a president and a team that understands and can run a 21st century economy. Ordinary Nigerians need jobs, they need more purchasing power; hardworking Nigerians should experience a better life; they need more money to meet their needs and obligations. These are the real economic issues not some of the economic indices that have no bearing on the conditions of the ordinary Nigerian.
Two, I admit that power supply has improved in the last few years, but it is still not good enough. We need better power supply. More small and medium-scale businesses, the main employers of labour, will strive once there is relative stability in power supply.
The incoming government also needs to compel power distribution companies to supply all homes and business premises with pre-paid meters. DISCOS are fleecing Nigerians with estimated bills and the government is not doing enough to protect Nigerians.
Three, the security situation is still not good enough to stimulate economic growth and give people peace of mind. On one of my trips to the United States, an in-law came to visit me. He arrived in Houston from Dallas at about 2pm. By 6:30pm he said he was leaving. I was alarmed because I felt it was late and unsafe to commence the four-hour journey back to Dallas. Then it struck me that this is America, not Nigeria. I yearn for the day when I can leave Lagos at 6pm for Delta State without worrying about my safety.
And it is not only insecurity you worry about when travelling at night in Nigeria. The state of our roads is another source of worry. Many of our roads are bad; they are inhuman, not fit for human use in the 21st century.
The decay has been there for decades and now we need a revolutionary agenda to fix our roads; not only roads, but the entire transport sector. That is the fourth need we expect the incoming government to meet.
Five, the federal system we currently operate is an anomaly. It is slowing down the growth of Nigeria and the component units. A multi-ethnic society like ours needs to operate true federalism in the fiscal, social, economic and political sense. We need leaders in the executive and legislature who can bell the cat.
These are just a few of the long list of the needs of Nigerians. Families, town unions, WhatsApp groups, etc., should set aside the bile and fruitless bickering. At every level, look critically and decipher candidates who will serve Nigeria and the component units better.
Then look at their political party platforms. Many of those contesting are not doing so to win, they have other agenda. Why cast your pearls before swine? You have a responsibility to give Nigeria a good Valentine present.