Without doubt, we are into the final lap of what must be the most hotly contested general election in our nation’s history and one that many would consider to be a pivotal moment. To many, the match is between the incumbent ruling government, the People Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition coalition of All Progressive Congress (APC). To some the choice is between General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) and Dr. Goodluck Ebere Jonathan (GEJ), whilst to others it is between maintaining status quo or change. But I want to put it to you that this election is not about PDP or APC. Why? For usually in any contest, the winner is the one with the better skills, strategy, funds and luck even. But in an election, the winner or loser is decided not by the contending parties but by the audience or in this case the voters. For in a democracy, we, the person more literally, have the power to decide who wins or lose, who to serve us as our government and who to serve us as the opposition for the next 4 years. This election is really about us, the voters, being able to exercise our democratic right to vote in a free and fair election.
More than ever before, if we are registered voters, we must vote in the February general election. If you are still undecided or unconvinced if you should vote, let me offer you 5 reasons why you MUST vote in this election. Going beyond our right, it is also our duty as a responsible citizen to vote. Choosing not to vote is like a family member who chooses not to take out the trash in the house but then complained about the stench, or who chose not to participate in the decision-making process of repainting the family house but gripes about the colour chosen. We lose our right to complain about the state of affairs in this country when we choose not to vote when we can.
It doesn’t matter if you are the Senator or a labourer, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, as long as you are a Nigerian above 18years, with no criminal record and are of sound mind, you have one vote each. That is the beauty of democracy; everyone is truly equal at the ballot box. In this way, in a functioning democracy, this system ensures that the rights of the masses are protected and the rich and powerful cannot exploit the system to their advantage. If we don’t realize this fact and allow the rich and powerful to buy our votes or to bully us into voting for them, then we don’t have a democracy.
A friend of mine once said, “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” There is truth in that observation. Perhaps we are where we are as a nation is because we have given the keys of power to the same group for the past 16years and they have gotten drunk with power to the point that they don’t feel the need to be accountable to us anymore. We need to remind them who are the real boss in a democracy. We want to hold our government accountable, be it PDP or APC.
In any general elections we are voting for a government that would carry us into the next four years of their term. But in February 14th 2015, perhaps for the first time ever we have a viable alternative government. The choice for us is clear, we either vote for more of the same or vote for change. If we are dissatisfied with the way our country has been managed and believe that things should be better, then this is our chance to vote for change. We are not voting for our own comfort but for all our children. But before we make our choice, it is imperative that we find out for ourselves the vision of the future. American journalist Tony Snow said, “Voting is a right best exercised by people who have taken time to learn about the issues. So the choice is for us to make, save the future generation or be part of a failed generation. Even the incumbent president has admitted the fact that his own generation has failed, possibly he meant the PDP generation of leaders, which will surely be judged right come February 14th 2015.
The result of PDP’s political hegemony over the last 15years is that the ills confronting us are systemic, i.e. part of the system. Corruption, abuse of power, violations of human rights, racial discrimination and intimidation are part and parcel of life in Nigeria. Is PDP capable of reform? One just has to look at the fate of former Bayelsa state governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and you will surely have a valid answer towards PDP willingness to fight corruption.
The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men. If we don’t use our vote to bring about systemic change, I fear that our children one day, in desperation, will have to spill their blood on the streets to bring about that change. So is time to be part of history, hurry and get your voters card, defy all olds, ensure you vote come February 2015, Nigeria can’t afford to fail again.
Comrade Ahmed Omeiza Lukman wrote in from Kiev, Ukraine.