By Akin Ojumu

My mind is like a dog with a bone. When it settles on a particular subject of interest or concern, it can be stubborn, tenacious, persistent, and relentless. It goes all in, dissecting, probing, pondering, questioning, and interrogating until it is satisfied or…well…hits a wall in frustration.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Nigeria. The endless morass and chronic chaos preoccupy my mind leaving little room for anything else. The thought that such a magnificent country, richly endowed with highly intelligent people and vast natural resources, is crawling on its knees in the mud of melancholy keeps me awake at night. Frustratingly, when it comes to the Nigeria situation, I hit a wall every time.

D. Warner, in Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics (Second Edition, 2012), defines citizenship as “the expression of a public identity.” Citizenship, according to him, “is the recognition of an official position by a government and the ability to enjoy the rights and privileges following from that position by an individual.”

Vera Chouinard expanded on D Warner’s definition of citizenship. In the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition, 2020), Chouinard described citizenship as involving the “claiming, exercising, and contesting rights, entitlements, and obligations,” by the governed within a national jurisdiction.

Fundamentally, citizenship encompasses the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the governed. Most often, though, when people think of citizenship the emphasis is placed on the rights and privileges of the citizens while the responsibilities that come with citizenship are unfortunately ignored.

J.F. Kennedy, the late US President, alluded to the importance of the duty of the citizen in his inaugural address when he admonished his fellow countrymen to “ask not what the country can do for you – ask what you can do for the country.” He challenged every American to contribute in some way to the public good.

One of the most – if not the most – important rights and privileges the citizens of any nation can enjoy is suffrage. In a representative government, it is the right to vote in elections to choose your representatives in the government. According to the Britannica, suffrage “is regarded as more than a privilege extended by the state to its citizenry, and it is rather thought of as an inalienable right that inheres to every adult citizen by virtue of citizenship. In democracies it is the primary means of ensuring that governments are responsible to the governed.”

As much as suffrage is a right conferred on the citizens, much more important is the fact that suffrage also doubles as a duty the citizens must perform. Being able to vote is a key part of citizenship and allows each person to have their say about what is important to them and what they think their lives should be like. When people vote, they are saying which policies they value, which political party they would like to make decisions on their behalf, and which politician they trust to improve life for themselves and for their community (Source: Government of South Australia, Office of Women).

As I brood over the malfeasance characterizing the current election cycle in Nigeria and agonize over the shenanigans surrounding the upcoming presidential election, I can’t help but wonder what citizenship really means to the average Nigerian. When they look at themselves as citizens and think of their sacred duty to vote in elections, one cannot but be puzzled at how Nigerians perceive suffrage. Considering the little value Nigerians seem to place on their suffrage, and how cheaply they sell their votes, one can only conclude that Nigerians don’t really understand that their vote is their voice and it’s a means of expressing their choice. 

Deploying their usual scare tactics, the small-minded ruling cabal in Nigeria are pushing the big lie, warning Nigerians not to waste their votes on poorly planned projects. In their incessant all-dying lust for political power, the ruling jackals want the electorate to believe it’s a total waste if they let their votes be the voice through which they express their choice. This lie has been repeated ever so often that hapless Nigerians have come to believe it.

But it’s all a con, an illusion of truth. It was the same way Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda for Adolf Hitler, sold the German people Nazism. That was how Hitler turned the genteel German society into murderous animals who persecuted and executed their Jewish neighbors in the Holocaust.

Democracy is dying in the political darkness of Nigeria; it’s being exsanguinated from a thousand cuts of the lies the ruling cabal tells. Unscrupulous political jobbers fool Nigerians into believing that it’s only by voting for them that their votes are not wasted. And so, thinking they are marrying prince charming, Nigerian masses only end up as nannies in the magnificent castles of the ruling class. Those who promised them heaven on earth turn their lives into hell on earth. Yet, in a national display of Stockholm Syndrome, Nigerians do it over and over again from one election cycle to the next, they keep voting for their slave masters.

To Nigeria's plundering class, winning elections is all that counts, good governance be damned. Vote wasting, in the minds of the looters of Nigeria’s wealth, is when you vote for a political party that they believe stands no chance of winning. The supporters of Nigeria’s “too-big-to-lose” political parties fail to see the irony of their own argument; because they are too big is the very reason they fail to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. 

Let me show you what a poorly planned project really looks like.

For the past 22 years, Nigeria has been ruled by PDP and APC. When PDP came to power in 1999, the exchange rate was ₦90 to $1 and a 50kg bag of rice sold for ₦2,500. By the time PDP left in 2015, it was a wreckage that the APC inherited. The exchange rate had jumped to ₦300 to $1 and 50kg bag of rice ballooned to ₦10,000. Today, 7 years into the APC regime, the party has succeeded in turning the wreckage it inherited from PDP into a national catastrophe. The exchange is now ₦620 to $1 and a 50kg bag of rice sells for as much as ₦40,000. 

If there ever was anything like a poorly planned political project in Nigeria, that award goes to APC and PDP. Despite years of being in control, the two major political parties have not only failed to deliver the goods for Nigerians, but they’ve also gone and made things much worse. Nigerians were better off in 1999 than they are today. All the indicators of well-being have turned in the negative direction for the vast majority of Nigerians. And it is precisely because of the misrule and mismanagement of the poorly planned projects known as the APC and PDP. Those riding in these two jalopies must understand they are stuck on a bridge to nowhere.

For far too long Nigerians have allowed their universal suffrage to be turned into universal suffering. Enough is enough; it must end now. It's time Nigerians came to the realization that they’ve been wasting their votes all along. By electing the same crop of people into political offices again and again – people who have done nothing to improve their lives – they waste their votes. Nigerians must understand that they waste their votes from election to election, when they keep handing political power to politicians who rape their land and enslave their children.

Neither Bola “Emilokan” Tinubu nor Atiku “Indicted” Abubakar have what it takes to turn Nigeria around. A vote for either of them is a wasted vote. The APC and PDP are poorly planned projects incapable of yielding the dividends of democracy. You waste your vote if you vote for them.


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