As citizens and observers, we now know practically the names of all
the candidates that will be contesting in the forthcoming elections.
A point needs to be made immediately about these candidates: unlike
what we have seen for too long in Nigeria, those running for
elections this time around are doing so because they explicitly want
to do so. There is no tale of candidates saying “I am here against
my wishes” or “my people prevailed on me to run”, in order to gain
their tickets, these candidates presented themselves for tough
primary elections, they organised and implemented strategies to win
and in most cases they even spent money and time to convince
delegates they can win elections for their parties. They have done
the first part of their task; they now need to convince observers
and the voting citizens that they can rule the country.
Voters too have to do their own part and to do so effectively the
first step is to fully understand their roles as citizens and
electors. In theory, this should be taken for granted but in
practice, many voters do not see themselves as important and even
decisive in elections. Apathy and cynicism have made some citizens
forget what their task should be in an electoral process; ignorance
and poverty are making many others misconceive what their position
is during elections.
Let us start by inviting everybody that can vote to remember that
technically, any voter can decide who will be the next president,
governors, senators etc. As a citizen and an elector, you need to
see yourself as an employer and you need to view politicians vying
for positions as employees you are going to employ to manage your
assets on your behalf.
Given that in Nigeria, most politicians are richer and more powerful
than most citizens it is a tough change that requires voters to
develop the mindset of rational citizens.
In deciding how to vote, a rational citizen will see himself or
herself as the person to please, before deciding who to vote for, a
rational citizen, like a diner in a restaurant, will take time to
see what the candidates are offering. He or she will analyse the
programmes and promises each candidate is making and match these
with his or her own needs and priorities. The candidate that will
get the vote of a rational citizen will be the candidate that shows
a very good understanding of issues to be solved and also
demonstrates a very good capacity and will to solve such problems.
Candidates are rational, they know what they want and in the coming
weeks, they will do all they can to convince all that they not their
opponents should get the job. It is not going to be easy for we, the
people, to rationally decide, since candidates will use every means
to succeed and this will include confusing and distracting us. To
help us remain focused, we need to do our best to know all we can
about the candidates putting themselves forward and then judge them
in the coming weeks against some variable elements.
The past of a candidate matters. Rationally we should be looking for
experience when employing a person for an important role, in
government things change every day so what we need is a candidate
that will show us that he has done things in the past that will
enable him deal with the complex task of managing the country. In
the next weeks, the past might as well come to hunt a candidate in
that case, we need to judge each candidate on what comes out of
their past and how they dealt with it.
For executive offices, the first public choice a candidate running
for office makes is that of a running mate. We can and should judge
a candidate on the kind of running mate he has opted for. The theory
is that a Vice-president is a second away from being president and
our recent experience in Nigeria confirms it, so in the next coming
weeks we can see what kind of presidency or governorship we are
likely to get by evaluating the status and action of each running
The political party of a candidate is important because this will
tell you his or her view of the world. A candidate that comes to you
on the platform of people known to be corrupt is not good to you if
you think integrity matters. Over the weeks, you can also rate a
candidate on what is going on in his party, as those are the things
likely to be happening if the candidate gets to power.
In democracy, the way we communicate matters a lot and a leader will
have to influence a lot of people. As a rational citizen, we need to
watch out for the ability of each candidate to convince us of his
ideas and capacities. In the next few weeks, candidates will be at
their best and if for any reason in the world they cannot represent
themselves and convince us then they are not likely to represent us
well or convince other leaders in the world on our behalf.
No leader can do everything alone so team matters. To know the kind
of people that a president or a governor will delegate the affairs
of our country to once elected, have a look at the people around
him, watch for their actions and utterances in the next coming
weeks. It will tell you how much value the candidate places on
competence and how much on nepotism or ethinicism.
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