By Akin Ojumu

Elections have consequences. That is true everywhere but more so in Africa than elsewhere.

In the black man’s continent, the staggering repercussions of dumb electoral choices have left huge swath of the continent in a state of perpetual decay and dilapidation. The fragile institutions, frail systems, and crumbling infrastructures that litter the political landscape of the continent are all a direct result of unwise decisions made at the ballot box.

If there is a special case of devastation caused by ill-informed electoral judgement, Nigeria is a good example. It is a profoundly sad sixty-year history of repeatedly getting it wrong at the ballot box. Making poor choices at the polls has been elevated to an art form in Nigeria; we simply excel in it.

As though suffering from a severe case of self-mutilation, we consistently cast our lot, at every election cycle, with politicians who have neither the vision nor the gumption to do the bruising, but necessary, hard work of tilling the ground and sowing the seed for a prosperous future for our nation. For some inexplicable reasons, we seem to insist on turning over our destiny to politicians of questionable character, and in return we expect these perfidious lots to transform our desert places into oasis flowing with milk and honey. And then when they fail to perform, we go on to find another cast of despicable morals onto whom we hitch our wagon.

In a vicious cycle of wrong electoral choices that yield inept leadership, we find ourselves sink deeper into an abyss of impoverishment and further into a chasm of destitution. Like a man suffering from lunacy, we keep repeating the same old mistakes and then expect a different result. We habitually toss the dice of our fate and hope that luck is on our side like a drunken poker player.

Yet we know that no nation thrives solely by means of the stroke of luck. The pillars of growth and development rest on a solid foundation of strong and enduring institutions. Consciously and deliberately, wise nations establish systems and institutions that go on to form the backbones for growth and bulwark against decay.

And to make sure that these institutions are consequential, these nations put mechanisms in place that ensure their efficient operations. Such efficient institutions develop systems that effectively create the enabling environment for growth & development.

The tree of growth and development in any nation is nurtured from deep roots that consist of certain vital and basic elements. These elements – institutions and systems – together form the bedrock upon which a nation grows and develops.

And they include the following:

No nation can survive an educational system that is archaic, shambolic and dysfunctional. Such a system will only succeed in churning out half baked, barely educated illiterates that constitute nuisance and unproductive drain on the society. Whereas, a good education is like rain on fallow ground. It waters the mind and produces a breed of citizens brimming with innovative ideas and ingenuity.

The growth and development of nations run on fossil fuel. When it’s in short supply the economy goes into tailspin. In Nigeria, power generation constitutes more than 70% of the overhead of most business enterprises. The inability to sustain power supply is a major reason many businesses fail and fold up in Nigeria. The energy failure in Nigeria is one reason it continues to wallow in the shallow waters of mediocrity.

The roads that lead to growth and development are often paved in black tar and glittering bitumen. Good roads take nations to economic viability and good air transport lifts to commercial buoyancy. In Nigeria, the road networks are deplorable and road travel is a nightmare, the air travel is an adventure in bungee jumping, and the rail system has been extinct for decades.

There cannot be growth and development when the mobile networks are erratic and riddled with statics, when the telephone lines are comatic and in perpetual life support, when it takes hours to open an internet page, or when the postal service is more like sending messages using homing pigeons. It is impossible for commerce to thrive in such situations.

When we get these four things right, however, other things will automatically fall into place like a domino. We need a roundly educated populace, uninterrupted and affordable energy supply, transportation systems that is more than adequate, and a modern telecommunication infrastructure that is operational and functional.

The abundance of these four things will spur creativity. The creative energy will translate into vibrancy in entrepreneurship and business innovations. Business innovations will lead to job creation. With jobs, ordinary folks become responsible citizens generating the income and the wherewithal to afford the basic necessities of life including healthcare, housing, food, etc. 

When the people are thus empowered, by being gainfully employed and having the means to meet their needs, crime rate is driven down, the quality of life improves, and people live longer and healthier lives. When people are healthy and happy, their productivity increases. Productive people create booming economy. A booming economy results in massive growth and development. 

Thus, a positive vicious cycle ensues.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, systemic inefficiencies inimical to growth and development exist and are widespread. To put it in another way, the systems and institutions necessary for the creation of an enabling environment for growth and development, are inefficient and ineffective. This is a direct result of poor and visionless leadership, which in turn come from the poor choices we make at the ballot box.

It is no news that most of the people that constitute the political and governmental leadership in Nigeria, at all levels of government, are individuals who have no vested interest in the country's well-being. Nigeria is ruled by people who have sworn allegiance to demons and have entered into covenants with darkness. Those who rule over us have engaged in human sacrifices and have partaken in cannibalism. To get political power, these individuals have been made to drink human blood and have taken blood oath.

Their drive to acquire power and positions of authority is not for any sense of duty or public service. The motive is purely to enrich themselves at our expense. These people care only about themselves and will go to any length to bleed the nation dry. 

Growth and development of the nation is a foreign concept to them. Nigerians who expect such a group of individuals to constitute good government and provide good governance are engaged in wishful thinking and foolish fatalism.

Therefore, the coming elections present us another opportunity to choose wisely. And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr,

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Fellow Nigerians, it is now or never. This is a consequential election that we cannot afford to get wrong. Now is the time for Nigeria to sever all ties to our dark checkered history of poor electoral judgements. More than ever before, it is imperative that we choose men and women of real substance, who are not encumbered by old age or paucity of ideas. We must elect people ready to roll up their sleeves and would not mind soiling their hands in the dirt of building the strong institutions and systems that we need for growth and development.

So, on Saturday, February 23, 2019, and in all the other elections that follow, make sure you Vote Prudently!


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