Nigeria 2019 – the wasted election

Early next year, Nigerians get to choose a new government – at least, that’s the theory. In practice, they have little choice at all. The same people will be back – just in a slightly different configuration from before.

If you’re not living in Nigeria, this may seem confusing but let me explain. During the last general elections, the ruling party was ousted and a new one took over. Within weeks, many of the leading lights from the defeated party simply defected to the one now in power and continued where they left off. For many of them, it was a simple calculation – with an anti-corruption President in charge, it’s safer to be with the ruling party and enjoy virtual immunity from prosecution.

With elections looming and the distinct possibility that power may change hands once again, mass defections have already begun. The game is to stay in power and stay out of jail, while amassing a fortune along the way. Industrialist billionaires aside, politicians are the wealthiest people in Nigeria and they can be fabulously rich, even without the graft they find impossible to resist. It takes a Nigerian senator just seven weeks to earn the annual salary of a US senator, which is a very reasonable $174,000.

And yet, these de facto dollar millionaires always want more – much more. Without the talent or capacity to earn a fraction of that amount outside of politics, they resort to other means of building a fortune that will last for generations. Meanwhile, the people they represent are still waiting for them to pass legislation that will move the minimum wage from the present $600 per annum ($50 per month).

Recently, Brookings Institute published its annual Global Poverty Index, which revealed that, for the first time, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. This means that Nigeria, with a population of 188 million people, has overtaken India with a population of 1.3 billion. The response from the federal government was predictably inadequate, suggesting that the figures “may have been taken when Nigeria was in recession”. Given that Nigeria emerged from recession only in the last year, I’m not sure what comfort Nigerians should draw from that statement. What it does say is that the government remains as ineffective as ever, presiding over bloated budgets and meagre results.

On a more positive note, there is a growing feeling within Nigeria that the people need to take their destiny into their own hands. Millions have registered to vote in the past year, with another 10 million projected by the end of 2018. However, democracy in this country has been sold as having the right to vote for the candidates presented to you – and that is where the problem lies. In most cases, voters are left trying to figure out which of them is the ‘lesser of two evils’ – as in, “Which one will steal less of my money or at least complete a few projects while filling his boots?”

Next year’s elections will be loaded with flawed candidates from two parties with no principles – not even a guiding philosophy or an ideology that members can identify with. These parties are simply bodies of people with a lust for power, and very little motivation to move Nigeria into a stable and prosperous future. As I’ve said in a previous post, the only hope for Nigeria is for the middle and upper classes to get involved in politics, just as they were in those early post-independence days.

By all means, Nigerians should exercise their democratic rights and vote in 2019. However, they should accept that the opportunity for real change has already passed them by. The same people from the past 20 years will be back and it will be business as usual. For those thinking classes and professionals of all backgrounds, who are desperate to save their country from mediocrity, the time is now, for ensuring that 2023 marks the beginning of a genuine turnaround for Nigeria’s fortunes.

If the work starts now, true democracy can take root, as politics gets infiltrated with the teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, architects, entrepreneurs and intellectuals who will put themselves forward as candidates. Having already achieved something in life and not being beholden to a political godfather, they stand a much better chance of representing the aspirations of hardworking Nigerians.

Nigeria cannot afford another wasted election, as its politicians get fatter by the day, buying more houses and luxury cars, splurging on private jet travel and maintaining a vast network of call girls to cater to their every whim. At some point, the patience of the people will reach breaking point, when they realise that prayers without works will never be enough to remove those who will happily suck the very lifeblood from a comatose patient called Nigeria.

“Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent – a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice – that struggle continues.” ~ Bernie Sanders

“The political process does not end on Election Day. Young people need to stay involved in the process by continuing to pay attention to the conversation and holding their leaders accountable for the decisions they make.” ~ Patrick Murphy

“Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.” ~ Simon Sinek

14 thoughts on “Nigeria 2019 – the wasted election

  1. Michael, this just sickens, saddens and angrier me. I am sickened by these loathsome and greedy politicians that care so little for their country or their fellow man. I am saddened for the people who needlessly have to live in such abject poverty. But most of all I am angry at these same middle classes who are so spineless and many of whom are happy to profit from the corrupt system. It all seems so very hopeless, but maybe, just maybe one day the people will arise and find the courage and vision to take Nigeria to a better destination….we live in hope!

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  2. Michael, this just sickens, saddens and angers me. I am sickened by these loathsome and greedy politicians that care so little for their country or their fellow man. I am saddened for the people who needlessly have to live in such abject poverty. But most of all I am angry at these same middle classes who are so spineless and many of whom are happy to profit from the corrupt system. It all seems so very hopeless, but maybe, just maybe one day the people will arise and find the courage and vision to take Nigeria to a better destination….we live in hope!

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    1. Hi Charles, I think they will – I’m just not sure when. Eventually, the old order will change but Nigerians have an amazing capacity to endure punishment, so it will take a while. The middle and upper classes are comfortable, even as the nation slides into poverty. What’s even more amazing is the inability of the church to galvanise people into action – they are definitely complicit.

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  3. It hurt mi heart the way people suffer at the hands of their leaders. The average voter many times does not realize/appreciate the power with which he is entrusted….some of it of course is lack of education and it would help if there were more of those with the capability to motivate and teach who care. Apathy is dangerous and that often plays a part. I wish them better days of enlightenment and action.

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  4. You have said it all Micheal. I really Wish this story changes. We have Been Like this as a nation for too long. I hope this time our votes really count and the right people come out to run for public offices. We cant give up just yet but Nigeria has drowned so deep in this corruption and poverty mentality that it takes only God to save us. We can only hope for the best.

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    1. Hi Nina, great to see you here. You can do more than hope and pray. God can save you but you have to participate in your own rescue. Start to identify people who are doing good for their communities already. Encourage them to get involved in local politics. Use social media to hold elected leaders responsible. If enough people get involved, that’s where the change will come from.

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    1. Hi Debbie, I’ve had a chance to read the letter and it makes some interesting propositions. A government of national reconciliation would be welcome but I didn’t get any sense of how the government would be run or how it aimed to fix any of Nigeria’s pressing problems. Having said that, Okotie needs to run and win, then he can pursue his plans with a mandate from the people not from the existing parties – they have too much money and power to lose.

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  5. This article is pessimistic and without fact.. yes some ppl decamped after the election but u make it seem like everyone in power then are still in power now and that’s absolutely false and misleading. If that was the case why would ppl keep shouting that the anti corruption war is one sided? Even those that decamped still faced a lot of problems in court eg saraki and Dino. Nigerians can decide their future if they vote and it’s not a lost cause to vote.. u should rather be trying to boost morals and offer solutions rather than crying sad tale and making ppl feel voting in a hopeless endevour because it is absolutely not; remember that is how buhari got there in the first place.. by voting..equally all the senators where voted in by their constituency.

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    1. Hi Jide, thanks for your comments. You may have missed the intent and substance of this post, so I’ll clarify. When I say it’s the same people, it means that the majority of people in the senate and reps, governors and the president have been in power before – they are simply in different positions. Any new faces are proxies for old faces or they owe their positions to godfathers. Wasn’t Buhari a former president? Aren’t many of the senators former governors? Aren’t many in the APC from the PDP and vice-versa? The anti-corruption war is one-sided, that’s why some people moved to the favoured side. Rather than being pessimistic, I am realistic about 2019 – the musical chairs will continue. However, given the current mood of Nigerians, I am optimistic about 2023, which is why I am encouraging young people and the middle classes to begin the work now, to ensure that fresh, credible candidates are available to advance prosperity and justice in Nigeria.

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      1. Spot on on the 2019 scenario to be played out. However, I think your view of involvement of the so-called middle and upper class for 2023 is overly optimistic. Here’s why: the Pat Utomi’s and Fela Durotoye’s and Omoyele Sowore’s do not seem to have the good sense to form a strong union (not coalition) and think voting takes place in social media. How can Nigerians have 91 registered political parties (https://punchng.com/number-of-political-parties-rises-to-91/ with more being formed) and expect to make a headway?

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  6. True talk Michael. But from my little understanding, the true question that needs to be answered lie MORE with ‘young Nigerians’ (18-40) and religious bodies; who either out of ignorance or willfully have agreed to be silent about the ‘evil&greedy’ political underlay that is Nigeria.
    1. The average Nigerian youth needs a mindset reorientation esp. with regards to politics, religion and survival. A good number of youths do not seem to be searching for true young leaders. The few who have done so, get usurped every time by those they think they have found to follow; the one who is being followed sells out to a bigger popular political godfather. The vision of the young politician is thereby lost along the line of service to older experienced ‘insincere’ politicians. Lost vision is therefore a major factor faced by youths who attempt to go into politics. The Fela Durotoyes of this world all have a vision which they must fight&claw their way to keep. I believe it will take longer than 2023 to keep that focus or else they may have to bend that vision to fit into the ‘never ending deceit’ that is called politics in Nigeria. Youths must learn by themselves not to sell out their future for peanuts. Youths must join genuine global youth clubs and enterprise organizations iot grow their stronger in preparation for elections.

    2. The most powerful political force who lets herself to be exploited by politicians is that ‘religious’ organization that you and I worship in every Friday, Wednesday and Sunday.
    If these spiritual bodies can stir up their worshipers TO MAKE/TAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS and participate fully in politics with sincerity of purpose; then a lot can change more-rapidly… And 2023 may be possible for fresh leaders to be birthed. I want to be one of such fresh leaders and I have started searching for like minds.

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    1. That’s the spirit, Charles. It can be done. From here to 2023 is five years – much can be done with careful planning and determined focus. I don’t care what anyone will say – the church, collectively, has let us down badly. With power and influence over millions in their congregations, they use it to raise money from the very people they should be seeking to alleviate their suffering. The Black church has always been influential, as candidates seek their endorsement but are held accountable. Black people are 15% of the population.

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