By Bobby Udoh
INEC has announced dates for the 2015 general elections. The National Assembly and Presidential elections will hold on February 14, 2015 and the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections will hold on February 28, 2015. I think the biggest concern is the lack of political engagement by a critical mass of citizens who have frequently stated that we desperately need credible, courageous and visionary political leaders at this critical phase of our development.
Credible candidates need to be selected by the political parties, the influence of godfathers have to be reduced, finances for credible candidates needs to be generated from transparent sources, well researched manifestos needs to be developed, etc. These and many other activities require the involvement of credible citizens involved in the political process. We can no longer afford to sit back and allow the process to evolve and we get in at the very last stage – the voting on election day. How can we get involved?
Party membership: Members of a political party can influence the party leadership, party candidates, party policies, party members in government and most certainly, the destiny of the nation. So, if we want to change our politics and our nation, we must become members of a party and initiate change within the party. All of the leading political parties in Nigeria can be changed through more Nigerians becoming members of these parties. Only then can credible people be attracted or nurtured and supported for elective offices. Besides, those who win elections need a strong platform within their parties to support the implementation of some tough but necessary ideas from their manifesto.
Party leadership: It is not just our political offices that need visionary leadership but also our political parties. In fact, I believe the visionary leadership must first be seen in a political party before it is seen in political offices. The key essence of participation in the leadership of the party at national, state and local government levels is to ensure the protection of party policies; ensure efficiency and transparency in party’s organisation and activities; encourage and sustain internal democracy; develop, model and mentor future party leaders; attract more like minds to the party; and provide effective monitoring of party men in political offices.
Influence party ideology and programmes: One of the key weaknesses of our political parties is that we don’t know what they stand for and therefore, we are unable to separate one party from another. The end result is our political leaders come into political offices with no clear agenda, policy, ideas and we the people do not know what to expect from them. We need citizens to get involved in party politics to help create think tanks that will research national problems, their solutions and implementation. With strong ideology and programmes, defection to another party will be reduced.
Party primaries: It is the party primaries that will determine the candidate we will vote for at the general election. Our participation will improve the quality of party primaries. This will improve the chances of credible members winning party primaries, thereby presenting better candidates to the voting public at the general elections, and it will also encourage more qualified citizens to join the process. We will also see reduced dictatorial tendencies by so called ‘godfathers’ who will have enlightened, educated and visionary members seeking transparency and adherence to the party constitution. Our democracy will only grow when members of our political parties are allowed to assess, deliberate hard enough and then decide which candidate to vote for in the party primaries.
Mobilisation of others: We should not only participate in party politics but must also actively engage in mobilising our friends and families to join the process. In effect, we must be converted and also convert others into the process. We must also focus on mobilising the 18-25 year olds because this is the core group with innovative ideas and their active involvement will lead political parties to innovate and offer the party candidates with new approaches to solving national issues. Others: Get a voters card, go out to vote and defend that vote by making sure the results are not manipulated; enlighten and mobilise others to get registered and to vote wisely; attend political rallies and town hall meetings, and where possible participate in organising such meetings to provide the candidates with a platform to explain their manifesto.
To help break the myth of politics being a dirty game, it should be noted that many Nigerians engage in political activities as members of their Alumni, Social Club, Sports Group, Cultural Association, Religious Group, etc. If we can start up an association or group and make it run successfully for years with numerous activities and projects, then we can easily join a political party, get involve in its leadership, develop good manifestos and present best qualified candidates at the general elections. Would you go register with a political party?
Bobby Udoh can be reached on bobbyudoh.com