The world understands Nigeria

To survive as a nation after May 2023 requires us to weight the choices we make to elect capable candidates.

Oftentimes, we blame Nigerian voters for allowing political pirates seize our ship of state at every election cycle. It shouldn’t be about who allowed pirates into the ship. Instead, we need to focus on what makes it possible for pirates to navigate freely in our political ocean. The challenge as I see it is with our constitution and the serially-amended electoral laws. They rob citizens of their power to choose good candidates and the desire to vote for the clearly incapable.

Our Constitution and the electoral laws are concerning for Nigerian voters. With them there is no confidence that Nigeria will get a President the country needs in 2023. Our reservations escalate as we watch various presidential aspirants waddling into the arena of contest. Our sense of foreboding persists despite knowing that a number of capable citizens are among the lot.

The widespread fears arise from recent experiences with leadership selection, our familiarity with inadequate election laws, and voter apathy. There’s very little to do about leadership selection and the laws. But there’s a lot to do to redress voter apathy and give Nigeria a fighting chance at survival beyond 2023.

Which brings us to the question: What must we do to elect a President with capacity to navigate us out of the dire socio-economic straits that Nigeria finds itself? A useful first step is to recognize that voters face challenges. A second step is to think out of the box on how to help voters overcome the challenges.

Major Voter Challenges

When good candidates do not emerge from the dominant parties, voter choice becomes a challenge. We know why good candidates fail to make the cut during party primaries. Their integrity is haram to parties where money, religion, and ethnic affiliations overwhelm the selection process. They come with capacity and professionalism that become handicaps in spaces where the latent goal is to raid public treasuries. Nigerian politicos prefer to deal with those ready to play ball. They have little time for those with skills to create and redistribute wealth.

A second challenge is the laws that disallow independent candidacy. In our country, one must enroll in a political party to qualify to run for elections. Enrolling in a party automatically subjects one to a party primaries process for selection as candidate. Our politicos are clever. They correctly guessed that a voter revolt is possible in Nigeria if independent candidacy is allowed. Independent candidacy could trigger disgruntled citizens, particularly the youths, to organize and overthrow pirates that seized and hold the ship hostage. Legislators therefore faithfully resist every pressure to have independent candidacy accommodated in our electoral laws.

Our third and most serious challenge is voter apathy. Less than 30 percent of eligible voters register to vote and less than 20 percent of registered voters actually vote. Voter apathy reflects voter helplessness. The less sophisticated among the voters believe that their votes no longer count. Consequently, these unsophisticated voters succumb to politicians’ seasonal bribes of cash, wrappers, and foodstuffs to vote for the wrong candidates. But a greater majority stay home on election day.

A window of opportunity

There is a window of opportunity to help good captains get into the ship, in the event that dominant parties fail to select the right candidates. This window opens into a world of possibilities that give Nigeria a fighting chance at surviving beyond 2023. And it is a relatively simple process that involves stepping up citizen action to solve the challenge of voter apathy among the youth in Nigeria. Youth apathy accounts for most of what we know as low voter registration and poor election turnouts.

For this voter drive to succeed, the youths need to connect important dots about elections. Our youths bear a disproportionate burden of Nigeria’s economic problems at this moment. Their reaction to this burden is a yoke that the country bears as a mark of shame. Think of youth unemployment and how this reflects on issues of economic migration and slavery, yahoo-yahoo, banditry and kidnapping, ethno-religious insurgency, and political thuggery.

We often ascribe these youth challenges to the issue of leadership. Bad leadership is however not a cause but a consequence. Bad leaders are products of the choices we make during each election cycle. They do not elect themselves; we elect and install them in various government houses where they showcase their poor capacities.

Our angry youths need to establish this direct link between staying aloof during voting and the economic discomforts they suffer. We sustain this national embarrassment by refusing to vote. Or voting for religious and ethnic platforms. And by not looking beyond the dominant parties when they do not present capable candidates.

The choices we make in 2023

Nigerian youths urgently need to launch a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drive. Low voter turnout is a product of voter apathy, voter helplessness, and poor appreciation of voting power. Youths however need appreciate the power of their vote. It is true that they will not participate in choosing the candidates for elections. But when youths arm themselves with vote cards, they will elect capable leaders languishing in fringe parties to save our nation. It no longer matters that the dominant parties throw up the best of the worst. To put the matter baldly, if the likes of Peter Obi and Yemi Osinbajo do not emerge from the dominant parties, why shouldn’t we choose between Kingsley Muoghalu and Omoyele Sowore?       

When we reach a critical mass of registered voters willing to turn up and vote, we are guaranteed revolutionary outcomes. Another #EndSARS-type movement led by Nigerian youths can lead to attainment of this critical mass. A successful get-out-the-vote campaign that garners an extra 20 – 50 million votes is enough to accomplish the task. With this number, Nigerians can elect a capable candidate from a mushroom party – if the dominant parties fail to pick any of the good candidates each of us sees now. The movement focuses on those who seek reelection and others seeking new mandates. And everyone commits to choose only those fit for purpose as the the goal of the choices we make for 2023.

Is this revolution possible?

This is how I summarized the choices we make for 2023 on my Facebook page last week:

Nigerians on Facebook can change Nigeria. As Nigerians living in Nigeria, this is the most important moment of our lives. Here is another golden opportunity to shape the country the way we want it to be. Are we ready and willing to do this? Or are we going to pretend we are busy and allow the politicos bribe and con their way back into power? By the time they finish, we will gather again to restart the social lamentations and head shaking.

What can each of us do?

One: Go get your voter’s card and vote for the righteous to get to the throne.

Two: Persuade just one friend to do the same and carry this forward.

Facebook Nigerians can raise an army that will bring the change we want through a competent and righteous man on the throne. Here is statistics that speak to this possibility:

There are 31.86 million Nigerians on Facebook. Less than 30 million Nigerians voted in 2019 and President Buhari won with 15.19 million votes. Nigerians on Facebook alone can therefore change Nigeria.

The best way to start is to launch something like Naija Get-Out-the-Vote drive for the 2023 Presidential Elections. And to thereafter escalate it to off-season governorship elections in some states.

The choices we make in 2023