Why We Can’t Afford To Sit On The Fence - by Yinka Adeosun

Promises and lies are the cheapest commodities of this era. With the rising proportion of deceit in the land, objectivity has been sent on vacation. A community of the deceived is also growing by the day. Interrogation and introspection are in a state of dormancy as party devotees continue to spread the embellished messages of their principals. Having suspended civility, decorum and decency, the government in power and the opposition are bent on outdoing each other in a bid to capture the votes of the masses.

As I ponder on the forthcoming elections, my mind wanders back to the June 12, 1993 election, one that was adjudged the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s political history. In anticipation of hope, the central message at the time, Nigerians, for the first time, defied every historical factor that had tainted our elections. Religion, tribe, sentiments, and emotions were set aside as the people cast their vote for M.K.O. Abiola of the Social Democratic Party.

As the new date of March 28 approaches for Nigerians to decide their fate via polls, it is doubtful if there would be a repetition or similitude of 1993. The current atmosphere is toxic and devoid of any hope – religious institutions have been politicised; even the military which should be non-partisan has been infected and imputed into the political calculus of the day. The current political climate is shorn of logic and value-based arguments as primordial sentiments have become the gospel truths. Political analysts seem to suggest that the electorate are going to vote across ethnic lines. And this is an indictment on the 16-year civil rule since 1999. As we elect “new” heads every political year, our politics has refused to grow beyond the voting pattern after independence. Curiously, the political actors are a semblance of the old block, in character and learning, having successfully imbibed their mannerisms and peculiarities.

Mudslinging and campaigns of calumny that characterised electioneering years back are still rife in 2015. Today’s politicians have stepped up denigration with cartoons, advertorials and documentaries that are targeted at destroying reputations than selling their programmes to the populace. If we have learnt any lesson, it is how not to walk, after crawling and feeding on baby feed. Our development instinct is knock-kneed. We have not yet developed the virtues and values that strengthen democracy. Rather, our democratic institutions are saturated with vices and villains. It is a shame that the political parties are filled with men whose campaign tactics are targeted at insulting the intelligence of Nigerians. Determined to win the people’s mandate, they dangle before us carrots of “stomach infrastructure”, which often times are an exhibition of their theft of our commonwealth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter slab, the pauperised populace sheepishly trade their national destiny for this evil offer.

It is worthy of note that the presidential election promises to be most competitive. And the two main candidates are not new to the electorate, having ruled Nigeria at one time or the other. For the incumbent administration of Goodluck Jonathan, his transformation agenda is synonymous with a worsening electricity situation crippling an already comatose manufacturing sector and frustrating several power-dependent enterprises. It is to note that if Jonathan ever had a good intention for Nigeria, his performance in the last six years does not give credence to that fact. His superlative self-appraisal is a reflection of his academic stature. Little wonder, his students have yet to come out and identify with him publicly. Mildly put, his performance in the last six years is not good enough to deserve another. Else, his campaign would have been more of exhibition of his works than the rigour he has exhausted to persuade the electorate to his side. Sadly, what he lacks in performance, he vigorously tries to make up in promises. Promises! Promises!

For Maj. Gen Muhammadu Buhari, it is quizzical that the rejected candidate in 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections is now the beautiful bride of the All Progressives Congress. The General has enjoyed a large and a cult-like following since he won the presidential ticket of the APC. His profile and political weight in the North are a vivid threat to the PDP. Sadly, since a tree does not make a forest, it is doubtful how the General would bring about the much touted “change” should he win at the poll. Considering that the APC which has been dubbed Aggrieved Peoples’ Congress is widely regarded as a mixed multitude of people who joined the party not because they love the party’s manifestoes or believe its programmes but because they were sweet-talked with positions and possibilities of privileges, its enduring prospects is in doubt. How will Buhari prosecute his sponsors whose wealth is reportedly not corruption-free? Can he free himself of the hawks who are touting him as being the emblem of anti-corruption?

It is an anomaly that the best and the brightest among us are never considered for the presidency. There are 12 other candidates, but the electorate are either unaware or they are just looking away. If only the popular but pretentious candidates can be shoved aside for a people-oriented president. The people are more important than power. After all, the people make the power; the power is worthless without the people. But then, it has also been said that a people deserve the kind of leaders they get.

The forthcoming presidential election is not about the North against the South, neither is it about Christianity versus Islam. It is not about major and minor ethnic groups. It is about Nigeria and Nigerians. It is about our heritage, our political future. It is about who is capable of leading us, in determining our destiny in the next four years. You may not be rich. You may not be popular. But you are powerful. If you have already got your Permanent Voter Card, that is your determinant weapon; for mass decision. You will decide the next set of persons who will govern Nigeria. The political parties are aware of this. By insisting on the PVC and the card reader, INEC under Jega is working to ensure that the coming elections are difficult to rig. Thus, you must play your part in deciding the leaders of our fatherland. If we don’t get it right again, our stay in the abyss of political misadventure will continue, even as the coming generation gets impoverished further.

It is amazing how Nigerians abandon their civic obligations in one breath, and then turn around to agitate for the enforcement of their rights. A perceptive fellow posits that bad people are elected by good people who refuse to vote. If by now you cannot boldly flaunt your PVC, or you have decided not to vote because you cannot queue up in inclement conditions, or you claim there is no candidate to vote for, then you have no right or reason to complain in the days ahead.

It is very easy to tweet or rant on facebook. The candid truth is that your critical words in the media and the number of hashtags on the social media are insufficient to create the country of our dreams. But one thing can: your PVC, as well as an unwavering determination to cast your vote. The consequence of abstaining from performing your civic duty is as damming as rigging in an unpopular candidate.

Popular author and poet, Dante Alighieri, states that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” This is not the time to sit on a fence. Now is the time to pick up your PVC, stand in line and vote for your desired outcome.

- Yinka Adeosun is a Communications Specialist based in Ondo