Daily Trust Dialogue: Oby Ezekwesili weeps for Nigeria’s lost empathy

Former minister for education Oby Ezekwesili wept for Nigeria on Thursday over its citizens’ losing empathy they need to stand as a nation.

She broke down in tears over tragedies suffered by countless Nigerians in the past, from the Civil War to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram last April.

“How could we pick up and move on?” she asked.

“All agitations of being marginalised somehow never seemed to have persuaded Nigerians until Jos practically began to go up in smoke.”

She said the same lack of empathy characterised the growth of Boko Haram insurgency, which intensified with widespread bombings and the Chibok Girls kidnapping.

“Now our own military repels what started off as ragtag insurgency who, when their effect was not being felt in the whole of Nigeria, expanded their attack.”

“The ease with which citizens look away, refusing to be drawn into matters that they consider other people’s problem…is an acceptance of the Equal Opportunity to Suffer Syndrome.”

Speaking on the theme “2015 Elections: How To Make Nigeria The Winner”, Ezekwesili said, Nigeria has been winning by successful transitions in the past, but it was time for Nigerians themselves to win.

“It is time for the people to win. In the 54 years of fighting to control power, it is time to change that paradigm,” she said.

“Hello to the 70m citizen winners of the 2015 elections. You are more powerful than you look but that only happens when you make informed decisions.”

 Below is the full text of the speech she made:

2015 ELECTIONS: HOW TO MAKE NIGERIA THE WINNER.

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

This quote by one of America’s greatest Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt elaborates the theme of this year’s annual Daily Trust. 2015 ELECTIONS: HOW TO MAKE NIGERIA THE WINNER. That the issue of focus is the Elections– a process through which Democratic Governments are formed is very instructive. That it is only one form of political system — Democracy– that respects the the right of citizens to choose their rulers is remarkable. No wonder Churchill considered it the least worst alternative against all other options when he stated , “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

The distinguishing feature of democratic governance explains why President Roosevelt so unequivocally subordinated all who derive legitimacy from the vote of citizens under them because while their office may be high, it is in fact from the “office of the citizen” that they acquire their “delegated authority”. This quintessential feature of Democracy is reflected in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948 that “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

Thus even before Nigeria became an independent nation in 1960, the world had already framed “genuine elections” as an indicator of any country’s adherence to the highest standard of Governance. Like all other nations therefore, Elections in Nigeria when they have been conducted are forms of choosing representatives to the Nigerian federal government and the various states and local governments as the case may be. Whether it was under a Parliamentary system of government in the 1960’s or a Presidential system of government in the 1980s until now, our elections in Nigeria have reflected our federal structure. As a Presidential system, we as citizens of Nigeria elect the President and a federal legislature with two chambers at the federal level. 

At a more localised constituency level, we collectively vote for 360 members of the lower chamber known as House of Representatives. We elect 109 members of the upper house known as the Senate which has three senators representing each of our 36 states in the federation plus the single senator for the Federal Capital Territory. The residents of each of the 36 states have elections to elect governors of their states and the members of their state’s houses of assembly. The federation is divided into 774 local governments which conduct their elections to elect chairpersons and council lord under a different and separate from the electoral cycle of the 2015 Elections of our focus. Nigeria operates a multi party system and so although two strong parties now straddle the country with broad membership the 2015 elections has fourteen parties fielding candidates for the Presidential elections. 

Elections are the means by which in modern representative democracy, citizens are given the opportunity to make the formal decision making process of who to choose from among those who seek to gain legitimacy to lead in public office from the rest of society. Elections are not an end in themselves but merely a means to an end. Election although a process is an activity or an event with an extremely short time span. However, the outcome it produces is the end and ideally should be democratic governance that citizens installed through the exercise of their votes. To stretch the idealism, such democracy ought to produce the kind of future that the voters conjured in their minds when they respectively made the decision of whom to choose from among those that posited themselves capable of solving their common problems collectively. 

The history of democratic elections in Nigeria is tumultuous and our record less than sterling. Although the first election by the entity called Nigeria was held in 1923 through the Clifford constitution of 1922, I would rather focus history on the independence (1960) elections which held in 1959 through to the one of 1964/65 leading up to military coup of 1966 and the civil war in 1967. From 1967 up until 1970 when the war ended Nigeria was under military rule. The next democratic elections was the 1979 transition to democracy which was followed by the 1983 elections and then another military truncation that led to two successive military governments until the 1993 transition to democracy and the elections that were shockingly annulled, robbing then first time voters like yours sincerely our voting rights. Next was an interim national government that was displaced by yet another military intervention which viciously ensconced itself in power lasting until the 1999 elections. Since the 1999 transition, Nigeria has held three more elections without interruption in 2003, 2007 and 2011. For the period of fifty four years of our independence therefore, Nigeria has conducted 9 Presidential elections with varying degrees of completion of their tenures.

More striking is that for the 54 years of our independence we have had three cycles of democratic governance of the 60s ( 1959-66), of the 70s ( 1979-1983) and of the 90’s (1999- date). With the first two cycles being an average of five years it was only since 1999 that the culture of Democratic elections and uninterrupted transitions are becoming entrenched as the means of determining governments in Nigeria. In many ways therefore, we can say that Nigeria which was once legendary and globally reproached for interrupting its democracy through aberrant military adventurism has in the nearly two decades since 1999 reordered its ways by subordinating the military to the constitution. Even in moments of vulnerability and uncertainty, our military has learned that the era of military adventure in the governance of our country is permanently over not just because of the standard of the rest of the world that we have signed on to through sub regional, regional and global treaties but because WE the citizens have resolutely decided that Churchill was right. However rickety democratic governance may be WE choose it above any other form of governance. And so although as a country our challenges and checkered record of the quality of our elections and governments remain major source of concern, we can at least declare that since 1999 Nigeria reasonably joined the league of other countries that have embraced the global standard of a system of governance which aspires to place the citizen at the centre of governance.

Measured singularly by this yard stick of the conduct of elections and formation of democratic governments, we can say that Nigeria has been on a winning streak since 1999. Nigeria won in 2003, 2007, in 2011. Nigeria therefore could also potentially win again in 2015! 

But, what does Nigeria wining in 2015 really mean? 

When credible elections are conducted in stable polities that are matured democracies; there are certain features that are generally and inherently assumed. The key among them is that there will be a clear winner and a loser and that the latter will gallantly concede defeat by congratulating the other candidate(s). The reason is often an acceptance by the losing party that the elections were genuinely, freely, fairly and transparently conducted. The international standard of “free and fair elections” refer to elections with process and participation that suffered no shenanigans that cast a doubt on the integrity of its outcomes. Therefore, it is assumed that having equally offered the voting public the options of candidates for public office who persuaded them on their respective approaches for tackling the most pressing of priorities to the electorate, the citizens would in exercising their voting right, declare their preference for the plan of the winner of the election above that of the loser.

Another feature therefore is usually that the entire country regardless of which party wins would at the emergence of a winner, prepare themselves to head into a new era of either policy continuation, redirection or complete change depending on the the promises of the winning party. However, the public and political opponents do not disengage from public discourse of the plans of the winner after elections but rather resort to using the democratic tools of formal and informal Debates to contest those ideas and to demand accountability from the winner. The winner does not appropriate the right of citizens to demand accountability by antagonising that basic feature of Democracies. The demand for accountability is integral to the principle of delegated authority after all. No one to whom society has given the privilege of serving them can arrogate supreme authority to himself or herself for such action negate the essence of President Roosevelt’s assertion that the citizens as voters are the “ultimate rulers” in a democracy.

In such societies, the loser does not destroy the rest of society because they failed to win an election; neither does the winner and his supporters prepare themselves for a zero sum game — winner-takes-all- capture-and-abuse of the resources and institutions of the state. The winner does not act churlishly as though they were the losers who in fact are themselves expected to continue to conduct themselves with sports “woman” ship. The winner mobilises those who voted for and against his or her plan to a united society of people who though differing in the views of their common problems and solution have learnt to cherish the things that unite them above those that divide them. Hardly do we see stable polities where the existence of the country is threatened by the outcome of party elections. No. Since the turn of the millennium, it is only on our continent that we still find such destructive conducts where electoral outcomes that merely affected the political fortunes of its political elites are elevated to substantial threat to the continuing existence of their countries and citizens. It is therefore not rocket science that such ruinous electoral conducts are somehow also correlated to poorly performing economies on the global economic league table. 

It strikes me that Daily Trust worries that the 2015 elections are high risk enough to pose existential threat to Nigeria. Therefore, by asking us to dialogue on how we can avert this and make Nigeria the Winner, somehow our event today can help reduce the risks of a ruinous and destructive aftermath of our 2015 elections. 

I doubt that they are alone in this escalating fear of what we can expect from our crowd of political elite if the rising and hardening tone of their name calling and Brit brat against one another is anything to go by. The stakes are considerably high for the politicians who are in a fight to finish mode with opponents across their fences. But the stakes are patently higher for the country Nigeria which finds itself currently brittle and weaker in the spectrum that measures capable states. 

So, what would we work together to achieve in the next few days as uncertain signals that Nigeria has won in the 2015 elections? 

They would include features like the following: 

  1. That the Elections of 2015 are actually conducted and concluded with results announced according to a minimum local and international standard of having been “free and fair”. 
  2. That there are no pre-election, election and or post election violence or acts of destabilisation that threaten the tenuous in the land. Therefore that following the elections all segment of the Nigeria remain together and despite disagreements choose the path compliance with the rule of law to seek redress of electoral conflicts and grievances. 
  3. That a clear winner emerges from the electoral or judicial processes that follow with a national spread of mandate sufficient enough to make them a President of the entire Nigeria. 
  4. That the transition process for the present administration to a new one is appropriately conducted with the swearing of the new President and elected Governors of States on May 29, 2015. Also the convening of the 6th Assembly and the newly elected senators and representatives from across the country. 
  5. That the entire Nigerian populace will at the end of the electoral process choose to remain citizens of Nigeria regardless of the pull by politicians to drag the populace into their never ending squabble to “control power more than to offer service”. 

In effect, Nigeria wins should 2015 election not lead to the derailment of our fledgling but gradually consolidating practise Democracy and/ or the destabilisation of our country. The fear of these two ominous possibilities becoming reality was always common with every past election but it is considerably more accentuated with the 2015 elections. The reason is that it is the fruit of the dark seeds of the events leading up to and following after the 2011 elections. The evidence is stark that our country is going into 2015 elections with monumental security, political, economic and social vulnerabilities so much so that pessimists predict political collapse of the entity called Nigeria. The most virulent and violent insurgency by the terrorist organisation- Boko Haram exploded over the last three years worsening an already toxic post 2011 political climate. As the hapless citizens across the country looked on- dazed at how fast our already thin social capital was eroding, the Nigerian state failed woefully to mobilise and unite the populace. Rather, Nigeria found itself in a long season of politicking since the last elections in 2011 with the space for healthy dissension constricted and narrowed. The atmosphere within which Governance operated became even more lethal and the institutions grew weaker in their capacity to respond to multiple onslaughts. 

That an election squabble could sow such toxic seed of implosion to our extremely fragile cohesion was possible because of a poorly managed aftermath that was further exploited by our political elite class across all divides. What more explains the flighty nature of the selfish interest of the political elite class that heated up and polarised the polity than the fact that some of the key actors that threatened that “The North will make Nigeria ungovernable for the winner of the 2011 election” are some of his loudest campaigners for the 2015 elections? Meanwhile, objective analysis of the poor handling of the terrorist attacks in the North has an undercurrent of hesitance on the part of the 2011 winner to appraise that scourge against Nigeria — not the North— dispassionately. In statements that accuses the entire North of having resorted to self destruct simply to spite him the winner began to act not as a mobiliser and leader of ALL citizens and so the poor and vulnerable who today are most traumatised by the insecurity in that Region are the innocent casualties while the political elite continue unscathed with their “political transactions.”

The fact that all the combined political transactions of our Elite class has produced on paper, the size of the economy over the more than two decades of last count of the cumulative progress that we had made, by more than three-quarters to an estimated 80 trillion naira ($488 billion) for 2013 according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That compares with the World Bank’s 2012 GDP figures of $262.6 billion for Nigeria and $384.3 billion for South Africa. The NBS recalculated the value of GDP based on production patterns in 2010, increasing the number of industries it measures to 46 from 33 and giving greater weighting to sectors such as telecommunications and financial services. While the revised figure makes Nigeria the 26th-biggest economy in the world, the country lags in income per capita, ranking 121 with $2,688 for each citizen a dismal performance for which everyone of us who has ever been associated with leadership of Nigeria should be ashamed of such uninspiring performance. 

I repeat a comparator data that I like to share with Nigerian audiences. Empirical evidence points to poor governance –especially corruption as the biggest obstacle to the development of Nigeria. Understanding the cancerous impact of corruption helps explain how a country with the enviable potentials that are hardly available to more than other one third nations of the world; has remained at the bottom of global socio economic ladder as a laggard. Economic growth rate and ultimate development of nations are determined by a number of factors that range from sound policies, effective and efficient public and private investments and strong institutions. Economic evidence throughout numerous researches proves that one key variable that determines how fast nations outgrow others is the speed of accumulation of human capital especially through science and technology education. No wonder for these same countries by 2011- South Korea of fifty million people has a GDP of $1.12trillion, Brazil of one hundred and ninety six million has $2.48 trillion; Malaysia of twenty eight million people has $278.6Billion; Chile of seventeen million people has $248.59Billion; Singapore of five million people has $318.7 Billion. Meanwhile with our population of 165 million people we make boasts with a GDP of $488Billion- completely way off the mark that we could have produced if we made better sets of development choices.

More dramatic is that this wide gap between these nations and Nigeria was not always the case as some relevant data at the time of our independence reveal. In 1960 the GDP per capita of all these countries were not starkly different from that of Nigeria- two were below $200, two were a little above $300 and one was slightly above $500 while that of Nigeria was just about $100. For citizens, these differentials are not mere economic data. Meanwhile by 2011, the range for all five grew exponentially with Singapore at nearly $50,000, South Korea at $22,000, Malaysia at $10,000, Brazil at $13,000 and Chile at $14,000. Our own paltry $2,688 income per capita helps drive home the point that we have been left behind many times over by every one of these other countries. How did these nations steer and stir their people to achieve such outstanding economic performance over the last five decades? There is hardly a basis for comparing the larger population of our citizens clustered within the poverty bracket with the majority citizens of Singapore fortunate to have upper middle income standard of living.

And yet, each time that in their quest for presidential powers, the power elite of Nigeria engage in protracted squabbles as had happened pre and post the 2011 elections, they deviously widen the battle beyond their political parties. The current toxicity in our country overflowed from the arena of our elite and began engulfing Nigeria and Nigerians; deceitfully pulling in innocent citizens into bitter acrimonies along religious and regional lines. 

So badly did the people fall for the despoiling elite antics that Ironically, the rhetoric of decapitation of Nigeria became louder as the country headed into the centenary celebration of its amalgamation in 1914. Now with less than one month to another Presidential election in an atmosphere of gross insecurity and occupation of some of our local governments in the North East by insurgents the necessity for a cautiously managed elections and its aftermath assumes the highest priority ever. 

Elections and the squabble over their outcomes have always posed historical threats to our existence as a single entity called Nigeria. These threats are all the more shameful because they are inextricably linked not to fights among the populace but to exploitation of the same by the political elite. 

The 1964/65 and the 1993 elections stand out among the rest as having posed the higher degrees of existential threat to Nigeria because political elite whipped up deep primordial divisions to fan the embers of their own political interests. One of those times the threat played out so dramatically and tragically; ultimately resulting in the 1960s pogrom that led to the death of over one million people in Eastern Nigeria, and loss of lives of key political actors across our land. Nigeria’s existential threat sadly cost so many lives that many consider the needless blood that flowed as spiritually crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel whose brother Cain murdered continues to cry out according to the Bible. 

The failure to seize on the lessons of the Civil war to chart a path for Nigeria’s rite of passage from country to nation was the failure of political elite class all over again. How could a people simply pick up and move on from such a genocidal scale of tragedy and learning absolutely nothing from the multiple errors that triggered the pogrom? How could we not have frittered our most momentous opportunity to discuss openly our fears of living together in a Nigeria that won at the cost of massive blood letting of the innocent? We not only did miss a bloodied but golden opportunity but we actively disallowed any open lamentation of the lasting anguish etched on the memories of those who bore them. So the Igbo people of the East learned to live in the country called Nigeria hugging their pain to themselves. At the risk of being excoriated for both “playing victim” and yet wanting to “dominate others” some have openly grieved and wondered how the rest of Nigeria could deny them empathy to their deepest pains. 

Then the 1993 election aftermath became the turn of the people of the West to suffer what many still call the worst electoral theft in the history of elections in Nigeria. The annulment of that election drove the country into multiple timelines and tranches of crises that culminated in the death of the winner, the exiling of many of the advocates for his cause which were mainly people of the same region with a sprinkle of people like yours sincerely from other regions, the repression and threats visited on the people of the South West. While all that lasted, all other regions mostly looked on and moved on even though most of them had in fact voted the protagonist in that adjudged free and fair election that bucked the religious, ethnic and regional divisions. The ingrained attitude of “it is the turn of the Yoruba’s to suffer their own pepper” fertilised the grudging deficit that ultimately saw to the ascension of the Presidency after several years of the most repressive military rule and divine intervention. 

In between all the historical landmarks of our political history, we had the South South in severe agitation deriving from the agony they felt that their region was neglected despite it being the zone from which “oil rent” was generated for the upkeep of the federation. That the rest of Nigeria failed to empathise at the pain that environmental devastation and poor translation of the share of the rent into local development was doing to the Niger Delta was yet another case of “let them suffer their pain. Where were they when we also were crying?” Not even the brutality visited on Ken Saro Wiwa who to his eternal credit would be considered the one who died that his region may live elicited the kind of empathy that neighbours who are not even friends show to one another in moments of tragedy. Everyone simply moved on as we managed to find ways to pacify the people of the South South in order to continue rummaging the deep wells in their communities. 

How about our kindred from the Middle Belt. All the agitations of being marginalised that their vocal leaders of clans used to cry out about as I grew into adulthood, somehow never seemed to have persuaded the rest of Nigeria. It was not until a once globally regarded City of Jos- a home to anyone who loved its peace and serenity – tragically began to go up in smokes – that the rest of the country began trying to understand “what are those Non-Muslim Northers always complaining about sef?”. Feeling no desire to carry the burden of guilt for not having bothered to care all that time in the 80s and 99s that they were increasingly sounding aggrieved, we looked away and move on clutching on to our empathy milk lest it be used on those who showed us none, 

And then came along the 2011 elections aftermath mingled with the imploding effect of institutional corruption that made it possible for a once capable Nigerian military and security establishment to weaken to the point of having just about the capacity to “repel” what began as a rag tag army of bandits. The army of insurgents exploited the divided spirit of the country and gained serious grounds physically, psychologically and began killing, maiming, destroying and abducting Christians and Churches first while others mostly looked on. As they deduced that enough damage was not being felt by the rest of Nigeria, they expanded their focus and are on the offensive against ANYONE who does not believe in the savage ideology they hold dear. The abduction of 276 (57 of whom managed to escape their abductors by rare courage leaving 219 in the enemy den) young women of Chibok community in Borno who were sent to school by poor parents hoping on them for a more promising future became our wake up call. Until their abduction, although we were all attuned to the blasts and killings, yet the level of gruesome acts that our kindred in the North East were suffering and enduring in what can aptly be described as an “invisible war” did not fully register in our imaginations. 

However when it finally did with the severity and massive scale of assaults that the insurgents are inflicting on whole communities; we in the rest of Nigeria act as far removed in space and heart as possible. Those who cannot keep their elation that the “suffering has gone full circle” would deviously make cynical comments like “Let them kill themselves naa. At least they now know what it felt like when we too were being battered”. Even with several thousands of deaths so far recorded in the North East and other parts of our Northern region, many among the rest of Nigeria simply refuse to be persuaded to invest any empathy. 

The empathy deficit — the inability to feel the pain of others– has in fact become an Art among the people of the winning entity called Nigeria. The ease with which citizens look away refusing to be drawn into matters that they regard as the “problems of others” who were not there for them while they also were in pain reaches a syndrome. I call it the acceptance of “Equal Opportunity to Suffer Syndrome”. Among the category of Nigerians of that ilk who have spent more time attacking those who believe that the Chibok Girls and the rest of the North East deserve justice not only from the Nigerian state but all of us take time to scornfully ask “na today?” It is a question that goes to the root of the circle of losses that Nigerians of all regions of a country of people who have not managed to forged a common identity can now say they have each has suffered anguish without empathy from the rest at different times even if at different scales of tragedies. 

At the various times that each region suffered, the country — a single entity called Nigeria continued to “win.” So while Daily Trust in crafting this topic, asked “How can Nigeria be the winner” and I consider it a noble desideratum but I dare say that merely wanting Nigeria to win again is not enough! Nigeria has won in the past but see where it got us! 

Nigeria’s victory has robbed the people – Nigerians- of their own victory. Of what benefit is it to a people of a country that has kept “winning” since the last 101 years and yet remains an entity that ( even after surviving the kind of genocidal civil war that mangled other countries) has failed to rise into the stature of a Nation? I want a higher order outcome from the 2015 elections and that is for Nigeria and NIGERIANS to win! The pretence of Nigeria winning in the last fifty four years has actually been the victory over the rest that the elite which adorn our country to the North, South, West and East of the country have appropriated to themselves while exploiting the alienation of Citizens to the power that President Roosevelt tells us that those who vote possess. Aristotle expanded on the supreme power of the citizens as though he had our country with 69% of our citizens in the poverty bracket in mind when he asserted “In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme”. 

So as one who is aware of the power of my voting right, here are a few of the questions I shall be seeking answers to from those who seek to lead us. Where are the leaders not rulers that are ready to sacrifice their personal pursuit of power for the PEOPLE of Nigeria? Where are the leaders not rulers that do not judge other Nigerians on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, language, geography, economy, status, political and philosophical ideology? Where are the leaders not rulers that are dedicated to the common cause if the poor of this land understanding that the indignity of poverty is common denominated regardless of the region, the faith or the tongue that the impoverished speak? Where are the leaders not rulers who are angry at the implosive effect of corruption on our mores, our institutions, our resources, our vision, our essence? Where are the leaders and not rulers who are strategically grieved that the rest of the world ponders at the dismal progress that a country of one of the most gregariously talented people has made when compared to its possibilities? Where are the leaders and not rulers who see the People and the free rent from oil, gas and minerals as the real endowment that will take Nigeria to the top of the economic league tables? Where are the leaders and not rulers that will not only send high sounding tributes to the historical Nelson Mandela and quote Martin Luther King in speeches without learning a thing or two from them? Where are the leaders and not rulers who will at the end of the 2015 elections grow in stature not in posture to mobilise ALL Nigerians to openly discuss our pains, failures and hopes and to disagree and then agree without feeling judged? Where are the leaders that are finally ready to lead us into that long postponed journey from country to nation? 

As citizens ponder their choices for the 2015 elections we must think of ourselves for a change! The people of Nigeria should be THE WINNERS of the 2015 elections. This must be a free and fair and well conducted election in which their free choice determined the people that will lead them. 

To do so intelligently therefore, the people of Nigeria must persist in demanding that all the candidates that seek their votes should DEBATE a number of most pressing issues that will determine the path that the country will thread in the next four years and foreseeable future. 

As a citizen who is part of a civil society that straddles all persuasions, demography and geography I lay out some of the pillars of the New Nigeria on which many of us citizens would like to hear those who seek to receive our mandate to lead and not rule us after the 2015 elections elaborate on the following six critical pillars for building a nation out of a country: 

  1. A Nigeria GOVERNED strictly by adherence to the Rule of Law and the constitution.
  2. A SECURE AND PEACEFUL NIGERIA with ABIDING TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. 
  3. A Nation of CITIZENS RESOLVED TO WORK TOWARD an inclusive society through UNITY IN DIVERSITY.
  4. A Nation of STRONG, TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE INSTITUTIONS FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE. 
  5. An ECONOMICALLY PROSPEROUS NATION OFFERING EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO ALL CITIZENS TO THRIVE, COMPETE, CONTRIBUTE AND SHARE IN ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT. 
  6. A NATION THAT NEGOTIATES A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT BETWEEN CITIZENS AND THE STATE.
  7. A NATION THAT EVOLVES AND ADOPTS ITS OWN TOOLS OF SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CITIZENS PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNANCE. 

Citizens by listening to candidates who can persuade us on how they plan to mobilise Nigerians and our networks of support around the world to evolve a society with the six features. The culture of Debating and Contesting ideas in healthy tolerance of dissension should have taken root immediately after our independence elections of 1959. We failed to learn that at the heart of a diverse society are differences that do not have to be life threatening if properly managed. It is now time for Citizens of Nigeria to activate their own Offices– the Office of the Active Citizen — and to lead our journey toward becoming a country of diverse people who choosing to live together became a nation by demanding that any who seek to lead us must convince us of how they plan to make US and not just Nigeria – the entity– the Winner. According to Ibrahim Mohammed (2008), the survival of a nation depends on the good its leadership can bring to bear on the people of the nation. In his opinion, no nation is guaranteed continuous existence if her citizens wallow in abject poverty especially if such a nation is identified as having the potential human and material resources that guarantee greatness.

Bringing all these into our session today, what President Roosevelt suggests by his assertion that the outcome of every democratic election should place the people that voted for their leaders in a position so dominant that they cannot in any way be losers. How can one who chose a winner possibly become a loser? In the ideal, well conducted elections should throw up the best candidates that have demonstrated though their message, their character, their vision, their priority issues of zealous focus that they are well aware of the deepest problems that their people are most eager to solve that they are winners even if they should lose elections. In effect, in ALL the 2015 elections Nigerians can produce winners who are close reflections of the way that those that WE who voted them would solve the problems of the Nigerian society where WE to be the ones directly tackling those problems. That is the symbiosis of Democratic relationship between those that vote and those they voted for and gave legitimacy for their actions. “Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.”

Plato said and President Roosevelt concludes “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.

Education. Yes. Voter education devoid of primordial leanings. Those leanings made the political elite and not Nigerians the Winners. Citizens do not have a long time to educate themselves on the issues as the elections are already upon us. Yet, there is enough time for our Media of which Daily Trust is a player to redirect the energies of the candidates of the 2015 elections at all levels of federal and state political contests to the issues that would make not just Nigeria but Nigerians THE WINNERS of the 2015 elections. 

As Aristotle said “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men (and women) of property, are the rulers. Hello to 70 million Citizen-Winners of the 2015 elections! You are more powerful than you had ever known!!

Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili 

12th Daily Trust Dialogue

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