The 2015 Elections are right in front of us. These elections, unlike previous ones, come at a time of great instability in the nation. No day passes without some drama, whether comedic, tragic, or both.
In the midst of the insecurity posed by Boko Haram, and its friends (armed robbers and other criminals), coupled with the inefficiency of our security agencies—whether perceived or factual—Nigerians carry on with their daily activities. The politicians have also come with a little comedy to lighten up the mood, with their cross-carpeting, name-calling, fence jumping and other acts. The average Nigerian shrugs his shoulders and proceeds with his life.
The common man does not yet grasp the meaning of “austerity measures”. Maybe it means that Nigeria is broke, or that politicians will share money and rice for the masses. Apparently, the government has not bothered to explain “austerity measures” in a language that the petty farmer in a hidden village can understand.
There is so much to complain about in this country. Every day, thousands of Nigerians gather in small rooms, buses, bars, and wherever space can be found, to complain about governments at various levels. To the average foreigner, the solution seems simple—make your votes count, vote bad people out and vote good people in.
Unfortunately, it is not that easy in Nigeria. We are a nation of perpetual complainers who do not ever move beyond complaints to taking action. “E go better” is a well-ingrained doctrine filling Nigerians with hope—hope that is oftentimes misplaced. We think the politicians would suddenly change and start governing well, launching a utopian society. Some even view politicians as gods. That is why a legislator from Rivers State would say that the president’s wife is his “Jesus”. If she is Jesus, I wonder what he would call her husband.
Nigerians complain for four years, then elections come, and we sit back, folding our arms, foolishly hoping that the best candidates would win. I tell people “if you don’t vote, you have no moral right to complain about any government”. Extending that; “if you don’t make all efforts to ensure your vote counts, you have no moral right to complain about rigging”.
During the 2011 General Elections, I went to my polling station early on each Election Day, even before the electoral officials arrived. I would help organize the crowd in a well-defined queue, and ensure that no one tried to coerce any person when thumb-printing on the ballot. Those present thought I was an electoral official. It was only when I took my own ballot paper to vote that anyone would know I was a normal voter like them. When voting was concluded, I would wait until every ballot paper was counted, and the result was signed by all the party agents, and then pasted at the polling station.
I received an astonishing amount of ridicule from some persons who felt I was being foolish. “Dem dey pay you?” “Dem don already fix the winner”. They could not understand why any sensible person would choose, without pay, to stand at a polling station from morning until evening. Why would anyone voluntarily turn himself into an unpaid election observer?
That is the Nigerian paradox. Talk is cheap but action is scarce. Every day, we scream for positive change, for improvement. Yet we are unwilling to throw our hats into the ring and do something to make our dreams a reality. Like the biblical Pharisees, we do not stop at simple inaction; we also try to discourage others from taking action. Thus, our numerous complaints are perpetuated in a self-sustaining cycle.
This country would see massive improvement if only Nigerians would do less of complaining, and more of acting. Politicians would sit up and work hard to satisfy the people if they know that unhappy citizens would move to end the reign of unhappiness.
In less than thirty days, we march to the polls. Whether your choice is PDP, APC, KOWA, or any other party, do your best to ensure that your vote counts. Four years of good governance is worth one day of discomfort.
Leave the days of ineffective complaints behind.