Let me begin by way of confession. The work you are reading is not the one that was supposed to appear here today. On the contrary two articles were competing for this space. The first would have been on “What do the Igbos want” and the second would have been a fearless exposition on political developments and configurations in Abia, my state; but I settled for this discourse because of the inspiration I got following my lecture to Abia State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) during their observation of the World Press Freedom Day, which held penultimate Friday in Umuahia, Abia State capital.
Most of the post lecture questions centered on politics, the quality of the candidates, their behavior, especially while in power, leadership recruitment process, particularly the electoral process, under-development and 2019 elections. The consensus was that it is difficult to guarantee high level of press freedom when the media and the society fail to ensure that transparent and credible electoral system is in existence and that only qualitative and competent candidates receive encouragement to vie for public offices. I agreed with the submissions and that is the reason I am devoting the space today to further the arguments and possibly procure a consensus on this very important matter.
This topic has remained a reoccurring matter for years. It should not be so. From what we have seen elsewhere most of the nations we know today as developed have had this problem but what we see of their case is that they never remained on it. The society took measures which enabled them to outgrow the challenge, and as they did, it afforded them the opportunity to take on more elevated issues and by so doing registered achievements which in turn gave meaning to the concept of national development. But for us it has not been so and the reason is simple: we never make progress in any facet of our national life and when we experience a move it is usually of the backward integration kind, it is such that even the glimmer of hope in existence is touched and caused to wane and in some instances made to fade away.
The issue of personnel for public offices is central to whatever we intend to do and to achieve. We know this just as we know the importance of a credible electoral system in all of it. Yet in pursuing our quest for the transformation of our society we do two things. We leave things to chance forgetting that those who live on chance get the worse things nature has to throw on people. At other times we flow with the tide not minding what it is carrying and such an approach has been responsible for where we are and the cries of agony pervading the entire landscape. If we were a people that know the importance of making mistakes and correcting them, we will not in 2019 be approaching crucial elections in the midst of worst kind of under-development and accompanying misery without elaborately scrutinizing those with leadership potentials across the political parties and this is a job for the media.
The truth is that we have not been performing this duty and yet it is crucial to the kind of nation we want to build and the type of citizens we want to inhabit our space. What we have done in the past is to move along with aspirants and candidates and to sing their songs. We become crusaders for what they and their political parties stand for and not what the nation should represent. That is where we miss it. It is this approach that has blurred us to the importance of ideology in the making of a great nation. One consequence of this is that it has become so easy for everybody to join less gifted politicians in playing the cards of religion and ethnicity and also explains the reason most leaders get into public office before they can begin to think of what to do for the people. This is an aberration.
Given the face of this nation and especially the hardship the people are going through, I would have thought that by now the media would have led the rest of us to scrutinize the antecedents of prospective aspirants for public offices. We ought to have received their programs and aligned them with their past positions on national issues and draw a verdict. If we had such an approach in place, it is my belief some of the controversial policies our leaders impose on the rest of us after they have won elections would either not be or come without surprise because the minds of the citizens would have been prepared beforehand. The point I am making is that it has become very imperative that we begin to screen our leadership materials even before they contemplate running for public offices. Citizens ought to know who they are, what they subscribe to and what roles they have played in the past and what a new role would mean to the nation.
It will be nice to hear our presidential hopefuls and their political parties tell the citizens in very specific terms what their positions are on such issues as refineries, electricity supply, productive economy, aviation and international flights, unemployment, productive education, West Africa, Africa and international trade balances, foreign policy, sports and productive engagements, water supply, environmental recreation and cultural revolution just to mention a few. I can hear some say it is too early for such, the truth is that we don’t have a practice of clinically examining our leaders and if we had we would have known that such an assessment is an all time exercise. Under such an atmosphere aspirants should make their intentions known two years ahead of the official declaration, it is this knowledge that made me wonder what the fuss was over the declaration made by President Buhari to seek re-election.
If things were properly done such pronouncement would have been routine. President Trump of America is barely two years in office and everybody in the world knows as of today that he is running for a second term in office. I have been told that cannot happen here because opponents would deliberately set out to be mischievous and even to kill and my response has always been that it touches on character flaw which requires a change rather than running away from confronting it. Our nation has suffered in the hands of cabals who since independence have selected national leaders for the rest of us. They lift the incompetent and later turn round to cry, in spite of what their acts have done to the nation they are still at it. If truly we want progress and freedom, then time has come to resist them and 2019 offers the best opportunity.