Election is an integral component of democracy. The best legal brains are nominated, confirmed and appointed to leadership positions in the Judiciary at Local, State and Federal levels but the Legislatures and Executives must be periodically elected by the consent of the majority adult population in a democracy.
Democracy is not all about elections. Democracy packs a lot including separation of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislature; political party formations; internal party democratic processes; political campaigns; equality of citizens and the rule of law; presumption of innocence, free hearing and trial; the freedom of the press; fundamental human rights of citizens and so on. However, election into public offices is a fundamental necessity of democracy, and is usually, for good reasons, more attended to than other issues. Perhaps because once the people in public offices do not get their mandate through the consent of the people, all other critical expectations are mortgaged ab initio.
Democratic governance is about popular participation in how the people are governed, in their best interest. It is assumed, therefore, that those who seek to venture into politics and get into public offices – elected or appointed by those elected- should be keen to listen to the people, fathom their yearnings and aspirations, and be ready to serve to deliver dividends that meet those yearnings and aspirations. In Nigeria, it has turned out largely, except for a few exceptions in personality and places, to be a sadly wrong assumption.
Public offices are sought, desperately and violently by many politicians, for all sorts of reasons except for the public good to the extent that a former president declared elections as a do or die affair! How, for the sake of God, can any man/woman wish to better the lots of his/her community so desperately as to not mind killing and maiming as many persons as he/she perceives as standing in the way? There are unnumbered unresolved cases of high profile political assassinations and brigandage.The most lamentable and painful being the killing of a sitting Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, not to mention killings and maiming of many “unknown civilians” and loss of properties in billions of naira!
With the upcoming elections in Edo and Ondo States, we are about to enter the next circuit of electioneering in Nigeria, leading to Anambra, Ekiti, Osun elections and the national general elections in 2023. The signals from Edo and Ondo remain dispiriting pointers to the fact that neither our elites and politicians nor the electorate in general have learnt much either from the past, or of democracy itself. The terrible hangover of protracted military rule – brutish and authoritarian – and the combined history of monarchy and colonialism still weigh heavily on public mentality.
The youth, who have been advocating on the platform of not-too-young-to-run but have done little to impress themselves or anybody, have to realise and retrain their mind on certain basics. One, Nigeria is supposed to be a Federal Republic but it is not. In a republic, all citizens are born equal and have same rights and obligations before the law without a single exception, and in a federation all federating units, the States in our case, should be completely autonomous, politically and economically, only subject to the unifying ideals and commitments represented by the Federal Government. Of course, this is not the case and we are only a Federal Republic in name only, with an almighty federal government in a pseudo unitary system. These have huge implications for your endeavour to be relevant in politics.
Two, all political parties should be founded on ideologies: on principles that are articulated in a manifesto and detailed in fundamental programmes, strategies and tactics of delivering the good life to the majority. They should have clearly spelt out rules and regulations on how things are done and how every member comports himself/herself and this should be binding on all. This too is not the case in Nigeria. There are politicians and interest groups struggling to make it so but not succeeding so far. It has implication for your engagement in politics.
Lastly, and in the light of the two realities above, whatever the outcome of electoral contest between contending parties, there are overwhelming odds militating against good governance at all levels: local, state and federal, to such an extent that hardly anything positive and enduring comes out of the contest, at least so far. To every rule, there are exceptions. These few exceptions depend entirely on the character, ideas, and commitment of the individual politician leading the contest. We have seen exceptional positive outcomes in Asiwaju Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola in Lagos and Rauf Aregbesola in Osun to mention just three instances in the South West. Understanding these phenomena should condition your mind on which piece you should choose to be on the electoral contest chessboard.
In conclusion, electioneering should be a festival of competing ideas and choices from which the electorate can pick. Often, it is not. Governance should completely be about public service and personal sacrifices. Often, it is not. Within your various associations and organisations, working towards normalising these abnormal scenarios must be a primary commitment, while continuing your political engagement, as that will be what will give meaning to your engagement on the long run.Violence is antithetical to development and does not have any place in democracy, much else in elections that should deliver democratic government. Choose to be against electoral manipulations and violence, understanding that election is not war and we are even still far away from the day elections in general will have positive meanings in our lives.For now, only the character, ideal and commitment of the contestant seem to make whatever difference.