Posts Tagged ‘citizens’

Hoping and Waiting For a never-coming Messiah

Image from: https://theinfong.com/2016/11/12-times-nigerian-presidents-changed-fuel-price-see-highest/

When Nigerians discuss the deplorable and dishonest performance of their politicians one often hears sentiments like, “Let’s hope that someone will come to power that will turn things around.” Despite the fact that regime after regime the country seems to be taking a nose dive, the expectation of the people for a messiah is unshakable. Perhaps it is this lassitude that is the root, the perpetuating factor for the poor governance of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. In spite of the numerous maxims that abound to the evidence of our misplaced faith, there remains the unwavering belief that someday, somehow, someone will arise from among us who does not have the voracious appetite of his predecessors for illicit wealth, someone who has an aversion to self-aggrandizement, someone who will do us good of his own volition. 

But the reality is that we have created a society in which such a messiah cannot exist. The worship of wealth, irrespective of source, in Nigeria, and the total disdain and disregard for the poor and have-nots has bred a crazed appetite for wealth irrespective of source. In a society where infrastructure is dilapidated and the lives of citizens are worth next to nothing—as far as the governing class are concerned—there is not only an astonishing lack of a common will to demand justice, but a reckless aspiration in individuals to seek what piece of the national cake they can grab for themselves. The social conscience of the nation seems to have been annihilated. But in all this, the realization, perhaps, has not dawned on all concerned, that a working Nigeria will work for all. The rich will be more comfortable and secure and the plight of the poor will be bettered. A progressive Nigeria will cause all to progress. In a society where the roads are death traps, where the state of security is dangerous and hospitals do not live up to their designation, even those who consider themselves well off are only one emergency situation away from total disaster. 

Yet, what is to be done? History teaches us that there is no freedom without struggle. The French rose up multiple times against their elites and their insistence on equity brought about, at last, a thriving society. It was a sustained struggle against apartheid that caused the world to hear black South Africans and join them to bring down a shameful oppression. But even for citizens who are not like the brave peasants of France, the modern world offers avenues for freedom from oppression.  If Nigerians decide to engage in a sustained struggle against corruption and poor governance it will get to a level where the world will take note and the corrupt politicians will have no place to hide.

In this day and age when the poor governance in Nigeria has created a large population of economic migrants around the globe, it has become easier to curb the ability of corrupt Nigerian politicians to launder their stolen wealth abroad and seek healthcare abroad while their citizens perish in abject poverty and dangerous hospitals.  Indeed, more avenues are available to curb the illicit activities of corrupt Nigerian leaders should their citizens decide to act. And decide they must, if there is going to be hope of progress for Nigeria.

Nigerians in diaspora, in whatever country they live, through their different town meetings, have the power in their hands to curb the freedom with which the corrupt politicians access the amenities in the West. These politicians use the nation’s coffers as their launch pad for living it up in developed countries: purchasing mansions, stowing away illicit wealth, seeking health care and sending their children to school abroad while their citizens are left to grovel in poverty and poor amenities. If Nigerians in diaspora are able to make politicians’ activity in developed countries uncomfortable through regular demonstrations, the politicians will get the message to fix things in their own country. After all, politicians from developed countries do not come to Nigeria to buy homes, send their children to schools in Nigeria or live lavish lifestyles beyond what is commensurate with their income without being called to account. 

It is time for Nigerians in the diaspora, when they attend meetings of their towns of origin, to begin to consider ways they can foil the corrupt activities of Nigerian politicians that occur in the country in which they live. Nigerians at home in Nigeria, in whatever way they can, also need to demonstrate peacefully and frequently against the corruption that wastes the land. Freedom does not come to those who fold their hands in captivity. The messiah that Nigerians await is within themselves. It is the people that will demand good governance and insist on it; it is the people that can make it impossible for corrupt leaders to continue to trod them underfoot; it is the people that have the power to create a situation where there is no lavish gain in political office and thereby encourage only patriotic individuals intent on leaving a legacy, to seek public office.

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The Vote Of Their Lives

The elections were postponed for a week, at the last minute, at the height of anticipation. And, the people waited. Amid warnings and threats, they waited to cast their votes and choose their future. 

Finally, Saturday, the 23rd of February 2019, dawned. Many were up before the sun, eager to exercise their rights. Armed with their PVCs (voter identification card), their fingers eager to thumbprint, they headed to their designated voting centers. They were however confronted by late arrival of voting materials, late arrival of election officials, incomplete numbers of ballots, non-availability of indelible ink and non-functioning card reader equipment.  With a little maneuvering and make-dos some of these set-backs were in some cases circumvented, and where it could not be, elections were extended—again.

How INEC could still have problems with timely arrival of officials, completeness of election materials and functionality of equipment after four years of preparedness and one week of postponement is incredible to anyone but those who are satisfied with mitigating mediocrity with excuses, which is where Nigeria perpetually finds itself. In more than ten years of conducting elections Nigeria has still not gotten to a stage when the process can be smooth, safe and fully credible. 

The number of polling units in the different local governments, one would assume, was known to the electoral commission, months, no, years in advance. The number of eligible and registered voters surely was also known for weeks if not months in advance. The traffic patterns in the roads leading to the different polling units were known, and if not should have been studied to ensure timely arrival of electoral officers and polling materials. 

In the weeks leading up to the elections there was a report in the news of how many people had collected their PVCs and hence were ready to vote. The number of individuals assigned to each polling center was known ahead of time. How is it then that in some centers the electoral officials arrived with fewer ballots than the number of voters assigned to the center? Are Nigeria and its electoral commission incapable of preparing for and conducting an election?

After all the delays, insufficiencies and inadequacies, the ever accommodating citizens got in line, standing under the hot sun, patiently, to eventually cast their ballots. In several centers however, no sooner did the citizens cast their ballots than did lawless individuals, purportedly political thugs, show up to snatch the ballot boxes, burn the votes or inflict mortal injuries on the voters.  Soon, an exercise in civic rights became a war zone and a killing ground. Across the country, on this Election Day alone, tens of people have fallen: killed in gunfire exchange with the police, shot by soldiers or stoned to death when they reportedly tried to disrupt the election in some way or the other. But not all who lost their lives were involved in any form of disorder, according to witnesses. The innocent died with the thugs.

Political thuggery has become a thing in Nigeria. Politicians equip these malefactors for their own use and empower them to massacre their fellow citizens. And are these politicians ever held responsible for this? Of course not, since they are answerable to no one, since the judicial system is hopelessly broken and justice is sold to the highest bidder. Hence election after election, regime after regime the scepter of lawless and rigged elections hang over Nigeria and we have need for elections observers from outside the country to come and observe our elections—to ensure they are credible. It would seem then that we are not capable yet of independently running our affairs—an unfortunate but true indictment, it would seem.

So, it is unfortunate that those who go to cast their votes in Nigeria cannot guarantee their safe return. And even now with elections not yet concluded, as we await the results, many will await the burial of loved ones.

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