Time To Vote For Our Conscience - by Raymond Oise-Oghaede

Now that the 2015 elections are around the corner, the world has shifted its focus to Nigeria waiting to see how truly serious we are about sustaining democratic governance. A lot of politicking has been witnessed in the last few weeks to prepare the ground for the elections and there is no gainsaying the fact that a majority of the electorate might have made up their minds as to which candidate(s) or party to vote for. However, there is the need to prick the conscience of Nigerians on what to consider before casting their votes.

First, we should realise that the country belongs to all of us and no man, no matter his position, is a better Nigerian than the other. As free citizens of this country, we have every right to exercise our fundamental and civic responsibilities. In as much as a majority of us are less privileged by our political, economic, social and educational status, it does not diminish the fact that we are free and true citizens of this country. It is based on this premise that I want to advise and encourage the electorate to come out en masse to cast their votes come Saturday.

However, we should have it at the back of our mind that, this time round, it should not be like the past when we voted for tribal, religious and financially-induced sentiments; it is time to vote for substance and conscience. Every man and woman should recall the happenings in their constituencies in particular and judge if things are going on well or not. This is the simplest determinant of voting for conscience. Putting it differently, if you are comfortably disposed to the state of the nation, then you are free to vote for continuity and, if things are not working well in our system then, you are at liberty to vote for change.

In this case, it means that the people have the power to determine their NOW and the FUTURE and they are expected to use it wisely for the sake of today and generations to come.

Second, it is obvious that the opinion of the electorate will differ according to their individual conscience. So, we do not have to see others who vote against our candidate(s) or party as our enemies because they are at liberty to exercise their rights according to their conscience. Thus, the exercise should be seen as a family affair where the wishes of the majority will carry the day. As we have two sides of a coin, so it is with voting. When you vote for a particular party/candidate, you have automatically voted against other parties/candidates and that is what election is all about. Thus, the decisions of the electorate to vote for or against any party/candidate must be respected.

Third, violence and all other malpractices should be discouraged at all levels. Our youths should not allow themselves to be used by desperate and unpatriotic politicians to truncate our democracy. If you are financially induced to do the dirty job and you make the supreme sacrifice in the process, you can rest assured that the politicians will still go ahead to enjoy their political fortune and other benefits of office without remembering your family. So, if anyone approaches you to be part of fomenting trouble before, during and after the elections, tell such a person to bring their sons, daughters, wives and husbands to lead in the campaign. It is very painful that the same politicians that have impoverished the people by their misrule and high level of corruption are now using the wealth stolen from our treasuries to send the youth to their early graves by engaging them in dangerous activities. I will enjoin the youth to search their conscience and say ‘NO’ to any action(s) or reaction(s) that will have negative effects on the people in particular and the polity in general.

Finally, I am calling on all the Independent National Electoral Commission officials, security agents and others that will be directly and indirectly involved in the conduct of the elections to be impartial in the discharge of their responsibilities. Let your conscience be your guiding principles throughout the exercise. Do not indulge in malpractices of any kind to favour one party or candidate against the others. Allow the people’s votes to count by abstaining from the old order where money is used to buy figures.