The Masses’ manifesto

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

With 2023 general elections steadily gaining steam and hurtling towards Nigerians like a train gone off its tracks, Nigeria has lurched into its season of politicking and electioneering. Already, Nigerians are being inundated with the same empty words they have heard ad nauseam for many years and which experience has shown up to be devoid of any substance.

Since democratic elections returned to the country in 1999 after the brutal military dictatorship of Sani Abacha followed the iniquitous intervention that scuttled the 1993 presidential election won by the inimitable MKO Abiola, Nigerians have grown both in awareness and sophistication as an electorate.

There used to be days, now largely consigned to a shameful past, when as lies and outlandish claims freely leaped off the lips of politicians at tumultuous campaign rallies and raucous townhall meetings, those they addressed, those whose votes they sought, were content to concern themselves more with what uncooked rice, salt and wrappers were being distributed to induce voters. However, it was not long before hard lessons were learnt about the inviolability of a vote. All thanks to brutal realities.

As bad governance sent shockwaves of hunger and hardship rattling around the country, many were forced to reevaluate the choices they made during previous election in exchanging that which money could buy with that which money could never buy. The result of this evaluation done as potholes ate up roads and pipes groaned for water was that the Nigerian voter acquired some steel.

The inducement of voters in Nigeria has not entirely become a relic of the past. However, Nigerians are now the wiser. Many Nigerians now know to reject the peanuts offered for their votes during elections, or to accept and still keep their votes free of any influence. The former scenario startlingly played out during the Anambra State Governorship election of November 6, 2021, when some women in a rural community around Awka, the state capital, improbably rejected the sums they were offered for their votes.

It was improbable because ordinarily poverty should have rendered the women susceptible to inducement. But it did not and in that singular action stood forth the new spine acquired by the average Nigerian voter. Between the months of June and July,2022, governorship elections will be due in Ekiti and Osun States. There is only very little doubt that the people in those states who have suffered contrasting fortunes in the last four years will be keen to test the resolve of those who would seek to buy their votes.

With party primaries set to go down before June 3, 2022, it means that candidates for elections at various levels will soon emerge and with them, manifestos painstakingly polished by their campaign and media teams. Predictably, the manifestoes would hurl all manner of promises and pledges meant only to hoodwink Nigerians in the long run as has been the case for many years, especially in the last seven years.

However, when they come with all manner of promises about how they will change the fortunes of Nigerians, Nigerians must know to run over the manifestos with a fine-tooth comb. Piercing and probing questions must follow flamboyant claims. But most importantly, it is Nigerians that must fashion their own manifesto, impose same on those seeking their votes and extract unassailable commitments from them that they would abide it and no less. That is the least Nigerians can do having so jarringly found out that all that glitters is not gold.

In a country turned inside out by insecurity, that manifesto must be first of all about securing Nigerian lives and livelihoods. It must also be about decimating the terrorist networks ravaging the country at present. Since it appears from all indications that there are within the country those who feed fat on insecurity, those fat cats must be fished out and hung out to dry. Nigeria can deploy all the soldiers it wants to the many warzones scattered all over the country but the truth is and remains that as long those who sponsor insecurity are not brought to ruin, they would continue to operate freely.

The manifesto must also be about lifting Nigerians out of poverty. Poverty kills slowly, silently and excruciatingly. By slowly draining life of every quality, poverty leaves people extremely vulnerable. With 91 million Nigerians mired in poverty, there is no doubt that it is one of the problems that must be urgently confronted in 2023 and beyond.

If Nigerians can force those who supposedly wish to serve them to recognize and commit to tackling these two menaces beyond the words of mouth, Nigerians can expect to become empowered as they move steadily towards a brighter future.

As part of the manifesto, a thorough check must be made on the backgrounds of those who put themselves out to be elected into public office. Each one of their antecedents and predilections must be critically examined for patterns that may heal or harm Nigeria if they eventually make it into office.

There are way too many things to fix about Nigeria at the moment, but if insecurity and poverty can be fought to a standstill, perhaps Nigeria can resume its long-suspended journey to a peaceful and prosperous future.

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

 

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