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Youth power: Ballot vs Bullet By Martins Onyeike

Nigerian voters

Permit me to start this piece with a quote by popular American architect, author and designer, Richard Buckminster Fuller which reads thus:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Considering the precarious situation we find ourselves as a nation, there is no doubt that the task confronting us is quite a herculean one, it is however not insurmountable. As the clamour and agitations for electoral reforms go on unabated, we should also keep striving to reconstruct our mannerisms. At the moment, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock being the system that is skewed towards all forms of electoral malpractices and the hard place being the difficult choices before us. Like I say all the time; if you are not a part of the solution, then you are definitely a part of the problem.

Let me take your minds on a short trip into the not-too distant past: THE END SARS CAMPAIGN. That historic mini-revolution shook Nigeria to its very foundations and for fear of its further escalation, young mercenaries were drafted in to infiltrate that noble cause. The looting, brigandage and arson that culminated into a total breakdown of law and order gave some sort of legitimacy to the decision of the authorities to clamp down on otherwise peaceful protesters. The moral of that episode is that only the youths can stop the youths.

For those of us conversant with sciences; Newton’s third law of motion states that for every force, there is an equal and opposite force. That law was practically put into application; using miscreants, street urchins and uninformed elements in the society, who uncoincidentally, are also youths. Lest I forget, the first anniversary of that landmark event came up just a few days ago and I would like to use this opportunity to remember all those who paid the supreme price. May their souls rest in peace.

This highlighted scenario gives enough evidence to the fact that the powers to decide the fate and destiny of Nigeria lies solely in the hands of the youths. It is either we are unaware of that or we have willingly been subdued by the shenanigans of the system. This is neither the time to play the ostrich nor the time to sit on the fence. Rather, the hour has come to create a new model that will automatically extinct the current order. After all, only a fool keeps repeating a process over and over again while expecting a different outcome.

As veritable a tool as the social media is for dissemination of information and networking, in actuality; elections are never won and lost on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp or Instagram. Those who get the constitutional mandate to govern us emerge at the polling units. How we prefer the option of spending four years of our lives cursing, lamenting and pouring invectives on leaders we didn’t elect or make attempts not to elect really boggles the mind. Does it not make more sense spending a few hours at the polling units to exercise one’s franchise? Your guess is as good as mine.

Did I hear someone say our votes do not count? This erroneous notion is a tool deployed by devious politicians to perpetuate themselves in power. If our votes do not truly count, why do you think politicians expend millions and even billions of looted funds on buying votes during elections? At the eleventh hour, you find them pandering to the people’s emotions. They offer you a few stipends and some grains of rice that can’t conveniently feed a small family unit for 2 days and subsequently get back on their high horses after the results are announced. Technically, even the votes we refuse to cast counts at the end of the day…I’ll tell you how.

Pay attention to the picture I’m trying to paint here. A polling unit has 50 registered voters and due to the perennial issue of voters apathy, only 10 voters come out to exercise their franchise on election day; what do you think happens to the remaining 40 unused ballot papers? Forgive me for asking such a rhetorical question. These same unscrupulous politicians and their party agents, in connivance with compromised electoral officials simply thumbprint those ballot papers in their favour. Either ways, it’s a win-win situation for the politicians and a lose-lose for the citizenry.

According to the official demographics from the 2019 general elections as released by INEC, a whopping 51.11% of the 84 million registered voters fall within the threshold age range of 18 to 35 years. A further 29.97% is constituted by the middle age voters under the bracket of 35 to 50 years. These figures are staggering to say the least. Putting this data in proper perspective, over 80% of registered eligible voters are 50 years and below. That amounts to a huge chunk of any active population. Therefore, that vigor and exuberance must be used as a conduit to circumvent the barricades before us.

As long as politics remain a game of numbers, it would be foolhardy to underestimate the potential impact of this aggregate on decision-making. Not minding the dubious nature of our electoral system, I make bold to say that this army of young voters can effortlessly carry out a democratic coup d’etat the day we choose to rise. That voter’s card either in your wallet or gathering up dust somewhere in your closet shouldn’t merely be seen as a means of identification or utility tool for carrying out banking transactions, it is the only weapon with which you can fight tyranny, mediocrity, oppression and leadership ineptitude.

The fast approaching general elections in 2023 presents us a fresh opportunity to make our voices heard. It is pertinent to state that no election is inconsequential. By default, we tend to place more priority on the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections because of the razzmatazz usually associated with those contests but the decisions that affect us the most are made at a lower echelon of the leadership ladder. In a nutshell, the importance of having capable hands as councillors, local govt chairpersons and state legislators cannot be over-emphasised.

Responsible leadership at the grassroots level is the bedrock on which great societies are built. Hence, the competence or otherwise of our representatives at the basement goes a long way in determining our collective future, as governance in this clime follows a bottom-top trajectory. The time to dust up those voters’ cards and start putting them to use cannot be more appropriate than the next election cycle.

“To complaints of a job poorly done, one often hears the excuse, ‘I am not responsible.’ I believe that is literally correct. The man who takes such a stand in fact is not responsible; he is irresponsible. ”

The quote above by late U.S Naval Officer, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover perfectly inclines with the type of leadership we are currently devilled with as a nation, but the onus not to repeat such a grave mistake, come 2023 lies on the choices we make with our thumbs. Enough of this irresponsible, rudderless, buck passing and bloodthirsty leadership. History will not remember us for good reasons if we fail to bequeath a better nation to the next generation. Verily, the ballot is more lethal that any bullet.


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One comment

  1. Very enriched information!!!

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