Understanding the consequences of our electoral choices

The political die is cast. Presidential flag bearers of political parties and other office holders for the 2023 general elections have emerged. Expectedly, the political space is assuming a concrete shape and frenzied gyration of some sort in the states and at the federal level. The beauty of the 2023 general elections rests on the fact that the new electoral law 2022 as amended gives a glimmer of hope. Our choices matter and our votes will count henceforth. Results are to be transmitted electronically from polling units. This has made it difficult for results to be compromised and fraudulently rigged in favour of some candidates. Where politicians defile the rules, as they sometimes flagrantly do, electronic evidence are admissible in electoral tribunals.

It is also interesting to note that the three major ethnic groups in the country, namely, Igbo, Hausa/Fulani, and Yoruba, are ably represented in the presidential contest. Undoubtedly, Nigeria is notoriously divided by religion, tribal and ethnic considerations especially during elections. These factors have beclouded the national political sense of judgement. Consequently, frivolous narratives have taken over the political space. Most are feuled by uncivil – mostly unfounded arguments and uncouth comments.

As supporters of the major contenders including Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party and other political offices strive non stop to deliver their choice candidates to the Nigerian electorate the nation is fed with distorted facts not in any way helpful in electoral decision making. Almost narrow minded ethnic, religious and political half-truths flood the space.

We have in the foregoing rigmarole relegated the basis of the election to the background. We have completely lost touch with what we want as a nation. The nature of the president, governors, senators, etc, we want and the shape our government should take have become non issues. Do we need an old or young president, governors, etc.? Can the nation cope again with sick political office holders? Do we need to elect those the anti-graft agencies are doubtful of their sources of wealth? Does education, knowledge and experiences of candidates matter? What about character and integrity? How about candidates’ political antecedents? What is our take of their views on social, political, cultural, religious and economics issues?

The desire, passion and love for ones preferred candidate to win in an election is well understood. This sublime desire unfortunately is not anchored on the rich resume of any of the candidates. At most it is fueled by nothing more than tribal, religious, and regional sentiments. These are political fault lines deliberately created to destroy the overall meaning of politics and democracy in Nigeria. It has denied the nation the rare political opportunity of electing the best. Nigeria is a nation where character and antecedents of candidates do not matter much in politics and election.

Candidates with conscience who are seen to represent truth never make it.
Many live below the poverty line in Nigeria. Therefore, people more often than not align with the candidature of the man with huge financial war chest and deep pocket or from their region. This monetisation of elections and ethnocentric positions are some of the major draw backs to our national growth and development. Both have to be properly addressed for the nation to move forward. Unfortunately, they have taken a pride of place in the political system and determines where the electoral pendulum and victory swings. The result of that position is telling on all of us including those who drive it. Like the music legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti – we are suffering and smiling.

Most supporters have thrown caution to the wind by resorting to name calling and abuse of anyone who do not believe in or did not support their candidates. But why should election maters degenerate into internet fist-cuffs, abuses and threats? We all have the right to differ in our choices of candidates. That is the beauty of democracy! Have you seen any of the candidate insulting each other? They have a place of rendevouz when you are snoring away in your sleep at night. Are you not weary of presenting your head as a political coconut for politicians? Honestly, fighting for Nigerian politicians does not worth it.

Nigerians do not seem to have learned anything since 1999. They have failed to self examine where we came from, where we are and where the nation should be. In Nigeria, every past administration ironically becomes better than the present. This exemplifies low quality in the nation’s leadership recruitment process. Yet, people do not seem to be worried.

Can we now confidently say that the worst democracy is better than the best military government? Lack of good understanding of the consequences of our electoral choices is the problem of Nigerian electorate. It has to be an issue of utmost concern. This should drive the conversation and top our priority this electioneering period not name calling. How has the nation fared since our democratic experience beginning from Obasanjo in 1999?

Should we still hand over the nation to the same people who have played this politics of national and economic stagnation and retrogression since 1999? Those Farooq Kperogi described as “…the same woefully familiar, recycled, unimaginative, self-interested, careerist politicians who are deeply invested in sustaining the dysfunctions that keep Nigeria in the twilight zone between life and death.”

Periodic election of office holders basically offers citizens the right to choose in the leadership recruitment process of nations. It is that auspicious moment nations decide to take a major leap forward or remain stagnated, dormant, docile and continue to blame the evil spirits for their misfortune. Or rely on miracles for national transformation.

Making electoral choices like a coin is basically two sided. The better choices a nation make is a reflection of who they are. It defines how reasonable, urbane, ignorant, knowledgeable, ethnic or tribalistic they are. Right electoral choices foster unity, promotes peace, freedom and engenders rapid development. Why do nations prosper and others wallow in abject poverty? The quality of leaders at the helm of affairs matter.

Center for Creative Leadership, USA identified 10 key qualities of a good leader. First, integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Second, delegation – it enables one to direct reports to grow, facilitate teamwork, provide autonomy, and lead to better decision-making. The best leaders build trust in order to delegate more effectively. Third, communication – the best leaders are skilled communicators who are able to communicate in a variety of ways, from transmitting information to inspiring others to coaching direct reports.

Fourth, self-awareness – the better you understand yourself and recognise your own strengths and weaknesses the more effective you can be as a leader. Fifth, gratitude – being thankful can lead to higher self-esteem, reduced depression and anxiety, and better sleep. A man full of gratitude makes a good leader. Sixth, learning ability – the ability to know what to do when you do not know what to do. Seventh, influence – being able to convince people through logical, emotional, or cooperative appeals is an important trait of inspiring effective leaders.

Eight, empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Ninth, courage – daring to voice a new idea, provide feedback to a direct report, or flag a concern for someone above you and move things in the right direction. Tenth, respect – due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. Countries are doomed and remain in poverty for ages as a result of their electoral and political choices. Nigeria has not been fortunate with good leaders. The 2023 general elections offers new opportunity to get it right.

Eze writes from Kaduna via [email protected], 08060901201