By Pat Utomi
The current travails of our country are legion, from pain beyond what is reasonable to expect at petrol stations to physical fight at ATMs; the fuel scarcity and currency change processes are eroding our humanity. Add to these the gripping poverty which has been weaponized by the traditional political parties for vote buying, voter suppression and ‘incentives’ to vote for parties and candidates so undeserving of a seat at the table of public life, the season of discontent in Nigeria seems so grim and dark.
Add to this corruption that cries to high heavens for the wrath of God, insecurity so threatening and inflation that literarily wipes out income of those who desperately need it because they are so deep in water, that, as Tawney’s metaphor points out, even a ripple can disown them, and for the need for a citizen crystalizes as the imperative of the moment.
We like to say in Nigeria, that in spite of us, God is a Nigerian, and so manages to make a way when there seems to be no way. When He made a way during the Abacha pariah era a foreign journalist Karl Meier wrote a book, “This House Has Fallen – Midnight in Nigeria” and dubbed that death of Abacha ‘A Coup from Heaven’
Today as our democracy stands threatened by voter suppression evident in discriminatory release of voters cards, tearing up of posters, billboard and communication materials of opponents, it is imperative that this new coup from Heaven in which our Dying Democracy was rescued by the youth groups that backed the Third Force initiatives for good governance, perseverance by these groups which have come together with the Labour Party being adopted by the Labour Movement as the arrow head of the take back Nigeria Movement, will assure the triumph of the will of the people.
SAVING OUR COUNTRY
It is clear that the challenge to the future of Nigeria, and the threat from this existential crisis that is rocking the soul of our country has to include INEC passing the confidence test, the return of civility to public life, politicians focusing on rational public conversation around the issues and building elite consensus on issues, especially those around security and the economy.
INEC AND LEGITIMACY OF THE NEW ORDER
It is not by accident that there is a significant trust deficit in the relationship between INEC and the Nigerian people. This has haunted the legitimacy of elections and the post-election governments derived by the election outcomes. In this year of the awakening, with the new light from ENDSARS and the youth embrace of Peter Obi whose sense of accountability and prudence in previous duty has inspired new trust in politics, the necessity for INEC to redeem itself cannot be overemphasized.
It is important that INEC redeem itself before the world by explaining the effect of politicians buying up voters cards of citizens, the fear that deserted areas like Borno North, and several corridors of insurgency become the areas of created votes; the issue of underage voting and evidence that the BVAS system is manipulation positively hack proof.
CIVILITY IN PUBLIC LIFE
I speak with nostalgia from my friendship as a child with one of the children of the much regarded politician, Chief H.O. Davies on how he and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe would go campaigning during the day on the platform of opposing parties and in the evening Zik would drive up to his home to have him go with him for a game of Tennis.
Today people see those contesting in other parties as enemies rather than people who have competing ideas on how society should be organized. I say this because even I have experienced subtle treats from people I consider friends passed through mutual friends. I am not troubled at all by the warnings for this battle about saving tomorrow for the future of our children is a case for which I have lived sacrificially and one for which I am not afraid to die. But it is for how such take away from building elite consensus through rational public conversation can be a big negative for our prospects as a prosperous nation that I worry.
It is also a matter that this lack of civility and violence in politics that is significantly responsible for our best and brightest choosing to avoid politics, usually abandoning the arena for the more mediocre, with grave consequence for the quality of governance we have experienced as a country, we should all worry about.
I want to invite our friends and partners abroad to consider ostracizing all political actors associated directly in poisoning the atmosphere of election campaigns, keep them under watch, deny them
ON THE LAST MILE
Many careful observers of Nigeria’s politics know that the last mile activities on voting, monitoring and protecting the votes are often where elections are lost and won because traditional Nigerian politicians show greater commitment to frustrating the will of the people through the investments they make in subverting the results through buying the agents of others, bribing voting agency officials to falsify the vote outcome and other decency-defying acts that result in thwarting the true outcome.
We call on INEC first to ensure this does not happen by giving more time for the uploading of agents and showing how they are ensuring that their staff are not compromised. We are also calling for an army of citizen observers to man the vote casting exercise.
It is not enough to just ensure the system runs seamlessly, it is as important that we offer superior value to the citizens as alternative to what has been on offer for the last 24 years. It is evident that the Labour Party’s more issues based campaign than all the other parties should be noteworthy that we have delivered our promise in ways that are unprecedented in Nigeria politics.
When we of the Big Tent Coalition Independent Campaign Organization for Obi/Datti held a 12 hours telethon a week ago, we found that one panel after the other on Health, Economy, Education, Culture, etc could not exhaust the explaining of issues set forth in the manifesto of our party.
We created a shadow cabinet manned by focal persons who have deep dive teams of our best in the world as support think tanks. It is the focal persons that channel counsel to Peter Obi and Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.
We have crafted a Neighbor to Neighbor, Door to Door strategy to drive Obidients and all men of goodwill who want a new Nigeria, who will show Nigeria the difference between idiots, tribesmen and citizens as they reach hearts and minds together to show that Nigeria is possible.
It should be no surprise that we have greater policy clarity. We have spent our time thinking of how to make living better for the people rather than find more disgusting ways of insulting our rivals as the APC and PDP spokespersons seem to do about one another’s candidates, a process that keeps diminishing the presidency and increasing the trust deficit and acceptability of their candidates.
Professor Patrick Okedinachi Utomi is the Convener of Big Tent, a Leader of Labour Party, and Leader of NCFront
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