Why The Presidential Elections Don’t Matter As Much As You Think
The short answer: because this is a democracy.
The long answer: because this is a democracy and not a monarchy and there are multiple arms of government.
Let me paint a picture for you, citizens.
Let’s take road building and creation. You want good roads. The President does not fix roads. But let’s say he makes that a priority. He selects a minister to head the Ministry of Works and submits this person’s name to the NASS for screening and approval. Simple enough, right?
But what if he nominates an incompetent, dishonest person? Well, that’s why your Senate screens and approves. If they let an incompetent person slip through, they have failed you. You should call them out on it.
Let’s assume that the minister starts out good and then turns bad later on. They give him a budget and he shares it via dud contracts to his cronies. What happens? Well, your Senate can summon him to defend his job. If investigations prove it, he should be fired, arrested and tried in a court of law. Again, your Senate has that job of checking and balancing.
Let’s say he’s not corrupt. Let’s say that his hands are genuinely tied by limited resources. The Senate can approve budget increases for him. His ministry can be given access to more funding. Again, the Senate approves/rejects all this.
Citizens, these scenarios are pretty simplistic but they represent a good idea of how powerful your Senate is. They have committees dedicated to the minute workings of the goverment. They get allowances to sit on these committees. They get constituency allowances that run into hundreds of millions per year. These allowances are meant to develop their constituencies. Some fix roads, some drill bore holes, some sponsor school buses. Most spend a pitiful minority of that money on their constituencies. The rest goes into their own pockets or to political godfathers.
The Senate should provide a check/balance system for the government. But they are often compromised. How will a Senator find the Minister of Works guilty of cronyism if one of said cronies helped put the Senator in office? These things happen, we know. But why is it so prevalent?
Someone told me of how her mother spent her retirement money campaigning for a Senatorial seat on the platform of one of the minority parties. At the last moment, the sitting Senator of that district brought 50M to the governor and jetted back to Abuja. That was it. He won by a landslide.
Ask yourself if you know the name of your Senator. Do you know the name of your senatorial candidates? Have they appeared on radio or TV talkshows to discuss their plans for nation building? Do they have manifestos?
We make it too easy for them, citizens. We don’t know, we don’t care, we don’t call for their heads on platters when they misbehave. We don’t know them or what they do. We let them fly under the radar while we focus on the presidency and governors. We let them get away with incompetence and corruption. Where are their certificates? What standards do we hold them to?
Tomorrow, we will go and vote. We have aligned ourselves with the various Presidential candidates, for better or for worse. I have little faith in either of the majority parties’ candidates. They have both run impressive, energetic campaigns, no doubt and I want to believe it’s due to an evolution in our democracy. In addition to rallies, they have held debates and answered our questions via traditional and social media. Our tolerance for slip-ups by the Presidency is low, and they have recognized that and tried to play to our tastes. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress.
The time has come for our Senators, our Representatives, our Local Government Chairmen to feel the heat as well. To feel the need to constantly engage us on their plans, manifestos and ideas. A day must come when we will guard our senatorial votes as jealously as we guard our gubernatorial and presidential votes. A day when we demand their certificates, too. A day when we “stan” for our candidates and debate for them as vehemently as we debate for our preferred presidential candidate. And we should. They are our Representatives in this governance matter.
Even if it’s too late to get the necessary info to make an informed choice at the polls tomorrow, let’s keep an eye on the Senators and Representatives for the next 4 years so we can call them to order when needed. Our political awareness shouldn’t end after the elections. Let us keep discussing politics, our elected leaders, their policies and their agendas. Let us not lose momentum. Let us keep the political conversations going, whether or not our candidates win. Nigeria, we hail thee.