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30.03.2007 International

Nigeria - why the April poll will hold

By Olusegun Adeniyi

The Verdict according to Olusegun Adeniyi

There are far too many people who believe that the April polls will not hold. I am not one of them. While I also see little on ground to counter the growing pessimism, I want to believe the polls will hold basically because, to me, what would happen in the event it doesn't, is just unthinkable.

Yes, there have been dramatic developments of late which call to question the integrity of the whole process and that of those who superintend the exercise but I remain optimistic.

To borrow Fanny Amun"s lexicon, we may 'wobble and fumble' but we should keep hope alive that the polls will hold; notwithstanding the 'fears' in quarters that may be working for some sinister agenda.

I am, however, just as worried about the polls as I am by the kind of people we call public officials, the politicians who are selling themselves to us. That exactly is the point.

Many of them are not selling anything, they simply want to buy our votes. And with a predisposition like that, they are telling us to our faces not to expect anything in return when they get to power.

Nothing exemplifies the tragedy of our situation today as a story in Vanguard newspaper on Tuesday and I want to quote the entire report verbatim.

Titled 'Polls: Chief of Staff institutes monetary awards for wards', the story reads: "Any ward in Delta State which will have 95 per cent of its votes cast for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate and the duo of Emmanuel Uduaghan/Amos Utuana, state gubernatorial candidates, has been promised a cash award of N1 million each.

“Similarly, wards with 90 percent of votes cast will get N700,000 while third position of the wards that would secure 85 percent of its votes cast will smile home with N500,000.

Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Emma Ejiofor, who instituted a monetary reward, stated this while addressing PDP faithful in different wards in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state.

“Ejiofor, who is also a PDP chieftain in Aniocha South, noted that the award was necessary to encourage people to vote massively for the PDP candidates, promising that the monetary prices will be given before swearing-in of the candidates on May 29 to enable the wards use the money top celebrate Democracy Day.

One would have waved off the irresponsibility of Ejiofor if it were an isolated incident, it is not. All over the country, it is almost clear what many office seekers are preparing for is bazaar and not ballot.

They are piling up huge sums of money for what a political analyst once described as 'financial shoot-out' which boils down to survival of the biggest spenders. The Delta situation is particularly pathetic.

Even the opposition politicians and their godfathers who are challenging Uduaghan and his money-miss-road PDP are not doing so on the basis of a better vision for the people; rather, their campaign is based on some primordial and ethnic considerations.

But as I said, this is not an isolated incident, it is a national calamity. From whichever way one looks at it, the landscape today does not offer much to cheer and it is not without reason that many have given up on our democracy.

In the last couple of weeks, most of the mails and calls I have been receiving are mostly pessimistic views of our future, only few people believe anything is going to work.

They have given up hope on power supply. They have given up hope on education. They have given up hope on security. And now they are giving up hope on the coming polls. That is a rather unhelpful attitude. This is the time when all of us must rise up as a nation and make things work. Because we can.

In times like this, we should realise excuses or pessimism would just not do. Yes, the situation may look bleak but it is not impossible.

For our nation to get it right it would take all of us and we could begin from the April polls notwithstanding the obvious booby traps. It is not enough for many to fold their hands as they are doing saying they would not vote because the situation will not change.

No society develops with such people. What's more, those who complain the loudest are also the beneficiaries of the inefficiency that pervades the system.

As for those who still romanticise the military as an option, they should just perish the thought. There has never been, and there will never be, a solution in that direction. By now, we ought to have learnt our lesson, no matter the level of perfidy by our political office holders.

In her essay, 'What Shall the Perplexed Voter Do?', Caroline Arnold had written: “What shall the perplexed voter do?

Get out there and vote. Vote your faith in government, not your cynicism. Vote your conscience, not an ideology, a sound bite, or a bandwagon.

Vote your sense of responsibility to others, not some professionally-crafted myths or mantras. Vote your allegiance to your neighbours and to the common good for all the human family.

Because it's our democracy, our election, our government, our nation, and those things will only be as good as we make them.”

My piece today could be dismissed as empty rhetoric, may be it is. But I see far too much pessimism and despondency around me. Nigeria may not be a perfect society, as if there is one. We have far too many self-inflicted problems.

Our leaders are not doing the correct things. But our nation is not a lost cause. We, working together, and each playing his/her part, can build that eldorado we imagine. For our nation, it can still happen in our lifetime.

Somehow I believe it will. [email protected]

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