When you go out of the house on saturday to get accredited, what will be on your mind? I suggest that you think about the last 12 years. In 12 years, this country has earned $420 billion from oil sales, but Nigeria doesn’t look it one little bit. Where do I start? Is it power? Is it roads? Is it security? Is it our do-nothing National Assembly who are among the highest paid legislators anywhere in the world? Is it the fact that over 60% of our budget goes to paying of salaries of government officials when only 6% goes to education? 5% to health? Is it the huge number of Special Advisers, Special Assistants, Senior Special Assistants, Ministers of State, that make the cost of government astronomical without adding any value? Is it the fact that our excess crude account that totaled $27 billion in 2007 is virtually finished now? Is it the 80% or more of Nigerian children who cannot pass English and/or math?
After 12 years of democracy, Nigeria is 142nd out of 169 on the UN’s Human Development Index for 2010. Let me put it in context: ALL the countries in the Arab world that are undergoing upheavals right now rank higher than us. For example, Libya’s life expectancy is 74, ours is 46. In a relative sense, the people of the Arab world have less to complain about than we do, yet they chose revolution to remove their governments. We have the chance for our own revolution on saturday. A revolution of the thumb, a revolution of the ballot box. If you have ever complained about anything in the last 12 years, it makes no sense to vote for the same party that has had control of the legislature, majority of the governors and the Presidency for 12 years without doing even a tenth of what was possible for the populace. In Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, they have overt, brutal, sit-tight regimes. What we have here is far more insidious. Nigeria is a country run on patronage, on proximity to the ruling party. A few of the names change, but the kingmakers, the vested interests remain. Until their hold over our politics is broken by we the people, at the ballot box, our country will not attain it’s full potential. The youth population in this country is equal to the populations of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya combined. Nothing but rapid economic growth, an enabling environment for ideas and a sound educational system comparable with the best in the world will satisfy 100 million young people.
However, we have not had this up till now. So, does the electorate persist with the same crop of people who have failed so far? Albert Einstein said: ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result’. I prefer to call what many Nigerians are suffering from ‘Stockholm’s syndrome‘, where a hostage forms an emotional bond with a captor because of a few acts of kindness, for example marginally better electricity supply or a reduction in fuel scarcity. Then there’s also this school of thought that says: ‘don’t vote for the party, vote for the man’. Can a President fundamentally go against what his party, the party on whose platform he realised his ambition, stands for? Does anyone really, truly believe that?
I don’t know who you’re going to vote for, but what I do know is any party that has frittered away such a quantum of resources for more than a decade should not return to the centre.