All Rise... Distinguished Citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Oh how exhilarating it will be to be recognized for who we are and what roles we play in Nigeria's polity!
As a child growing up at the onset of the political dispensation as we have it today, I remember my mother was an election officer. Being a School Teacher, she was assigned to one of the polling units in Wuse District, Abuja. It was from her tiny wooden desk and table where she perched that she dutifully marked the thumbs of voters to signify that they had casted their votes in the secret ballot box hidden behind a curtain.
I knew this for sure because at about midday, I was sent over by my aunt with food in a flask to trek a few 100 meters to serve my mother her lunch. Half walking and jogging in the scorching sun, flask bouncing encased in the polythene bag, I hurried on my way. I remember being amazed by the large crowd huddled around the shade provided by a big Gmelina tree, under which her royal majesty, my mother and her colleagues sat.
The crowd was civil, calm and patient, though I could tell most were hungry because their eyes ogled when they saw my mother open her flask to dig in. Yet, they waited to perform their civic duties.
That was the year 1999, and I remember a few of the presidential candidates vividly. There was talk about Chief Olu Falae being the preferred candidate for a large section of the Yoruba nation, while Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (who later won as substantive Head of State), was the choice of the core North and other parts of Nigeria. The latter gained such popularity mostly because of his famed fight against Abacha's authoritarian government and as a result his being thrown into jail, from where he after his acquittal, ran for office.
All through the years and elections that followed, one thing remained a constant; Nigerians always demanded that their rights be upheld. They demanded to be given equal opportunities to operate their businesses, to go to school, to aspire for political positions, to receive the right wages for work done, to have access to equity and justice and the right to freely choose who to elect into office without coercion, whether through force, bribes or empty manifestos and promises.
But as the elections for 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 swung in, I found two things to be true. Half of the population of voters were more interested in the handouts of rice, wrappers, umbrellas, brooms, a paltry sum of N2,000 and face caps to sway their votes than they were about actually exercising their duties. The other half were more interested in sitting back at their houses unperturbed, watching the events unfold via the Media.
I remember in 2007, the crowd that gathered beneath the trees in the green area that surrounded my street. There was a horde of voters lining up to receive gifts from campaign organizers to vote certain people into office. What amazed me was that on the day of election, less than half of that crowd showed up to cast their votes. And those who did, consistently bragged about their choice because they received a bigger gift from the party than the other contesting parties- how sad.
Permit me to paraphrase from a speech given by USA's former First Lady Michelle Obama in the follow up of the 2016 presidential campaigns “As I have said before, the presidency [Power] doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. And the same thing is true of a Presidential [National Assembly, Governorship, State Assembly] campaign. So, if a candidate is erratic and threatening, if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fears and lies on the trail, if a candidate has no clear plans to implement their goals, if they disrespect their fellow citizens, including folks who make extraordinary sacrifices for our country – let me tell you, that is who they are. That is the kind of president [Leader] they will be. Trust me”.
I absolutely believe her, and so must everyone. After all, haven't we in this nation been consistently blindsided with past campaign promises that do not hold water? Or of deafening silences or ill-timed and insensitive comments that rouse tensions instead of douse them?
Do you realize that without we the voters, the whole process of Democracy is null and void? We are left with no other option than to get involved or at the very least throw our collective weight behind those who are brave enough to stand up for equity and justice, youth and female inclusiveness! If not for any altruistic reason, then to put an end to the hopelessness, poverty, unemployment, brazen killings, strike actions and the likes.
I have registered to vote. I wield my power come 2019. Do you?
for information on the continuous voter registration and the Registration Area Centres Nation Wide.
I endorse #NotTooYoungToRun