Taking a Break for the Polls, by Hassan Gimba

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Hassan Gimba

The Arbiter

This is the last time I will be writing on national issues till after the elections. Our politics has become too personal and more of a do-or-die affair. Perhaps due to poverty, or ignorance, or selfish interest, or all, we have become too hypocritical. We have elevated support to hero worship and we never believe in “what’s good for the goose should equally be good for the gander”.

There is no way you can write on the state of the nation without being seen to be attacking a particular candidate or rooting for the other.  Not many people support or withhold support based on patriotism. Our saving grace now is that the two leading presidential candidates come from the same region – even if different tribes – and profess the same religion. Generally the Nigerian supports a candidate based on religion or region.

Writings, especially in the social media sphere, have turned into diatribes and not debates on merits and demerits of candidates. Comprising mostly “copy and paste’ materials, they lack depth and originality. They are full of hate speech and crass accusations and allegations that stupefy the sensible.

We behave like an unserious people living in an unserious country. Parents in Tunisia took to the streets just last week to protest teachers’ strike, chanting “The future of our children is a red line” but here, parents are busy hurling insults at one another on behalf of candidates whose children have schooled or are schooling comfortably abroad, while their children’s future is in the back seat of the politicians’ agenda.

Even the students themselves meet candidates without raising the issue of their being stuck at home. Instead, they heap insults on their lecturers and rival candidates. And the candidates, rather than rebuke them, actually clap for them and dole out to them chicken change in the quest to receive support.

As long as we do not hold our leaders accountable for their deeds and misdeeds, and see whatever they do as right once they are ‘our own’, we will never get anywhere as a nation. We must be bold enough to tell them when right that right is right and when wrong that wrong is wrong. Nigeria is all that should matter.

Anyone who roots for a candidate because he and the candidate are from the same area or share the same religion, and not because of competence and performance is just as unpatriotic as he who withholds support because of differences in those factors.

The type of governance systems we have been practising, from the Parliamentary to the Presidential,  have contributed in further dividing us and making our elected leaders cling to power by all means. The systems are alien to our culture and nature.

Not only is the political model in operation alien to our roots, our culture, tradition and beliefs but it also breeds selfishness on the part of those elected. The system exults in the ‘winner takes all syndrome’ which is not only foreign to our value systems but also unacceptable in the eyes of God.

It is high time we began looking for a home grown system of government that would unite us by blunting our differences and giving all candidates a level playing field. Strengthening local governments and doing away with states will also attract the best – and bring governance and development – to the grassroots.

A presidium, for instance, governing the country in which all those elected into it on the platform of a political party will resign three months to election will greatly help in giving all contestants a level playing field.

This arrangement will also go a long way to liberate our Judiciary, security agencies and electoral system from the overbearing shackles of desperate (almost all of them are desperadoes, anyway) political office seekers.

The number of elected offices should be drastically reduced and their jumbo salaries and allowances trimmed to the size comparable to other countries within our economy belt. Winning an election in Nigeria is assurance, and insurance, for many privileges, and as a result politics has become the most lucrative business in town that gives instant and huge returns.

The desire for instant and easy wealth through political office accompanied by unfettered power have rendered us soulless to the extent that a political office seeker would have no qualms dismembering a fellow human for rituals just to get there.

Any nation that thrives on the physical and forgets to nurture its soul will be lost because it has no depth, just like any person that prefers outward beauty at the expense of internal grace. You know a nation with a thriving soul when it is peopled by those who, as a result of having discerning souls, have conscience.

Well, one may say, as some international media organs sometime back analysed: “but Nigerians love God”. And such people can be vindicated by the sheer number of Umrah, Hajj, Mosque, Jerusalem and Church goers.

I have a friend who once told me that for our religiosity, 95% of Nigerians pray mainly because of worldly gains. He argued that if you take a statistics of the Muslims that fast Mondays and Thursdays and are always in the mosques and find out what they pray for, you will find out that their prayers are always to get one contract or the other, get employment or promotion, build the best houses, ride the best cars, have millions in their accounts, etc.

For the Christian brothers and sisters, it’s the same. They can even tell you that “my God is not a poor God; therefore I must be rich”.

Hardly do you find these 95% praying for paradise for its sake except where the prayer, for example, says: “Oh Lord, give us in the world what is good and in the hereafter what is good”.

In shaa Allah, after elections, I will come up with a proposal for a system more in tune with our values as Nigerians, and hope it will provoke discussions towards having a more natural system of governance that can take us forward.

Meanwhile, whoever our leaders are, they must appreciate the fact that out of many, God in His infinite wisdom chose them. It must be for a purpose. The purpose definitely is not to impoverish His creation or marginalise any of them on account of any mundane reason. They must be just and fair and not vindictive or parochial in whatever guise. The leader must know that the follower is entrusted to him by God. The leader must also respect the fact that leaving worthy legacies is far better than heaping mountains of gold and silver in his vaults.

May He give us the best out of the lot.

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