This is a follow up to the foundation laid in the first part of the article which highlighted the predicament of the people of the North East such as failure of governance and betrayal by some of their elected officials, failure to lift the people out of penury and lack of infrastructural development and lagging behind in education, health, local government performance. It also highlighted the continued culture of politics of exclusion, marginalization and elites insensitivity.
Other areas of concern are reported massive looting of statutory allocations to local government councils meant for development, the preoccupation of some of the state governments with projects that add no value to the lives of the people, persistence of the insurgency and attacks on communities and the resultant humanitarian crisis as well as the misconception by some in office holders and the masses that governance is about dashing out favours and money.
Nearly all state matters are the discretion of powerful individuals as politics is still primordial, divisive and deeply self serving. These are the reasons for sustained calls for electing more sympathetic leadership, power shift and raging disagreements over the mode for the primaries, whether it should be direct or indirect, borne out of the fear that some powerful individuals and interests want to hijack the process.
In 2019 the people of the North East deserve political leaders with vision, focus and a mindset that is diametrically opposed to the present politics of business as usual. The states, political parties and politicians must shift from the politics of elitism, self interest and massive looting that have sucked majority of the people into avoidable poverty, degradation and lack of say. The people must vote only those who have something to offer and are credible. This is only possible if there are free and fair elections but, unfortunately, previous elections in some of the states have not been fair and free. Even now, the prospects of free and fair election are bleak because the powers that be are desperately but surreptitiously working hard to impose their surrogates to cover their tracks or to do their biddings.
The 2019 elections provide a golden opportunity for the electorate in the North East to rise and effect the desired change. They should exercise their inalienable rights wisely. It is consoling that President Muhammadu Buhari and other political leaders have consistently expressed support for free and fair elections in 2019 but elections in the North East must go beyond rhetoric. Votes must count while the electoral commission and security agencies must be professional and neutral in protecting the choice of the people. The menace of thugs, intimidation and violence must also be kept at bay.
Politics is about the interest of the people and the ultimate objective is improving the lives of the citizenry. Self interest should therefore take the back seat s elections should be informed more by critical examination of the integrity, character and capacity of aspirants.
The people of the region, considering what they have gone through and the enormity of the challenges facing them, should not vote for the following category of politicians who are self centered and lack integrity and foresight.
First, they should not vote for those who have failed to meet their expectations after having been given the opportunity. Those currently holding elective offices must show what they have contributed to their constituencies and how they have impacted the lives of the people. There is also the case of absentee representatives who have abandoned the electorate and are planning to stage a comeback using monetary inducement and rigging of the elections. Political parties have the obligation to present only those that are eminently qualified and credible.
Second are those who have betrayed and mortgaged the interest of their people. Persistence of lack of development and accountability is due to lack of due diligence, critical examination and the fact that some of the elected officials are either imposed or came into elective offices through the influence of powerful individuals. God-fatherism in any form is antithetical to development. States in the North East now, more than any other time, need elected officials whose allegiance is to the people.
Third, since responsive and effective representation is only attainable when those with proven integrity and pedigree are elected, the electorate must be guided against electing those with questionable antecedence and lack capacity to deliver. Fortunately, there are more than enough people that are educated and have the potentials of meeting the expectations of the people in virtually all parts of the country.
Fourth, it should be appreciated that effective political representation is not about the manipulation of sentiments but about electing those with the sincerity and commitment. Currently, there are many aspirants who do not have sincerity, commitment and capacity to help address the huge challenges facing the North East. Such politicians should be rejected as they do not have the moral right to seek for re-election.
Fifth are those who practice archaic, divisive and retrogressive politics, exclusion, sectionalism and deceit. Those seeking power to perpetuate domination, discrimination and self aggrandizement should have no role. The electorate should be wary of such individuals as some have amassed enormous but questionable wealth they intend to deploy. The 2019 elections should be an opportunity to redress perceived anomalies in the polity. There is also the issue of rotation of power or power shift which is of serious concern in some of the States. Political parties should not be insensitive to these demands. In fact, those agitating for restructuring at the national level must first show example by ensuring rotation of power in their respective states.
Sixth, Nigerians should by now know that electing those with corrupt tendencies will not help their plight. Every state in the country needs only individuals who will not loot their common wealth and betray their trust. It will also be suicidal for the country to entrust its destiny in the hands of those whose patriotism is suspect.
Seventh, is the need to avoid electing those who do not believe in free and fair elections and by extension, basic democratic tenets. This is the only way to deepen the nation’s nascent democracy and avoid unwittingly endorsing the culture of abusing public trust. It is unfortunate that leadership in some states in the North East is today characterized by celebrating incompetence, deceit and abuse of state resources.
Eighth, and easily the most critical for parts of the North East that have been ravaged by insurgency, is electing only those that have the interest of the victims at heart and the capacity and determination to contribute to bringing the insurgency and killings to an end. Only those with the integrity to utilize funds ploughed to fight the insurgency and mitigate the huge humanitarian challenges should be elected. The zone deserves only leaders who will not discriminate in the management of the humanitarian crisis. The States require leaders who can unite the terribly divided people and give all a sense of belonging, not sectional champions and religious bigots.
The citizenry should in 2019 search for individuals with vision and intellect and prepared to make the difference. It is not a time for experimentation. Leadership in times like this requires those who can think outside the box and are dynamic and vibrant. They must also be those who can strategically think on how to optimize the huge human and natural resources in the zone for development. The representatives and state governors must be those who possess a mind-set beyond dashing money, lack of foresight and coherency in governance.
The electorate must take their destiny in their hands and make informed decisions in 2019 or unwittingly resign to a fate of perpetual servitude. The 2019 elections should be a decision time for all and sundry to usher in a political arrangement that will set the stage for genuine development and justice.
– Gadzama is former Director-General, SSS