Nigeria 2015: Voting in a strategic manner

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Dr. Bamidele Adekunle

As I grapple with the inconsistencies in the Nigerian economic and political landscape, it became
apparent to me that people may cast their votes based on sentiments and emotions instead of reason. I’m not in a position to recommend a good candidate but I can posit the attributes that are important when making a decision on filling leadership positions in a space such as Nigeria. I also
intend to clear certain myths and misconceptions about development and good leadership traits.
Before I proceed with my analysis, I must confess that Nigeria is a very complex environment that poses challenges for adequate understanding. This notwithstanding, I will base my thesis on the assumption that all the people in the country are interested in growth, security of life and property,
an appropriate standard of living, and peaceful co-existence. Furthermore, it is a society that supports individual achievements through the mechanism of the market while providing a safety net for people that are left behind. If my hypothetical Nigeria meets these conditions, then I can
proceed to discuss the dimensions that are very important when it comes to voting in a strategic manner.
Age: I find it very interesting when young people create negative impressions about the capability of
older people. This position is a reflection of their lack of understanding of the probability of increased life expectancy. The probability of living for an additional year(s) is a function of your lifestyle, diet and physical activities. In other words, a 70 year old man contesting for presidency
may outlive a 40 year old man who did not make an adequate plan on how to increase his longevity.
Furthermore, people are social and self-actualizing, and their behaviors are based on bounded rationality as defined by cognition and past experiences. Older people, who are not demented, are likely to be better leaders because they can simplify the reality using availability and representative
heuristics. They also have the ability to deal with uncertainties, such as volatility of oil price, insecurity and corruption, which create disequilibrium in the market. Nigerians should learn from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where the former mayor was 92 years when she retired. Mayor Hazel McCallion was the mayor of Mississauga, from 1978 – 2014. Although the responsibility of a mayor is less than that of the president, my position is that age should not be a bone of contention when a candidate is hale, healthy and willing to serve.
Infrastructure development: Politicians in Nigeria are always displaying their completed/ongoing projects when vying for
positions. This is important to justify their re-election or to invoke the reason why there should be a change in other geographical locations within the country. As the populace prepares for the forthcoming election, I have not heard any innovative idea that will make Nigeria competitive in
this 21st century. If Mr. A (governorship or presidential candidate) is canvassing for votes based on achieved or planned construction of roads, building of universities and hospitals, and transfer payments extended to loyalists, then Mr. A is not ready to place Nigeria among the front runners
in this 21st century. I believe roads, hospitals, universities (schools) are public goods that should be provided and regulated by the government, so its provision should not be the bait to get votes from the electorate.
Moreover, If Mr. A constructs a road that is not well maintained, everybody is worse off after a few years. If hospitals are built with no qualified personnel (inability to pay competitive salaries), no drugs and equipment, then the hospital will harm people rather than cure people. If universities are established without well-trained faculty members that can compete internationally, it is a waste
of the country’s resources. My position is that the candidate should solicit for votes based on ideas that are related to the advancement of policies, processes and procedures that will change the economic, social and political landscape of the country. In fact, there is a need for a radical re-engineering of the education sector because faculty members in Nigerian universities are behind in terms of contributing to knowledge in the global village – please check the world university
rankings.
Religion: Nigeria is a secular state and people are free to believe in what they want. It is not appropriate for any group to impose their values on others that don’t share the same faith with them. Politicians have been able to use religion as a strategy to stay in power and maintain their relevance in the Nigerian socio-political landscape. This is unfortunate but easy to entrench in a society where people use spirituality to explain a lot of things instead of reason. For example, if Wazobia, a recent university graduate, cannot get a job, some people will start taking the young fellow for special
prayer sessions when the truth of the matter is that the government has failed to create the enabling environment (power, security of life, infrastructure and macroeconomic stability) that will promote economic activities that translate into jobs.
On another note, I don’t subscribe to the use of public funds to send people for pilgrimage. I think it is the responsibility of people who are interested in performing any activity based on the tenets of their religion to be responsible for the financial implications of their trip. A good public officer
should be able to separate religion from the state rather than use it to divide the good people of Nigeria. A key characteristics of voting in a strategic manner is to minimize the impact of religion in making a decision on whether to vote for a particular candidate or not. Politicians use religion
as a veil and may not necessarily believe in what they openly profess.
Corruption: Corruption is any illegal or unethical practice that furthers one’s business or economic interests.
The problem of corruption is so endemic in the Nigerian society that both followers and leaders are guilty. To adequately solve this challenge, there is a need to retrain members of the civil service, provision of social security such defined pension scheme and other safety net for the
vulnerable. A senior civil servant will continue to collaborate with elected politicians to embezzle public funds if he/she is not sure of a good livelihood after retirement. Politicians will make winning an election a do or die affair if politics continues to be a major source of livelihood.
A vote that will reduce corruption is a vote for an individual, not a party, that has a clear idea on how to provide social security, educate people on the implications of conspicuous consumption, make public disclosure of salaries mandatory, make some positions such as councilors part time, provide safety nets for the vulnerable and create an insurance that will pool resources together to cater for health care, maternity leave and unemployment (loss of a job as result of restructuring or end of contract). Another technique is the automation of most government activities because it will
reduce face-to-face interactions which most of the time allows the government agent to exercise monopoly power and the use of discretion which are pre-requisites for the collection of bribes.
Processes and procedures: The lack of well-defined processes and procedures created a political environment where people join political parties based on selfish interest instead of ideology. Even though the parties have standards on paper they are never implemented because the people in charge have their own hidden agenda. As a result of this situation, I suggest that electorates should vote for ideas, as seen in a
candidate, with clearly defined steps towards meeting the strategic goals of the country. For example, a leader who wants to reform education should have an idea on how to improve the test scores of students in the sciences at secondary school certificate and enunciate steps that will lead to the publication of scholarly articles by faculty members with approaches that will enable knowledge translation and transfer. As I mentioned earlier, the building of schools is not as important as the processes and procedures that will improve the quality of education.
Finally, I implore the electorate to vote for an indivisible Nigeria because there is power in diversity.
Eritrea separated from Ethiopia in 1993 but it didn’t make the citizens better off. South Sudan also gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but there are still issues up till now among the people that formerly believed stakeholders thought would live together peacefully because of their common religion and race.
*Dr. Bamidele Adekunle @ UoG/RU, ON, Canada. Email: badekunl@uoguelph.ca

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