Burning Issues In The Nigerian Voting Booth: The 7 Tough Questions Nigerians Must Ask Before Voting In 2015

By on May 16, 2014

As the Nigerian nation continues to heat up in preparation for  what promises to be a hotly contested Presidential election  in 2015,, it is time for  Nigerians to understand some burning issues that must be answered in the Nigerian Voting Booths all over the country on Election Day.

By next year, Nigeria would have enjoyed un-interrupted 16 years of civilian rule, following  the devastating havoc wreaked by Abacha and his military acolytes. Since it is highly unlikely for the  military to easily take back power any time soon, thanks to the proliferation of social media; cell phones; and other means for regular citizens to monitor developments in the country, our democracy needs no grow.

However,  the endurance of our democracy also places serious responsibility on Nigerians to ensure that our democracy continues to grow beyond the infantile level we been experiencing , where politicians literally get away with incredible corruption and ineptitude on a daily basis. We must move beyond the euphoria of democratic freedom from the military, to start electing leaders that will be responsive to the needs and wishes of the electorate.

So, as we all take our turns to enter the Nigerian Voting Booth for the 2015 elections, we all need to put un-progressive sentiments aside, and ask ourselves some tough questions before marking that ballot paper, when we finally get the chance to get in the box and vote. If this democracy failed or refused to grow, we really can’t blame Babangida, Abacha or the military anymore. They have been out of power for 16years. It’s now on us, as regular citizens, to protect our democracy and make our leaders take it to the next level of accountability, vision and execution of progressive ideas.

So come 2015, I believe there are 9 critical questions we need to consider as we get inside that election booth t do our civic duty. These include the following:voting booth5 - www.hardtalknaija.com

  1. Is This Candidate More Likely To Make My Life, And That Of My Family, Better Over The Next 4 Years?

Make no mistake, regardless of what everyone says, this is probably one the most important questions to consider in the polling booth. You must ask yourself, ‘will this guy work hard at solving problems that are very dear to my heart, and that of your family?’ on issues of employment; personal security; business environment; personal quality of life as opposed to any global index or rebase that has no effect on your personal bottom line.

Selfish or not, this is a very important factor. For instance, just before a plane take-off, the attendants will advise   that in case of emergency, you must first administer the life-jacket to yourself even before attending to your wife or children on the plane with you. Same way, when it comes to choosing the person who will have tremendous civic influence on our lives, and that of our family, we must consider our self-interest, and that of our children.

Anyone telling you to consider the country first before thinking about yourself and your family is deceiving you. As a matter of fact, President Kennedy, the man credited with saying  ‘think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’ only said that while occupying the white house as President. When you look at his history, his family had been doing what is best for them for a long time, before he ‘discovered’ the philosophy of selflessness in government, and the family is still doing the same today.

By all means you must love your country, every good citizen should love his/her country, but you must consider the ultimate question as to whether the candidate will make your life, and that of your children better, now and for the future.

As for the candidate in power, if he is asking for re-election, you must ask yourself the ultimate question, while making a decision inside  that Voting Booth: ‘Was my life BETTER today than it was 4 years ago when he was first elected?’ This is a very personal question and nobody should tell you the answer to that. Simply consider your own situation in that ballot box, and decide accordingly

  1. Is The Candidate More Likely To End The Culture Of Corruption In The Country, Or More Likely To Perpetuate It?voting booth - hardtalk naija

Everyone agree, including the corrupt people themselves, that corruption at the highest levels of government, is one of the major things keeping Nigeria from taking its place among the most productive countries in the world, despite our abundance of natural and human capital. While some of our Presidents may have been able to shield themselves from criminal trial for corruption, the perception among Nigerians appears to be that virtually all the presidents in the past have either colluded in corrupt schemes, or condoned corruption at the highest levels.

For our country to progress, and for democracy to blossom, we must begin to arrest this institutionalization of corruption at the voting booth.

Of course, it would take a long time to eradicate corruption in Nigeria. The sad truth is, while our successive governments may have launched all sorts of meaningless campaigns against corruption to deceive us (i.e. WAI; WAC; Breathe Of Fresh Air; Operation Bust; and Operation Float etc), we don’t need any UNO organization to tell us that corruption has become systemic in our government, and embedded in several parts of our culture as well. We have seen with our own eyes how people who have been involved in corruption scandals, including ex-convicts, have been enjoying positions of prominence and visibility in our Govt; in our Judiciary; in our Legislature; and even our most respected churches.

However, despite the gloomy picture, we must start making a difference by not voting for somebody is more likely to permit more corruption, than take a stand against it.

We must carefully look at each candidate’s antecedents, his circle of cronies , rumors and proven cases and then make a choice on which of the candidates is less likely to perpetuate corruption.

  1. Does This Candidate Have The Right Ideas To Move This Country Forward In The Directin You Would Like To Seevoting in nigeria

Nigeria is too blessed with people of intelligence and drive for us to be ruled by a visionless person. In that voting booth, we must examine the candidate in the light of our knowledge, or informed perception of him, when it comes to his vision for our country. We must honestly ask ourselves, ‘does this particular candidate have the Great Ideas we need to emerge into our God given destiny as nation?’.

We no longer need a ‘maintainer’ OR AN ‘over-cautious, do-not-offend powerful people’ type of president anymore. Nigeria is the most populous in Africa by far, and recently they have also just realized that we have the largest economy in Africa. Therefore, we need a President that can rise up to that awesome potential, and take us to the real greatness that our size; natural endowments; and human potential, demand of us as a nation.

We are no longer in the mode of ‘anybody except the military’ anymore. We must be very discriminating in our choice of candidate, otherwise this country will continue to disappoint the expectations of the people and the world at large.

  1. Does The Candidate Have His Own Mind, And Possess The Ability, To Stand Against Cabal Pressure And Do What Is Right For The Country At Crunch Time?

Our constitution has given tremendous powers to whoever is the President of our Nation. The powers bestowed on the Nigerian president by our constitution is so all-encompassing that it requires a man of discipline; sense of destiny; and principled conviction, to hold that position without being hijacked by vicious cabals and the jackals in our country.

Of course, there would always be people from either the North, South, East and West, who would, for their own wicked reasons, want to thwart any good initiatives that could result in greater good for the majority, and we need a president who is principled enough to stand up to them when when necessary. That should definitely be a factor to consider in that hot polling booth in 2015.

  1. Considering What I Know Of This Candidate, Based On His Past Records, Is He A Credible Person To Lead Nigeria?voting in nigeria3

We cannot vote for a candidate in isolation based on what he is saying now, or what he is promising in the soap box. Every Politician, including even the good ones, always promise something big when trying to cajole you to vote for them. That should not sway us in that voting booth. Instead, our past experience of the candidate, past records and past promises, must be a big factor in whether we should trust that candidate with the highest office in the land. We must ask, ‘has this candidate been credible in his speech, actions and body language in the past to make me trust him now?’. ‘Does he always do what he said he would do, better than the rest of the candidates, even if he is not perfect?’. You must ask yourself, ‘can I trust this candidate to do the work he is contesting to do?’.

  1. How Well Is The Candidate Equipped To Deal With Security Issues?

Regardless of who is responsible, the fact on ground is that security in Nigeria is heavily compromised. We are being bombarded by terrorists and brigands from everywhere. While Boko Haram may been the most notorious, virtually every region in the country have their own home-grown terrorists, capable of putting the lives of people in any region in jeopardy, anytime they felt like it.

From all indications, terrorism appears to have come to stay in Nigeria, at least for some time, and we need a decisive President who can deal with it, and curb it, if not altogether eradicate it. So, you must ask yourself, ‘does this man man I am about to vote for have the wherewithal, or at least the determination, to manage the complicated security problems facing Nigeria.’

  1.  Is The Candidate Capable Of Dealing With The Volatile Issue Of Religion In A Way That Will Maintain Peace Between The Different Extremes?

Whether we like it or not, religion is a big issue in Nigeria. It always has been. The issue about which God we serve individually, and how we serve him, remains one of the most volatile issues of our day, and this is not likely to go away soon.

While Boko Haram may have become the face of the most violent side of religious intolerance, there are extremists lurking virtually in all the major religions. Just like in the rest of the world, there are people who will die rather than acknowledge the validity of another religion besides the one they subscribe to.

While the world has been dealing with religious extremism since time immemorial, and that is true of our country as well, we need a president who can navigate the volatile waters and maintain peace between all sides, regardless of his own religious leanings. So we must ask, ‘is this candidate more likely than not to foster the embers of extremism or not?’ and then factor that into our decision at the polling booth.

 

Conclusion: Balancing The Scores To Make The Ultimate Voting Booth Decision

Of course it does not take much wisdom for one to understand that one particular candidate may not be able to score above all the others, on all the questions. Yet, as long as we are in the polling booth, we must vote for somebody. So my advice is that every one of us should have a mental score card against each question, for all the candidates. At the end of the day, we add it all up in our own way, weighing each question differently based on our own criteria,  and then vote for the candidate we consider the best option, in the light of all these questions.

In conclusion I believe all of us must understand that in a democracy, the best time for the citizens to show their power, and influence the direction of their country, and their own future, is in the voting booth through the ballot box. That power should not be thrown away over a measly bribe that cannot take care of your future, and that of you kids once we get inside the Nigerian Voting Booth, come 2015

Also, election time is not the time for us to fold our hands and say ‘it does not concern me,..after all that all of them are criminals’ or ‘why bother since my vote may not count due to rigging’. We must register to vote and actually come out to vote on Election Day. Beyond voting, we must also be ready to defend our votes against all riggers, regardless of which village they come from. This is the only way our fragile democracy can endure.

This may be HardTalk, but it is true talk nevertheless.

 

Dr Ope Banwo, Attorney And Public Commentator, is the Publisher of www.HardTalkNiaja.com and The Founder of Nigerian Election Vigilantes Organization, [N.E.V.O], an election monitoring NGO. He travels a lot and writes from Lagos and the United States.

About Dr. Ope Banwo

Dr. Ope Banwo is an Attorney; Pastor; Business Consultant; Author; Motivational Speaker, and Corporate Solutions Provider. He holds several degrees in Law including a Bachelors, Masters and a Ph.D. He was admitted to the Nigerian Bar (1986), New York Bar (1997) and Federal Court of Nebraska (1997) in the United States. Ope Banwo has written several published books on different topics over the years including bestsellers in Christianity; Lifestyle; and Business such as The Kingdompreneur, Overcoming The Gideon Complex, The Kingdom Citizen, The Return of The Prodigal; The Blessings of Adversity; African Internet Business Manifesto; Confessions Of A Guru-Wannabe; Social Media Marketing Genesis; Offline-Online Business Manifesto, Digital Marketing Without Tears For Company Executives etc. Deeply committed to public service and service to humanity, Dr Ope Banwo has also initiated several public initiatives including the Ghetto Dreamz Foundation to empower economically-disadvantaged Youths; The Omega Wealth Club to teach youths legitimate ways to employ themselves online; The Kingdompreneur Academy to impact Christians in Business and the Nigerian Market Ombudsman to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness in the market place.

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