Every four years the presidential election confronts Nigerians like a table set with unsavory dishes and citizens must hold their noses to partake. This year’s presidential election is no different. Most Nigerians are anguished at the choice before them: Should they choose a candidate under whom nepotism, corruption and herdsmen killings have blossomed over one whose candidacy is rife with seemingly tenacious accusations of stealing and who may steal with fresh vigor or should they take a chance on one of the several unknowns? Oh the agony of choice!
Looking at the different candidates—the anguish is real.
On the one hand President Buhari received the people’s mandate four years ago because he promised to fight corruption and improve the lives of Nigerians, but his general attitude towards corruption among his close associates has been anything but encouraging. Many of his appointees have shown uncommon avarice. But even as Nigerians waited with bated breath to see the president wage a just war against this blatant corruption under his watch, he met their expectations with an odd tepidity and indolence. Add to that the unsettling fact that in a country with so many qualified candidates he has chosen most of his appointees from his hometown and friends, with some of them evidently lacking the requisite qualification. But the worst part of the last four years, in addition to worsening poverty and non-payment of salaries, is the massive loss of life from the herdsmen killing which has received a perturbing silence from the president.
And then there is the candidacy of Atiku. It is only in Nigeria, or at least the rest of Africa, that a government official will be found with riches beyond what they could have justly earned in their government post and they expect people to accept it as legitimate. Do the citizens not realize that such money was taken illicitly from the country, from them the citizens? In Nigeria, past presidents start multi-million dollar businesses after their tenure, without other obvious source of income, and no one seems to question where they got such massive wealth from. Does the cart go before the horse? Does the accumulation of wealth occur before enterprise or does wealth accumulate from enterprise? In the developed countries the former would be called money laundering which is actually a crime. That correct assessment of wealth and proper terminology in referring to it is why the developed countries are developed: They use the money that belongs to their country to develop their country. So, with this candidacy, unfortunately, it is unclear what the situation is. We Nigerians must use our brains!
And then, enter the numerous candidates most of whom do not have name recognition or a record to run on. Are they a safe haven? A nail biting decision indeed!
But above all, what we as Nigerians do not seem to realize is that the governance does not end with the election. Governance starts after the elections and—to be successful—consists of two parties: the governing and the governed—each with their responsibility. As long as Nigerians are still expecting a savior that will come in and do them good of his own accord, then they have not yet understood the insatiable greed of the typical Nigerian public office aspirant nor learned the necessary lesson from our 58 years of stunted growth.
And so? What is the governed to do in the face of the governing who wields power as a lethal weapon?
Some of us are old enough to remember the struggle of the black South Africans against apartheid. It was not easy but today apartheid is no more. When it became obvious the black South Africans would not give up the right to be treated as the equal human beings they are, the world finally joined them. What is going on in Nigeria (and most African countries) today defies nomenclature: it is not apartheid neither is it slavery yet it has possibly cost more lives than either of those—through insecurity, non-payment of salaries, dangerous roads, curable disease. And when the presidents and other government officials can go to Europe, U.S, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere for their healthcare but ask their fellow countrymen to die in poorly equipped hospitals—the situation cries out for a new name.
In the past few weeks we have seen the French citizens demand their right, demand livable conditions—the yellow jacket protest is now in its 11th consecutive week (even after their initial demands have been met). Good governance must be demanded to be obtained! Nigerians both at home and abroad, let’s stop letting the political elite loot the land. In whatever foreign country you are, when your president visits that country for medical care, organize, and carry placards to the front of the hospital to demand he build hospitals back home that both he and others can use. When they buy mansions in the foreign land where you are, organize and march to the city hall of that town with placard and demand that the source of the money be ascertained. And also on Nigerian soil, protest peacefully until your voice is heard! Let us demand accountability and hold thieves in government accountable. Let us demand that incoming officials declare their assets before and after their tenure as stipulated in the constitution. And that includes the judiciary! When they refuse to listen, let us continue to raise our voices until we achieve a government that works for the benefit of one and all.