TEN THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND AS NIGERIA VOTES

  In a couple of days, Nigerians will be heading for the polling booths to exercise their franchise in an effort to elect political leaders, first at the National level and then at the sub-National level. This has been one of the longest campaign periods in Nigeria's political history. For some, the campaigns started in 2012, barely one year after the last elections and the recent six weeks extension should have enabled everyone to exhaust themselves. The stakes have been heightened this electoral season by the emergence of a virile opposition represented by the All Progressives Congress( APC) which is determined to vigorously challenge the apparent monopoly of Power at the Federal level by the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) in the last 16 years of the 4th Republic. There is therefore palpable tension in the air. Many People( Nigerians and foreigners ) are worried about the outcomes and consequences of the Elections. There have been all kinds of predictions and projections. But for me the matter is on our hands under God. Hence I plead with all Nigerians to keep the following in mind as we go to vote:
1. THE ELECTION IS NOT A WARFARE
  This election is not a war between one part of the Country and another. Neither is it a war between Nigeria and another Country. In this election , we are not dealing with any ENEMIES any where. All those contesting for political positions at all levels are bonafide Nigerians who are only offering themselves to bear the burdens of our respective States and Nation. Shorn of all the trappings and abuses, political positions are merely opportunities to serve and help lead our States or Country to desired future and in essence should not cause warfare. So all those gathering guns, matchets, explosives, fire bombs and all of such, should put them away. If they must use them, then they should head to the Sambisa forest in Borno State to help rout the retreating Boko haram who have declared war against Nigeria. I believe they are the only enemies Nigerians have as today. If we must fight, let us join the Military and the civilian JTF to fight Boko haram. We must not fight our fellow Nigerians because of elections please.
 2. IT IS ALL ABOUT DEMOCRATIC CHOICE
 We must note that the elections are only about democratic choices. Two or three Fellow Nigerians offer themselves to serve in a particular position, using political parties as platforms. May be the two or three are all qualified to serve us. But individually, the constitution gives us the right to make a choice. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes is given the opportunity to occupy the position. That does not make the other candidates bad or terrible, nor does it make our individual choices bad or terrible. Because we are human beings and many times see things differently, so our choices may be different and our motivations may also be different. It is also important to emphasize that what is of great importance to me, may not be of much importance to you, but the fact that we put different weights on different issues, does not make any of us wrong or evil, it's just the way we are wired. We must keep in mind that everybody's voice is heard at elections but the loudest voice is given sway. In democracy, the majority carries the day. That does not make them right, and the minority wrong, it's just that we must have a way to take a decision.
3. ELECTION IS NOT A MAGIC WAND
Yes politicians may promise heaven on earth and it is human Nature to desire eldorado, where there is no poverty, no hunger, no pain, no sickness, no injustice, no crime and if possible no problems at all, we must keep in mind that these can only happen in the World after, not in this World. This is partly because of the fallen Nature of Man and the consequences of disobedience but also partly to the fact that in many instances, the solution of one problem often creates a new problem. When Government clears squatters on a piece of land to build Schools or when shanties or houses are bulldozed to create way for a new road, some people feel disadvantaged, offended and discriminated against because a new problem of homelessness manifests. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu stated that a critical reason for staging 1966 coup was to fight corruption, Murtala Muhammed the same, Olusegun Obasanjo the same ( even on two occasions), and then Gen. Buhari as a military Head of State and yet corruption is a key campaign issue in 2015. So let's keep in mind that no government can solve all of our problems, at least not at the same time. Some problems, will be solved, some will be left unsolved, and some new problems will be created, no matter which government. So let's moderate our expectations and our frenzy.
 4.LIBERTY AND FREEDOM ARE THE KEY ISSUES
  During election campaigns, many issues are canvassed and some times all the issues are made to look equally important. At other times, apparently minor issues are made to look more important than they actually are. So at times, the electorate get confused as to what are the most critical issues. I agree that there are many issues but for me, I think the most critical issues in a democracy are Liberty and freedom. Mans' greatest need after air, water and food is FREEDOM. Freedom to move about, freedom to speak your mind, freedom to hold your views, freedom of association and freedom of Religion amongst many other forms of freedom. People have fought to grant us the democratic freedoms we have today. Many have died to grant us the Liberty and freedoms from slavery and other forms of human exploitation and imposition of one's will over the other, wily nilly. Perhaps those who have experienced deprivations fully understand the importance of freedom and how it is such a great human need.  So we must keep in mind as we go to vote that we must avoid putting in power those who may constrain our freedoms. This is one major reason, the World abhors military rule, despite the discipline it may bring and forced Behaviour modulations it may exact, the consequent abridgements and trampling of people's freedoms are regarded as anathema and seen as anachronistic. In the face of abridged freedoms, everything else becomes less important or not important at all.
5. ECONOMY & SECURITY ARE THE NEXT ISSUES
After Freedom and Liberty, the next most important issues in my view are the Economy and Security. Sometimes, they stand alone and sometimes they are mixed. The questions we must ask are: will our Economy grow? Will food  be more abundant?, will unemployment decline?, will there be pro-business and pro-private sector policies?, will the quality of lives of Nigerians improve?. These are important issues and we must scrutinize the records of each candidate to see how they have tackled the economic issues in the past and how they plan for the future and be certain that they understand how modern economies are managed. Because if our economy begins to decline and goods and services become scarce and inflation begins to jump, we may understand that the economy can not be dictated to but must be wholesomely managed. You can not command the naira to become equivalent to the dollar. It can not happen and if you force it, you destroy the economy instanta. Security of lives and property must be guaranteed by all means and experience in dealing successfully with security challenges must count.
6. TALK IS CHEAP BUT ACTION IS BETTER
 We must keep in mind that making promises is the easiest thing but getting things done is the real challenge. Let's be careful that we are not overawed or hypnotized by the high pitch media blitz and propapaganda. So many promises have been made but let's realize that there may never be enough resources to get them implemented. So when we hear of free education at all levels, free Healthcare for all, housing for all, free meals at school and full employment, we must ask how the money will be provided. Will taxes go up? And those making those promises, what is their background and history? What have they done in the past with their own resources and with public resources? What promises did they make in the past and how many did they keep? That helps to make a rational choice. Trusting only in what they promise to do in future while forgetting what they did or did not do in the past will be too risky if you ask me.
7. BE RATIONAL NOT EMOTIONAL
There is so much emotion flowing around. Emotions are natural and can be helpful in dealing with some transient challenges but they are seldom helpful in making decisions. Less so in critical decisions like choosing political leaders or even any kind of leaders for that matter. The only reason you want to promote a guy to a higher position or you want to hire him for a new job is that he has the requisite qualification, relevant experience and appropriate skills for the job. If you base your choice on how handsome or stern he looks and which village he comes from and from the tales you read in the internet without iota of evidence, you will soon regret your choice or actions. Choosing leaders like choosing key employees must be based on stated criteria and the appropriate fit. You can be fanatical about a Nollywood actor or musician and vote for him for academy awards but you can not and must not do so for a political leader. Such speeches as " we want him even if he did not go to school " or " we want him because he comes from a minority tribe" smacks of extreme emotion and will not work here. We must all do a cold- blooded analysis of the fit of our candidates against carefully chosen and relevant criteria based on facts not fiction or emotions.
8. ONLY THE LIVING VOTE & ENJOY DEMOCRATIC DIVIDEND
 As we plan to go and vote for our rationally preferred candidates, let us keep in mind that only the Living vote and only the living enjoy democratic dividends. When they ask you to protect your votes, please ask them with what? Your life?. Say No. Since we all trust INEC( interestingly,the APC seems to trust more than the PDP) and believe they would do a good job, so why should we interfere with protecting votes. They are INDEPENDENT, and should not need anybody's help to do their jobs!. They have the security forces and the party agents to help them protect votes. Too many people milling around the polling booths or collation centers can instigate violence. Some people who may be disenfranchised by the Card readers may be angry. Accidental bullets may be released. We have constitutional ways of correcting any wrongs done to any candidate in elections. The judiciary has intervened in the past and are ready to intervene this time around. So we must not resort to self help, no matter the level of provocation.
9. FOUR YEARS IS NOT ETERNITY
In the last 16 years, we have had four Presidents govern Nigeria and many Governors run the States. 2011 was just four years ago. So no matter who wins in these elections, we have another 4 years to try again. Time passes very fast. Therefore we must not kill Nigerians or seek to destroy the Nation because we or our candidate lost. If all Nigerians were killed because we lost in 2011, to who should we be campaigning to for votes in 2015. Those who lose should quickly congratulate the winner as Dr John Kayode FAYEMI (JKF) did last Year after the EKITI Elections, an examplary and praiseworthy action that helped to prevent post electoral violence.  Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan( GEJ) has openly declared that he would congratulate the winner if he lost but General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) says he does not contemplate losing. I stand by that famous saying by GEJ that the ambition of any politician or leader is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
10. LET THE PERFECT WILL OF GOD BE DONE
 I am glad that most Nigerians agree that the Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the World and they that dwell therein. Also many of us believe that Promotion does not come from the East or from the West, neither from the North, nor from the South. Many even believe that you can not get anything except The Lord gives it to you and a significant other believes that anything that happens to you is the will of God. Is it not then, the height of hypocrisy to believe all these and still want to force your will on the People and perhaps attempt to force it also on God. My plea is that for once, let Nigerians practice what they believe and preach. Who ever wins must be the will of God. If he or she is not, let us trust that The Lord will dethrone and disgrace such persons. He has done it severally in times past. And in all this we need not help God. Let us just go out peacefully to vote for our rationally chosen candidates and let INEC officials do what they ought to do, and then let the God of all Nations choose our political Leaders on March 28 and April 11, 2015.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

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