In contemporary time, democracy has turned out to be the most supported political tool for development and social change, which has attained near global acclaim and admiration by many world leaders. Although it is contestable, the reasons for this vary. First, democracy has gained acceptability as a form of government based on equity and justice. Secondly, it purports to uphold the rule of law, and as well, guarantee the preservation of human rights.
In Nigeria, with the advent of the fourth republic installing Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria’s leader in 1999, democracy has come to maintain its solid presence in our polity with its deep tap root firmly fixed in our soils. Nigeria has witnessed several leaders ‘democratically elected’ following Chief Obasanjo’s tenure and there is no gain saying that the election year, 2019 is near. With this has witnessed political realignments amongst politicians and structural readjustments amongst political parties. Primaries are currently being conducted and our political atmosphere is encapsulated with the conflicting drum beats of winners and losers. There is wave of simultaneous camping, decamping and unwavering uncertainties. Prospective officer holders are sweet tonguing the masses with avalanche of promises and dramatically highlighting the failures of their opponents whilst incumbents are suddenly alive– ‘mending pot holes’ hitherto ignored and committing huge sums to advertorials graphically depicting their achievements.
When all is said and done, power belongs to the people. The people through their votes would determine their leader at various level of government. Voting, without doubt, has been taken as an indicator of democratic participation even though it does not guarantee that it is a prime indicator for democracy. Quite often, there is increasing participation in the electioneering process without corresponding political choice. Undecided voters face the challenge of voting the wrong candidates into office. Several reasons exist why voting should not be taken as an indicator for democracy. Below are some of the reasons:
- Electoral Fraud: Ballot boxes containing the voting turnout are often manipulated by the political class. In some cases, the incumbent political group struggles to ensure their candidates win. Often times, they achieve their aim by buying off the security officers and electoral officers, who ought to safeguard the ballot boxes, and this has led to a lot of disputed elections –the outcome is usually disastrous.
- As a result of poverty, many prospective voters are brainwashed with little token (usually money, gifts, promises of future employment) to vote for candidates who are not their original choices. When initial promises are not fulfilled, these result to violent conflicts, sit-ins, as well as disruption of the economy.
- Unregistered voters: Ill-equipped electoral facilities, coupled with insufficient voting registrars hinder the complete registration of legal voters. This is the major reason why a great size of the population ends up not being registered to participate during the elections.
In spite of the aforementioned, we are bequeathed with the civic duty, nay mandate of voting. Of electing our leaders, those who would steer the ship of our nation forward. It behoves us to obtain our PVC (Permanent Voters’ Card) and perform this duty overtly, diligently and vigilantly, weighing all options with a sound frame of mind and making the right choice.
The test before us in the coming elections is to vote for responsible leaders that we would not regret, using the biblical connotation – gnashing our teeth saying: ‘had I know’. The best leader may not be from the most popular political party, he or she may not be popular but his antecedents and ideology should be used as a determining factor for our votes. The 2019 election year is no doubt pregnant with expectations, one factor that remains a constant is that voting is going to take place. However, it is to be conducted is a subject of another missive. Our responsibility as citizens should therefore be to vote without sentiments, religion, or ethnic bigotry. Our responsibility is to vote for real technocrats who have the competence and clarity as well as mental acuity to perform the onerous task of piloting the affairs of this nation to greater dimensions. Our vote should be for excellence and sustainable governance where our natural resources will be judiciously managed for the overall prosperity of the present and future generation.
We should realise that Nigeria has had long struggles with governance issues and poverty and in need of a profound economic transformation. Fifty-eight years after we have obtained our independence, we are still striving to realise our enormous potential and play a more significant role on the world stage. The coming elections is thus another opportunity to set all wrongs right. To gaze at the world around us and reorder our priorities in terms of the shape we want our people, planet and prosperity to adopt.
Bearing in mind that with better governance, a country holds the promise of a broader base for prosperity through for instance, public-private partnership that invest in better roads and electricity, capacity building that trains to grow businesses; financial services that reach not just the cities but also the poor and rural areas and the disadvantaged.
The forthcoming election if adequately explored by electorates would provide yet another opportunity to engrain sustainable governance that would usher in sustainable development.
- Akudo Chinedu Ojoh (2008): Democracy and Sustainable Development in Nigeria: Research Paper (undergraduate).
- Richard Joseph (2009) : Economic Transformation and Developmental Governance in Nigeria: The Promise of the Obama Era. https://www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/economic-transformation-and-developmental-governance-in-nigeria-the-promise-of-the-obama-era/