This is an open letter of congratulations and encouragement to all the winners of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria. It is informed by an analysis of broad public will and not just the likely few percentile of registered eligible voters who cast ballots.
Dear Public Servants,
Congratulations on your undoubtedly well-deserved election, or re-election. Savour for a while this affirmation of esteem your community holds of you. You are by definition a leader, whose position demands respect. And you deserve credit for stepping up to do this hard work and for taking the inevitable heat and criticism that comes with public office.
Likely, you and your opponent said some unfair things about each other and it’s even more likely that outside interest groups said some nasty things on your behalf. You ought to send your opponents a note of regret for that and appreciate them instead for their sacrifice and willingness to step up too. But let that note be rather reflected on your ability to marry interest together with your opponents for the benefit of the masses on either side of the support train.
Now, please try to stay humble. You are a leader but also a public servant. Be wary of assuming you have the ‘will of the people’ behind you or that you fully understand that will. A rather amazingly small percentage of the people you represent actually voted for you. Some people may have spoken but not nearly enough of our most vulnerable people and too small a percentage for you to claim a mandate, especially if you represent the 1/100th of the local governments /constituencies /state’s/ the country’s population in the various capacities you were elected to represent.
Furthermore, because you’ve won in an election in which the voter turn-out rate was marginally lesser than the previous 2015 general elections where tens of million fewer Nigerians and hundreds of thousands fewer constituencies/states’ voted, your level of support is quite thin. In 2015, compared to 2019 for instance, a whopping 12-15 per cent fewer Nigerians voted, roughly 42.73 per cent compared to over 55 per cent. One thing you ought to do in 2019 is provide new incentives to vote and to clear away the various obstacles our system puts on the way of participation. Research shows that people who vote are more productive and engaged citizens.
Because of this off-year slump, the winning base of support typically amounts to less than one-third of eligible voters and perhaps a fourth of the people in your constituencies. And a dis-proportionate number of those voters are poor, rich, employed, un/under-employed, more affluent, older and more/or less productive than the population as a whole. But you now have the responsibility of figuring out how to best serve the interests of all the people in your constituencies/states, including the children, the poor, the unsuccessful and disconnected, the ex-criminals, those of other tribes and religion, and those who seldom vote or are yet to attain the age of voting.
As you prepare to legislate and govern, your political party’s agenda and your personal philosophical ideology should be tempered and adjusted. The agendas of your rich sponsors (God-fathers) and the interest groups who supported you will no doubt, have influence. Difficult as this might be to explain to those fine people who may have directly or indirectly given you thousands of naira, and who expect you to answer their e-mails/phone calls first, their agenda is not necessarily your agenda.
Here’s a case for what the larger percentage of Nigerians want generally and specifically. These are general goals and specific policies around which there is considerable agreement; from business and labour, philanthropy and foundations, mainstream religious leaders, civic improvement groups and even those groups with balanced/objective and un-objective views. You can’t go wrong by focusing on these basics:
Nationally – As President Buhari, on the basis of one-brick-at-a-time model builds the ‘foundational work’ to trudge up the stairs to the ‘next level,’ his efforts have only amounted to helping the country out of a ‘depth of decay’ and then a foundation, which would serve as a basis for a stronger country if all elected officers can lend one-brick-at-a-time equally to add-up to what the President will be doing at the national level while yours anchors strongly at the LGAs, states and constituency Levels. It is by this model, a stronger nation will be built based on the people and less of an individual.
The President at the center will be seeking your support to pursue five-pronged agenda as already outlined in the government development plan documents anchored: Jobs, Public Infrastructure, Business & Entrepreneurship Development, Human Capital Enhancement Services – Healthcare, Education, and Political Inclusion
Finally, when you take your oath of office, you might notice how simple and spare it is about discharging the duties of your office and supporting the constitutions of our country. The constitution is filled with explicit and implicit obligations to serve the broader public good – not just to serve individual interests.
The preamble to Nigeria’s Constitution calls for our government and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation, under God.
So there it is. Public good. Do that, please. And again, congratulations!
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