By Mukhtar Jarmajo
With the next season of elections almost only a year away, it is important that discussions begin on the need for more credible elections in the country. While the electoral czar, INEC, has a major role to play in this regard, political parties, as well as the electorate, must be reminded that they also have significant roles to play in Nigeria’s attempt at consolidating its democracy. And because an election is more of a process than an event, the expectation is that the Mahmud Yakubu led INEC has been on its toes since the end of the last elections season in preparation for the next one.
As for the political parties, it is very conspicuous that most of them are not doing anything towards institutionalization. They have continued to remain mere platforms on which politicians clinch on only to ride to power. But it is time the political parties are reminded that they are institutions of democracy and therefore must be placed on ideologies and principles in the name of a greater and prosperous Nigeria. There has to be internal democracy in the political parties as that will set the threshold for credible elections.
When primary elections are free and fair, popular and competent aspirants will be given the opportunity to fly the flag of their respective political parties. And by that, the electorate will be presented with good options to choose from and give a mandate to. The electorate in Nigeria hardly votes on the basis of the competence of candidates. Mostly, sentiments are attached to the decisions on who to vote for and who not to vote for. And in most cases, winners emerge either through protest votes rather than popular votes or through votes garnered from religious, ethnic or regional sentiments.
Mass enlightenment campaign is therefore needed to deal with this intractable attitude. And in fact, more of it is needed in Bauchi state where competence counts least in the criteria of who to vote for as governor. Thus as the 2023 elections inch nearer, when the electorate in the state will have the choice to either return the serving governor or pick another one, it is important that discussions on the kind of governor we need are provoked.
And in doing this, the first thing to observe is the problems the people in the state are facing. Primarily, the people are perceiving the miasma of hopelessness owing to the back-breaking toil that is caused by an unhealthy economy. Most of the past governors of the state did virtually nothing towards bettering its economy. And the present one is also doing the same. There is no rocket science in all this and therefore nothing is difficult to comprehend.
Economics is simply about production and consumption. If a people are productive, they will have a good life with all their aspirations met. And on the contrary, if they are only consumers, they will live an unhappy life with all their hopes dashed. By a recent count, only Alind Cables amongst the state owned factories is working. Bauchi Fertilizer Company, Bauchi Meat Factory, Bauchi Furniture Company, Bauchi Asbestos, Misau Ceramics, Steyr Nigeria Limited, Zaki Flour, Trumpeter Printing and Publishing Company and many others have been moribund for so long.
Consequently, the state is not productive with economic activities at their lowest ebb. Internally Generated Revenue is therefore nothing to write home about. This is profoundly the reason why the state depends largely on federal allocation to pay salaries and execute some policies and programs. And with uncertainties in the global economic politics characterised by the novel Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government, which depends mostly on proceeds from crude oil sales, may not be able to continuously feed the state with enough funds.
Therefore, if Bauchi state is to attain higher thresholds of development, the thinking at the power corridors must be one that is tilted towards economic growth. The governor must be one who knows that they have a micro-economy to manage. All the moribund factories in the state must as a matter of fact and urgency be resuscitated to improve economic activities in the name of economic emancipation.
Jarmajo can be reached via [email protected]