Kaduna forthcoming LG elections: What voters should do
By YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE –
With the release of the time table and guidelines for the Kaduna state local government elections, all is now set for the long awaited elections scheduled for the first day of December, 2012. Even with the reservation by many on the amended laws enacted only recently by the state assembly, which among many stipulated a two years tenure for elected officers, and fees to be paid to the state independent electoral commission; political activities have gone full swing. Political parties and their contestants have gone full gear in their electioneering campaigns; primary elections are what are on the front burner of political parties that are in the contest. The state independent electoral commission as the umpire is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that the so much awaited local government elections is free, fair and credible.
The government of Kaduna state must be given due acknowledgement for having the commitment of ensuring that the process of the elections commences, therefore joining the ranks of states that have either conducted or have also initiated the process of local government elections. This is significant because the local government as the lowest tier of government is actually the closest to the people (masses). Over the years it has been the most abused tier of government, leading to the inability of the people to come in contact with the full quantity and quality of the dividends of democracy due to them.
It is this singular reason that should make the people (masses) take lawful ownership of the process, through active participation in the whole leadership selection process. This is more so, because the people (masses) deserve the government they get. If democracy must make sense as a system that has its foundation as the people, then the people must be seen to participate before, during and after the elections; but they must make sure that they go out and perform their civic responsibilities by being registered and also turning out en-mass to vote credibility. The process and attainment of nationbuilding is the collective responsibility of both the government and the people (masses). The people cannot afford not to perform their responsibilities and still have the moral authority to accuse the government of not performing their responsibilities.
Unfortunately, the local government as the closest tier of government to the grassroots has also built a reputation as a draining pipe of funds meant for grassroots development, corruption and mediocre performance by public officials is the norm rather than the exception. This has been attributed to the dirt of leadership over the years, and by extension has invited abject poverty, dilapidated or absence of infrastructure and ignorance; and that is why people at the grassroots are vulnerable to be used as machineries for electoral malpractices.
All hands must be on deck, the major players include the state independent electoral commission, political parties and civil societies; and they must all formulate and implement strategies to effectively execute the responsibility of voter education.
Massive strategic voter’s education must be employed, in order to equip the electorates to make informed choices, due largely to their knowledge of the electoral process. The electorate must be conscious if the fact that either through due process or otherwise, they are responsible for the government that gets to power. It is no fiction that it is the peoples votes that should bring any credible leader to power, it is also a reality that it is the same people that sell their votes, perpetrate rigging on behalf of the politicians, and without doubt also engage in political violence to the advantage of their political sponsors.
The above shows that no leader can get to power without the people either through positive or negative process; truly power belongs to the people, but what the bone of contention is how they use their power. It is this same power that the people hold in their hands that has brought down many undemocratic governments all around the world.
The people at this point must understand that their responsibility does not start and stop with just voting. It should start even with the selection of delegates, because they would be the ones to select candidates that the parties would present for elections. They are also to be vigilant throughout the process, in order not to allow a few vested interests to hijack the process that would determine their welfare and security for the stipulated tenure.
To my mind, the local government elections is the most important, due largely to its proximity -to the grassroots, whatever dividends of democracy or otherwise that comes from the local government is felt directly by the people at the grassroots. As a matter of fact, the electorates must understand that if they find it hard to hold their councilors or chairmen accountable, it would only be a mirage to hold other tiers of government accountable. So it becomes imperative that if the people do not take any election serious, they must as a matter of their welfare take the local government elections very serious.
Poverty has been sometimes unfairly blamed for why the people (masses) have availed themselves to be used as machineries for electoral malpractice; this is so because no amount of money given to an individual during elections would compensate for the tenure of maladministration and underdevelopment, which would only increase his/her, poverty. To most politicians politics is a business venture, whereby any investment made into campaigns in cash or kind, is expected to bring back profit in double percentage. So for every one naira given during campaigns, return on investment from money meant for development hundred naira or above is expected to go into the pocket of the investor; that is to say that for every one naira an individual collects to facilitate the success of a dubious candi~ate, the development of both the individual and his society is at stake.
The power of the people is in their votes, and this power should be used to determine their welfare and security, while at the same time it becomes impotent if they compromise it. The problem has always been that the people (masses) have largely been ignorant of the powers imbedded in their votes, such as the power to decide who leads them, the power to hold their leaders accountable, and also the power to recall non performing leader. This is a right that must be used not abused, because as it is said, he that does not know his right does not have a right, so this right must not only be known but must be applied.
The people (masses) must begin to emphasize on the credibility of a candidate not just his/her generosity; this a time that track record must be given relevance i~ the area of integrity, competence, qualification and leadership. We should give more attention to what a candidate has done in or out of office than what he/she would do when elected, because it is always wise to judge a man by what he has done than what he says. It is high time we stop using poverty as an alibi for either selling our votes or engaging in electoral malpractice; this is so because it is these s’ame acts that perpetuate bad leadership which in its strides perpetuate our poverty.
What we need right now more than the forthcoming local government elections in Kaduna state massive voter education through strategic messaging, which should aim at attitudinal change and paradigm shift among the people (masses). Machineries should be set in motion to go to the two hundred and fifty five wards in the twenty three local governments of the state, to among many things create massive awareness through voter education, in order to instigate the political consciousness of the people (masses),’ and by extension eliminate voter ignorance and apathy. This responsibility must not be left only to the state independent electoral commission; other stakeholders such as the civil societies, religious and traditional institutions, should also put their hands on deck to ensure that the people (masses) fully participate and by extension take informed choices.
The people must employ their informed by using the power of their votes to stamp out bad leadership which is the bearer of abject poverty, dilapidated infrastructure and underdevelopment; and replace same with redistribution of wealth, world class infrastructure and development. We should not sell our conscience or our right to hold our leaders accountable base on the trust we reposed in them, our vote is the power we can use to set a date with destiny.
It is only our votes that can give us the change we so desperately desire, it the only weapon we can use to ensure that the labor of our heroes past does not die in vain. Let’s use our votes to bring about the desired change for growth and development, by using our votes to elect credible councilors and chairmen who would bring the dividends of democracy to our doorsteps.
GOJE wrote in from Unwan Rimi. Kaduna.
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