2015 Elections: Leaders not promises!

(By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje)

More importantly for Nigerians and indeed the electorate yarning for manifest change, is the realisation that genuine leadership must take root through credible elections. Antecedents and long-term perspectives of sustainable development and governance issues should be used in the assessment of the two parties and by extensions their individual candidates. Nigerians should, as a matter of urgency, make hard choices on key performance deliverables, using benchmarks based on global best practices on leadership and governance.

INDEED, Nigeria is not in a situation where it can simply rest on its democratic laurels, either economically or politically since the return to civil rule in 1999. The standard of living over the years, in my view, has been anemic and, there has been no significant improvement in the life of the common man. The quality of governance, accountability of the government, the rule of law, and the control of corruption has not been steady. In the view of many Nigerians, it has possibly declined particularly at the centre. The question is whether with the 2015 mandate and the little to show for accountable and responsible leadership across the country of today Nigerians will be able to effect any noticeable changes in the political destiny of this great nation. The answer is very simple yes — the ballot is the instrument. For many years we have become too complacent and more often than not taken for a ride by politicians and their collaborators.

   While political leadership and governance landscape have experienced global redefinition particularly in developed democracies, Nigeria has remained stubbornly bound to the traditional imperatives of parochial party interest, power and geo-political alignments at the expense of national interest. Indeed, the active pursuit of visionary leadership, conceived in developmental and human progress terms, has been frustrated for well over five decades of our nation building. Therefore, as we get close to the 2015 general elections, Nigerians should have an uncommon shift in perspective and have demonstrable need for selfless, accountable and credible leaders. They should not be deceived by the empty promises that have characterised declarations for the general elections. However, it is never too late to make changes and as the great political philosopher John Stuart Mill put it: “No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.”

  In my view, the key shift in 2015 should be voting on the basis of informed decisions and development agenda template of the individuals rather the transactional recruitment pattern of party consensus candidacy, God fatherism, ethnicity and clannishness all of which have been the feature of our political space. Indeed, the processes before elections are very critical.  The negative forces that characterised electioneering and campaigns in the past, particularly the unwholesome and cross-fire speeches during campaigns and sometimes deliberate misinformation peddled by political parties, but this time by both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must be checked by INEC and the NBC. Also important is voters’ intimidation by the government in power and the use of state machinery during campaigns and on the days of elections by the president and state governors should not be allowed in 2015. This is to enhance the credibility of the process.

   Increasingly, going forward, therefore, Nigerians should be aware that purposeful leadership transcends the rhetoric, grandiose and empty speeches, declarations at political party rallies, arranged commissioning ceremonies of government projects by some of the political parties to promote their aspirants. The voters should be wary of unwholesome and negative partisan criticisms by the two major political parties; these are not healthy for our democracy and the forthcoming general elections.

   Furthermore, the existential realities of parochial zoning sentiments and self-imposed dynastic politics of god-fatherism and, indeed, the clandestine network building among the self-styled leaders in the APC and PDP parties’ nuclei may blur the search for a moral and genuine leadership at the centre and in some states of the federation. The cheap political blackmail and arrogance being displayed by the party’s leadership across board and in the various states is also critical and germane to the emergence of a leader that can chart the way forward for a new Nigeria that we all desire at this point in our national development.

   Also, internal democracy is not respected by the party hierarchy in APC, PDP and other parties. Internal democracy which is one of the major attributes of party organisational leadership has not always played out in our political space. Indeed, come to think of it, the emergence of the incumbent president as the only PDP flag bearer, in my view, is also a challenge for the democratic process and the leadership question in Nigeria.

  More importantly for Nigerians and indeed the electorate yarning for manifest change, is the realisation that genuine leadership must take root through credible elections. Antecedents and long-term perspectives of sustainable development and governance issues should be used in the assessment of the two parties and by extensions their individual candidates. Nigerians should, as a matter of urgency, make hard choices on key performance deliverables, using benchmarks based on global best practices on leadership and governance.

  General Muhammadu Buhari and the incumbent President Jonathan Ebele Goodluck have both picked the ticket of their respective parties—APC and PDP. Buhari in his acceptance speech promised to provide adequate security of lives and properties, predictably zero tolerance for corruption, poverty eradication, job creation restoration of discipline in the public service among other numerous concerns. President Goodluck Jonathan in his declaration spent time in trying to convince Nigerians on what he considered as his landmark achievements particularly roads and agriculture. He also said he would put more bite on the war on terror. Regrettably, however, their declarations are wishful promises without concrete benchmarks on how to fix Nigeria.

  As we prepare for the 2015 general elections, Nigerians should look beyond empty campaign promises being orchestrated by the politicians and focus on critical issues of governance performance deliverables which are hinged essentially on safety and the rule of law, citizen’s participation in programmes, human development, and sustainable economic opportunities for all Nigerians. We are tired of cheap talks of fighting corruption without demonstrable level of integrity and commitment from our leaders.

  Political parties in the country particularly the APC and PDP must, therefore, present alternative vision and mission statements beyond the townhall meeting rhetoric of providing education, unemployment and youth development for all to a more concrete campaign issues-based politics and people – driven deliverables. I am referring to action plans and milestones for the actualisation of election promises that are realistic, measurable and time bound.

  Indeed, politicians should know that the business of governance has taken a new dimension and people seeking public office, particularly the office of the President, should have the credibility and responsibility to mobilise public support for their programmes. They should be able to influence people and restore hope to the teeming Nigerians who live on less than one dollar a day.

   Interestingly, the complex interplay of diverse primordial, ethnic and social forces of the political hegemony of the northern agenda and by extension the overt scheming by the President to emerge would also be a force to reckon with irrespective of the power indices and permutations outside the party machinery at the moment. On the other hand, the emerging realities of the APC cannot be discounted in the unfolding power structures.

   Regardless of the power dynamics between the APC and PDP, the new Nigeria voters in 2015, in my view, will be independent, individualistic, simple, straightforward, doggedly determined, and will be proud to make a manifest change in the leadership direction of the country through one man, one vote, and one woman, one vote. We must task our leaders as they campaign for our votes on the provision of social and economic goods that we as citizens have the right to expect from our government.

  Irrespective of our political affiliations as Nigerians, we should set the agenda and framework for presidential debates and campaigns to enable us accurately assess the capacity of the individual aspirants beyond empty promises on the delivery of public goods and services, and looking more critically at policy outcomes that will positively affect positively the common man.

• Orovwuje is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos.

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