Nigeria: Time to also consider our followership problem

By James Ojo Adakole

Last weekend, Nigerians, in millions, went to the polls to elect candidates of their choice into different elective offices: Presidential, Senate and House of Representatives respectively.

Beyond the usual euphoria that clothed the atmosphere- which is not out-of-place – given the significance of elections generally; it is arguable many Nigerians, the critical ones especially, really had much to be excited about.

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The two major candidates jostling for the country’s highest political office- incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar- are not new to the political terrain meaning we should not be expecting a magic, regardless of who is eventually declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

That we shouldn’t expect any magic from whoever wins the election, the presidential and other elective positions, is, to this writer, and others who may share in his opinion, a clear-cut indication that elections will not solve Nigeria’s numerous problems.

Yet it is unsettling that the Nigerian electorates have continually depend on elections and leadership generally to address their various problems. It is worrisome that after twenty years of uninterrupted democracy, Nigeria, though not without any progress, leaves much to be desired of a nation so endowed with avalanche of mineral and human resources.

Our major problem in Nigeria, this writer is of the view, does not dwell only on leadership, as many would want to argue. Chinua Achebe’s popular claim that Nigeria’s problem is squarely that of leadership, is not, in its entirety, out of place. If not for anything, we have been unfortunate as a nation that most of our leaders, since independence, are those who never see any need to better the lots of people who voted them into power, but to enrich their pockets and that of their families.

That we shouldn’t expect any magic from whoever wins the election, the presidential and other elective positions, is, to this writer, and others who may share in his opinion, a clear-cut indication that elections will not solve Nigeria’s numerous problems.

But this writer would disagree that leadership remains Nigeria’s ‘chief’ problem. Comparatively, it is arguable if our problems as a nation are those created by our leaders or those created by us, the electorates. That much discussions on Nigeria’s shambolic state still dwell on leadership, without any,  if at all, scanty mention of our followership problem shows our unpreparedness to bring about the dream Nigeria.

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Unarguably, the people remain the most important element of any democratic dispensation. Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” shows that people largely determine the tone and rhythm of leadership in a democratic rule. The age-long maxim that “the power in the people in greater than the people in power,” also demonstrates the how crucial the people are to the effective and efficient functioning of democracy.

If not for anything, we have been unfortunate as a nation that most of our leaders, since independence, are those, who never see any need better the lots of those who voted them, but to enrich their pockets and that of their families.

When the people are critical, have unity of purpose, not driven by religious, ethnic and other divisions; it would be daunting for our leaders not to carry out their electoral mandates optimally, knowing the consequence that may accompany such.

For those who love history, the knowledge bank of all ages, there are ample evidences to show how much the people matter in a democratic process. In the first place, it would be recalled that for all the promises made by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, its victory over the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have been impossible but for the fact that the people craved an alternative to PDP’s 16-year rule and the general apathy that characterized that period, caused majorly by the rising insecurity situation in the country.

Many will also not forget the 1993 election that reflected the will of the people- the fulcrum of democracy- in full glare.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria of today. Majority of Nigerian electorates today are those who are either suffering from low self-esteem, created by poverty and growing inequality between the poor and the rich or those who do not see any need to engage themselves in the process of bringing about good governance.

This scenario has made it a deadly and largely impossible mission for the few who dare to do things right. Without any scintilla of doubt, we need not be told that we can’t make headway as a nation with this mindset. Such atmosphere only makes our leaders (politicians) who are expected to be responsive to us and use state resources judiciously for the benefit of the society to demi-gods, all powerful and out-of-control.

When the people are critical, have unity of purpose, not driven by religious, ethnic and other divisions; it would be daunting for our leaders not to carry out their electoral mandates optimally, knowing the consequence that may accompany such.

It is saddening how easily some Nigerians get swayed during elections and sacrifice their conscience for monetary gains. Understandably, Nigeria has an odious stigma of widespread poverty. A recent report by report by Brookings Institution ranks Nigeria as world’s poverty capital with a population of 200 million people- a position earlier occupied by India with a population of 1.324 billion people. There is also a ballooning case of unemployment. But for how long are we going to continue selling our conscience for fleeting benefits and risk our collective future?

The youths, except a few, are offering no respite to arrest the situation too. Days of active students’ unionism are fading out. Many of our youths are becoming less critical of government actions and  but now driven by quest to becoming rich overnight.

But for how long are we going to continue selling our conscience for fleeting benefits and risk our collective future?

What Nigeria of today needs are electorates (followers) who are consumed by a team spirit to take the country out of the woods; electorates who refused to be swayed by political, religious and ethnic sentiments- that have stagnated us for long- and ones with dogged determination to be involved in the process of fostering good governance.

The leaders will not do it right when the led see no reason to challenge, criticize and probe actions of those they elect. At this point of nationhood, we need more of active electorates (followers) in Nigeria and only then can we dream of a better and prosperous country.

The leaders will not do it right when the led see no reason to challenge, criticize and probe actions of those they elect.

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