By Abiodun Komolafe
To start with, election candidacy ought not to be an impromptu decision. For inspiration, we may have to turn to the Western civilization for succour. After all, our social structures and institutions are patterned after theirs. In the United Kingdom, as in other saner climes, young men and women who participate in school politics – and are interested in running governments – are provided with the ample chance to express themselves in an enabling environment; and they follow through till they graduate from these schools. It’s like a recruitment centre; and they eventually form the bulk of the grooming pool. It’s out of this pool that future leaders are chosen. Of course, that’s why it’s customary: when you see candidates aiming to become prime ministers in the UK, they are products of certain Ivy League schools. So, it’s like the tertiary institutions in the West actually helping to groom the leadership class from which society decides who runs the race.
Elections, by definition, are supposed to reflect the pathway to hopes and yearnings of the people. As such, any attempt to subvert or circumvent the process will be tantamount to committing a crime against humanity. Manifestly, subversion of the people’s will breeds illegitimacy and makes any government that comes to power through that flawed process unpopular, thus crippling its ability to govern effectively, because, whatever the government in question does will not appeal to the popular will of the people. Therefore, it’s a disservice to anybody who is rigging elections in the first instance, for he or she may end up practically hurting himself or herself. So, the real deal is to have a genuine will to help, improve and develop the society in all its ramifications. That’s the criteria!
Obviously, what is important is for the candidate to be educationally sound so that, as a leader, he or she can debate anything with anybody, anywhere, reasonably; not through sophistry.
Again, sad that, rather than base a candidate’s recruitment criteria on merit and other concrete attributes, what we actually have are sentiments and other unprofitable concomitants mushrooming as the sacrosanct stuff! Socrates was once quoted as saying that “until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, … cities will never have rest from their evils …”
Except we are being immodest, the university system is a pool where the people are really groomed. Impliedly, it is at the level of the students that we should get the best hands to run the affairs of the country. However, since our universities are always shut for the better part of the year, Nigeria is hardly portrayed as a serious country. So, it may not be out of place to say that the kind of products from such a system can only be described as half-baked or, not-baked at all.
Of course, that’s why we keep forcing a 70-year-old to come back into politics and contest because the younger fold is not adequately equipped. If, in a degraded society, nincompoops, running on the wave of popular culture, will always have their way, then, watch out for refined motor park touts, aka Agberos, in the society and their whet appetite for political offices!
Sad that even our professors are not helping matters either! While they are no longer interested in research works or theories that are not only novel but also needed for the healthy survival and improvement of the society, they are with each passing day running after research grants, just to do ‘owambe.’
In any healthy competition for political office, the character of the candidate is also central. Therefore, a prospective candidate must have the patience to be able to listen to other people at all times and consider their opinions. He or she must accommodate other people’s views and must not be intolerant of their opinions. Since it is not a day’s journey, anyone who wants to lead must overtime have done certain things in the society that showed his or her inner intents without the hope of getting a reward. In other words, there must be qualities of humanity in such a contestant; that is, he or she must have records or antecedents that are favourable to the leadership position being aspired.
Again, this is where Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), remains unbeatable! Regrettably, those who are closer to the ‘Jagaban of Borgu’ never see him as a teacher, talkless of being a mentor. And that’s where the problem lies! Candidates standing for elections must be prepared to abide by the rules of the game even as the society must have the right orientation; and it must be sustained! The orientation programme must be on-going, not only before or during elections but also after elections so that it doesn’t become a fire-brigade approach. From the primary school to the university, pupils and students must be exposed to the evils of election malpractices so that every Tom, Dick and Harry will know his or her rights and what’s expected of him or her in an electoral system.
Another critical quality is the structure! Without doubt, party structures must ensure that standards are not compromised. Yes, this is the peak of the pack! For instance, how are the chairmen and secretaries of political parties in Nigeria elected into office? Where are their curriculum vitae? Do they come in because they’re foot soldiers of the party or because they possess the requisite administrative knowledge, which is indeed, different from one to the other? What we are saying essentially is that competence should define the suitability or otherwise of applicants to party offices. A party chairman who doesn’t understand the nuances of public administration can be likened to a square peg in a round hole; none other than a misfit!
Quite frankly, Nigerians must admit that many of the processes of the current electoral process did not start from the right premises. So, we may just have to manage whatever results we get. For instance, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) rejoiced over a pyrrhic victory, following the July 16, 2022 governorship election in Osun State, until the Election Petition Tribunal appropriately scrutinized the process and delivered justice accordingly. From the look of things, nobody imagined that it would be ‘Lanlehin’; that whatever goes around comes around! As the 2023 General Elections are nearing us by the eyelids, election riggers should watch out! It’s always easy to say that Rome was not built in a day. Of course, that’s true! But then, the initiative to build Rome started sometime; and it was sustained. That’s why we have Rome standing today. In like manner, the lofty intention to have free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria has been initiated. What this demands, really, is for candidates to work hard, not relying on the usual mundaneness of issues like religion, ethnicity or fetish approach to prayers or metaphysics.
In truth, prayers and belief systems are very personal issues while coming into politics is public service. After all, God didn’t ask anyone to go into politics. But if there’s anyone who said he’s sent by God to practise politics, let him or her supply evidence to support his or her claim.
Thank God, Osun has now shown that the fear of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is the beginning of wisdom! May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*Komolafe wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org