The Moment Is Now

JEGATHIS is an interesting moment to be in Nigeria. Everyone is political and everything is political. You must take a position. That simple laminated plastic card is useful because with it you pass judgments. With it you make some people happy and others sad. It is called voter’s card. It is your passport to the club of great people. It is your membership card in the club of great men and women in Nigeria. It allows you to air your views. This is the season everyone values your thumb or whatever part of the body you are allowed to use to make a mark of your decision on the ballot paper. All the political gladiators are asking for your thumb. That is why it is interesting to be in Nigeria at this moment. 

  Many things are in high demand at this moment in Nigeria. It is a moment such as this that I wish I were in clothing and fabric business, a printer, an artist, speechwriter, or even own a media outfit. Not just any fabric but Nigerian traditional clothing! Just imagine the fourteen presidential candidates changing cloths everyday with the cohort of supporters who must dress like their principals according to the culture of the state, people or village they go to for rallies? I would like to look into the wardrobe of a presidential, gubernatorial or senatorial candidate. I do not know how long it takes the tailors to prepare fitting clothing for a campaign train to make the campaign train politically correct. One question that comes to mind is, does the clothing change anything?  Did Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State have to dress like a Bini prince, Esan, Ishan, Etsako, etc, person to impress the various tribes, local governments and senatorial districts to record such “Moon slide” victory in his last election? Everyone had known him with the Khaki as a union leader and he held onto it. Obama did and still does his African American swag in his steps, before and after the elections. Nelson Mandela never had to change to any attire to win the heart of the South Africans and the entire world. His character was his best attire. In fact people dress like Mandela not Mandela dressing like people. 

  Sometimes I imagine what electioneering campaign means to a Nigerian politician. I do not think we take electioneering campaign to be a serious issue. It is only a serious ‘business issue’ for contractors; event planners, stage decorators, musicians and comedians, praise singers, masters of ceremonies, designers of various cultural clothing, vehicle transport owners, hirers of people into campaign grounds and such sundry characters. They sing, chant party slogans and it ends with one party responding to a campaign insult of the other party. No issues are discussed because that is not what they have come to give. I heard that big sums of money are also dished out to the crowds, depending on who is campaigning. It has always been like that, election year in and year out in Nigeria. But that is not my point here. 

  My point here is very simple; that we are living in a very interesting period in Nigeria. This period is the judgment day, which religious preachers speak about. They warn faithful not to abandon God because they shall one day stand before him for judgment. Do not burn the bridge after crossing it because you will still need it on your way back. This period in Nigeria is the season of judgment. It is the period of returning across the bridge. Campaign rallies are to be opportunities for those seeking re-election to test how strong the bridge is again. It is the period for them to face judgment. For those seeking fresh election, electioneering campaign is the opportunity to say what you will do differently or better than the one who is currently in that position. So when we are invited to campaign grounds, we expect to hear such messages called manifestos. When I suspend every activity of mine to watch a three or four-hour campaign rally on television, it is not because of the colour combinations or design of the attire, the class of paid musicians or the jokes of the comedians. It is because I desire to hear the hope we have for our country. I would like to know the calibre of contestants that have thrown their hats in the rings. But then suddenly, what we hear is far from what we expect and desire. 

  I do not know if international communities watching the electioneering campaigns so far are making any meanings out of them. What will be the foreign policy thrust of each contestant/party? Will it favour foreign investors and entice them into the country? I understand such are always lacking in our planning and campaign messages so elected presidents, governors and local government chairmen spend the first few years of their tenure globetrotting in the name of looking for foreign investors. These investors do not come. They only end up with foreign contractors who take road and house building contracts, supply contracts of cars and consumables. Instead of investing in Nigeria, they end up making money from this country to invest in their own countries. I heard before that some parliamentarians in Nigeria wanted to go to an Asian country for parliamentary experience. We look forward to know the agricultural policy of the contestants. What we hear from the incumbents most of the time are that we did this for farmers, and subsidised fertiliser, etc. We know that most of these so-called achievements are only opportunities of spurious contract awards to loyalists. Has such translated into much more production of food that Nigerians eat and export? Have we stopped food importation? Why do we still have free ranging system of animal husbandry? Why do we still have to depend on Fulani cattlemen and children, native hunters and native chicken to put meat on the table of Nigerians? Which contestant or political party has answer to all these? What do the contestants have to say about education? What is the ground plan to end the insistent strikes in our educational system? It is common knowledge that education in Nigeria today is just a matter of paper qualification. Very few of them really understand what they graduated in. Scholarship has finished in our educational system. If not for the privately owned institutions (whose charges are not affordable to the ordinary honest civil servant or low class business person), Nigeria would have become almost a country of ignorant men and women. Which political party or contestant has solution to this? When we listen to speeches at the campaign rallies, none of these is coming through clearly. 

  We hear of decamping and returning. When I watch the caliber of people that accompany our presidential candidates, I see what is called coat of many colours. Many of them have been in and out of all the major and minor political parties. In fact I wait with bated breath each time any of the peripatetic politicians climb the podium to address the crowd. I imagine he or she will mistakenly shout out the slogan of the opposing party, not realizing which party he or she belongs to at that moment. He is here today, there tomorrow, no ideology, no community interest policy, no conscience and no qualms. He is sinner today, a saint tomorrow. He is saint today, declared a villain tomorrow.

  But Nigerians, now is the moment and the moment is now. I am very happy with the consciousness that has enveloped the nation. Gone are the days when tribal and religious sentiments ruled the political landscape. It is the dawn of a new age. The moment is now for us to get it or begin to get it right. Never in the history of our political expedition have we been this close to consciousness. Nigeria is on the verge of history and this much was echoed on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at the seminar for the political parties on prevention of election violence held in Abuja. Former Secretary General of the United Nations Koffi Annan said, “Africa’s destiny is in the hands of Nigeria, tied to the elections this year. Nigerians should make Africa proud by getting it right”. At the said seminar, all the speakers and the political gladiators agreed that the elections could be done correctly. I believe we are very close to it this time. 

  Nigeria has never really been allowed to make her own mistakes and correct them. Since 1960, each time there was a political misadventure, the military would intervene. But since 1999, we have had political shadow boxing, cross carpeting and tit for tat and the military seem not to notice at all. This is very good for Nigeria. Those who lose elections wish that the military should take over but the military seem not to notice at all. Such a callous person changes business; becomes a community leader, then a business man, then comes back to politics and change party, and returns to the original party he started with, he apologizes, he is celebrated, gets into trouble again and decamps. He eventually wishes that something should happen, that the military takes over, but the military seem not to notice at all. We are getting mature and Nigeria is getting there gradually. 

  When you read the comments of Nigerians on the social networks, you will realize that now is the moment and the moment is now in Nigeria. Never before in the nation’s political history have we been this objective in our discussions. The primordial understanding of the nation as a conglomeration of discordant tunes is dying gradually. It may not be obvious but a careful political observer should be able to notice now. Yes it is still true that some disgruntled elements who have always benefited from the dysfunctional political system and who do not imagine anything better still believe that Nigerians are still the same. They are still talking in their primitive guttural voices of violence. Nigerians are wiser than that. It will be hard now to recruit people to break bottles and bones for the politician’s selfish interest. 

  That is why the voter’s card is your passport. With our voter’s card, whether PVC or temporary ones, whichever is allowed to be used, we Nigerian will speak our minds through the ballot not the bullet. Therefore, let the politicians know that we have clearly come to understand and that we are not taking our decision on whom to vote for by the flamboyance of their political rallies. Your billboards, radio and television adverts and jingo have little or no value in our judgment. To a large extent, it exposes the hollowness of the contestants. In fact if the rallies, billboards, electronic media adverts and jingos do anything to us, it only teaches us how foolish the politicians think the ordinary Nigeria is. It is the same with the recent Christmas/New Year rice and condiments, goats, rams, cows, cloths, hampers, and cash gifts lavished on the different categories of people. It shows clearly a sign of desperation. It is a statement on the failure of the political class that your people cannot afford their own festival groceries, they have to be given and truly, many could not afford their own. 

  Finally, we have the opportunity to decide. This is the time and the time is now. Nigerians will decide and as we do that, I re-echo the time tested quote of President Goodluck Jonathan: “No one’s political ambition is worth the blood of another Nigerian”. Nothing can ever be truer than that, so let it be so. Nigerians, the moment is now, let us do it.      

Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko is Director of Pastoral Affairs Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.

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