I have a friend who has formed the habit of typing “John 8:7” as a reply whenever we have any discussion that hovers around politics, especially when the context is about the rightness or wrongness of a given view. I would usually argue with him on my fundamental human right to judge others but today I would take his side as I write about an issue for which I have also been guilty.
It would be proper for me to start by confessing my guilt hoping that the statute of limitation has set me free. In 2011 I returned from school to partake in the general elections, which was the first time I would cast my ballot as a Nigerian. Coming from an activism-rampant campus, I had been sold the credentials of the CPC presidential candidate, General Buhari, and I intended to vote for him. However, something changed on reaching my polling unit in Port Harcourt. I saw a mass of northerners come to the polling station and all they had in mind was that they had been told to vote for CPC. Even for seats that had no CPC candidate, they asked for the CPC logo. This action repulsed me, and with some prodding from southerners around, I ended up voting for the PDP presidential candidate.
If you should focus on judging me for voting Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, you would have missed the point of the tale. The real takeaway is not that I voted Goodluck but that I voted the PDP for the presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial, house of representatives and house of assembly positions. It was a total clean sweep. The unfortunate thing was that I barely knew who was running for the last three positions. I was an undergraduate making an electoral choice without considering whether a single party had credible candidates across all available positions or whether there were other credible persons running via other parties’ platforms.
If I were to ask you right now, in October 2018, what is the position of the APC on education, can you answer? What about the PDP? What does the PDP feel is the best way to address the health sector? Got an answer? Let’s try KOWA. Does KOWA have any stand on Nigeria’s positioning in the African Union? Alright, let’s try ANN. What is the ANN doctrine on the relationship between the Nigerian military and the civilian population? Can anyone iterate the view of any party on the best way to boost literacy levels across Nigeria?
The odds of anyone answering the questions above are much lower than the odds of being struck by lightning twice in one day. The reality is that Nigerian political parties are generally bereft of clearly articulated philosophies on issues. For most parties, the main philosophy is getting into office by any means possible in order to clear the treasury. Before now, we limited this excoriation to the frontline evil twins but recent events where members of a new party have publicly sparred over their presidential candidate with two persons being bandied about as flagbearers suggest it goes beyond the APC and the PDP. If we were to even look at the frontline parties, anyone still using corruption as a yardstick to differentiate between them is being delusional as both parties clearly share the same DNA.
Is all hope lost? Of course not! What we need to do is to look beyond party affiliations and consider the credibility of those running for different positions and their outlined plans for us. This means that we should not beat ourselves if we have to vote for different parties across the electoral levels provided we can assure ourselves that to the best of our knowledge, those for whom we are voting are qualified and have demonstrated their plans and that those plans tally with our aspirations. What this also means is that we should be ready to vote for persons outside the mainstream parties, especially at lower levels. Whereas some persons might argue whether it is possible for a non-mainstream presidential candidate to pull a Macron and win the presidency in 2019, few persons would argue against the plausibility of say KOWA or YPP winning assembly seats or even senatorial seats if they present candidates fit for those seats.
If we have learned anything from past elections, we should at least have learned not to vote blindly for any political party. Scrutinising the personalities of contestants would help us get a better mix of leaders for the next four years. In addition, there is some merit in the argument that a fragmented political environment might make political parties sit up if they see that the voters have stopped gulping their deceptive juice. It is time to trash the façade. Let us make Nigeria better.
Image Credit: thecreativeeducator.com