In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen – Justice Louis Brandeis
Once again we have managed to out do ourselves at this democracy business in Nigeria.
Governor Segun Oni who has been in office for 21 months as Governor of Ekiti managed to defeat Kayode Fayemi by around 4000 votes in the rerun elections.
To my mind this is the most bizarre aspect of everything that went on in Ekiti before, during and after the elections.
A simple question needs to be asked of Gov Segun Oni; why in the world do you want to continue as governor of Ekiti state?
Having been aided and abetted by gun wielding senators and all manner of thugs and hooligans, he managed to win the rerun held in 10 local government areas.
No point going over the sideshow that the dissapearing Mrs Adebayo turned out to be…. the blame goes to whoever decided that it was a good idea to put a 74year old in charge of what had already promised to be a very volatile election.
There’s no doubt that we have a serious problem with the quality of leadership available in Nigeria today.
Other than money, there doesnt appear to be a prerequisite for aspiring to elected office in Nigeria today…..if you dont have loads of money, it’s impossible to run for office in Nigeria.
No one denies that 21 months is not enough to turn around a state. Certainly even a miracle worker cant achieve that.
But in 21 months you can show the people the stuff you are made of.
In 21 months, you can put in place plans that show you have an idea where you are taking the state to.
In 21 months you can win the battle of ideas and successfully familiarise the people with who you are and what you stand for.
In 21 months any serious governor should not be winning an election by 4000 votes.
Governors in Nigeria are very powerful people by virtue of the quiet and deliberate devolution of power to the states over the 10 year life of our current democracy.
Until EFCC recently, governors could practically get away with anything they did in office as the Nigerian state had no powers to hold them accountable.
A governor is even immune from prosecution as a result of section 308 of the 1999 constitution.
Mercifully, a governor can now be removed from office by an election tribunal where irregularities have been found with the election that brought him to power.
But no one seems to have bothered to articulate what exactly is the responsiblity of an elected official.
We have been operating our democracy without any meaningful or defined standard for our leaders.
Recently, former President Obasanjo was reported to have said he wasnt elected president to repair roads and/or provide electricity.
As cynical as it may seem, he can get away with an outlandish claim like that.
What exactly were Nigerians expecting of him when he was elected president twice?
What is the contract that elected officials have with the people who elected them?
Governor Babatunde Fashola is all the rage right now among Lagosians and people all over Nigeria for the urgency and sense of purpose the man has brought with him to the job of Lagos state governor.
One thing is clear about Gov Fashola (perhaps by virtue of having worked with Bola Tinubu when he was governor); the man came into office with a plan and a vision.
But we musnt forget that Gov Fashola was a ‘happy accident’ for Lagosians.
Lagosians had no clue what his pedigree was before electing him…..people basically accepted the character reference he was given by his former boss, the ex-governor.
In effect, Lagosians took a punt on him….akin to rolling the dice the first time and turning up two sixes.
He’s turned out alright….and everyone’s happy and wishing him well….but it had nothing to do with Lagosians making a judgement on him.
It was pure luck.
If a democracy is electing it’s leaders on a wing and a prayer, then we are bound to lose more than we win.
Every so often we will get a good governor or a decent senator or even a visionary president….but we will suffer each time we get it wrong.
And the job becomes harder for whoever comes in next….even if he comes with all the good intentions in the world.
A country that runs it’s democracy like a betting shop is bound to get more Segun Onis than Tunde Fasholas…..afterall the odds of winning on a gamble are always much higher than the chances of losing.
I havent been to Ekiti state since Segun Oni came to power in 2007 but from what I understand, he might as well not have been there……nobody would have noticed.
In any case, if Gov Fashola was to contest an election in Lagos state today, it’s safe to say that he would certainly win by more than 4000 votes. Q.E.D.
Not because he has fulfilled all his promises or he has built the light rail train he has promised Lagosians…..but because people are happy to follow a leader who knows where he’s going.
The election in Ekiti should not even have been a contest at all. Segun Oni could have and should have won by a country mile if he had managed to win over the people since he was sworn in the first time in May 2007.
When you consider the circumstances of his win now, it doesnt exactly fill you with hope that he’s going to improve in the remaining 2 years….but there’s no crime in hoping.
We are getting to the point now where Nigerians, we the people, need to take charge of our very own destiny.
People are getting elected into high office without having a clue as to what the job entails never mind how to go about solving the problems facing the nation.
President Yar’Adua is a prime example of this brand of leadership.
The man appears to have happened upon the leadership of the largest black nation of the world in the same way that you enter a dark room and fumble about looking for the lights.
How do we ensure that whoever is elected governor or president adheres to a minimum non-negotiable standard of performance?
How do we guarantee that the next governor of Lagos state doesnt roll back the Fashola years with a succession of bad policies?
How do we get our leaders to stay connected and true to those who elected them?
There are no easy answers to these questions but we must start from somewhere.
It’s not easy being the average Nigerian who’s mainly preoccupied with sorting out the next meal and will sell his vote to the highest bidder.
I was an election monitor in Lagos during the 2003 elections and I witnessed people sell their votes for a plate of rice and nutritionless fish.
If 21 months in office can only get you a 4000 vote majority, something’s terribly wrong.