The rescheduled elections will soon be here with us. An opportunity to exercise one’s democratic rights by helping to decide in whose hands the affairs of the country should be in the next couple of years ought to be an exciting period totally devoid of fear and dread. That is why the desperation saturating the political atmosphere needs to be defused. While not begrudging the politicians the opportunity to seek to be voted into power, they should try not to stifle the excitement that should accompany every democratic exercise in our country.
Why for instance should people be consumed with fear for their lives and those of their loved ones each time Nigerians are going to the polls? Yes, some of the politicians may be genuinely interested in improving our lives and society if voted into office, but they should also duly respect our right to reject them at the polls, despite their noble intentions. And when that happens, they should accept our verdict with grace and equanimity and wait for another opportunity to repackage and represent themselves to us more attractively.
It is not and should not be a do-or-die affair. There have been reports of clashes between supporters of rival parties here and there. Some politicians have not helped matters too. Provocative statements oozing from their mouths tend to be viewed by their misguided supporters as a signal for “war.” And as one encounters the reports of some ‘battles’ already staged even while the elections are still a couple of weeks away, one is deeply pained that in the event of any struggle between giant ‘elephants,’ it is always the tender grasses that suffer and get destroyed. When lives are snuffed out, what once looked like rosy futures are brutally aborted.
But, are the people itching to put their lives on the line for selfish politicians aware that at the end of the day, when the smoke of battle has cleared, the once “fire-spitting” politicians would always find ways to amicably settle their differences and use the blood of those who had wasted their lives for them to negotiate juicy appointments for themselves. And what would be the fate of the grasses they had crushed when the battle was raging? Who will reserve a care in the world for those nursing life-threatening wounds sustained during the battles fought on their behalf? Yes, who cares? That is the reason for this outcry to Nigerian youths (the easy conscripts to these self-serving struggles and clashes). They should shine their eyes!
The Nigerian youth ought to have realized by now that he has been deceived and used a lot for unwholesome enterprises, in which he has remained the ultimate loser each time. Will he be deceived forever before he realizes himself? Some of his peers have had their lives impaired or even cut short for willingly doing the unhealthy biddings of unscrupulous and selfish politicians. Must other youths allow that to be their fate too before they realize that the fellows using them do not attach any value to their lives? Must this continue to happen again and again?
As one looks at the beautifully photoshopped smiling faces of politicians on posters and bill boards, one cannot help wondering what are hidden behind those wide grins. Afterall, their pronouncements and actions are often in direct contrast to the faces they display. But it is a pity that majority of those who blindly follow them and do their every bidding are unable to read the handwriting on the wall. And a very painful reality is that majority of these blind followers and easy preys are young Nigerian men and women – the so-called future leaders.
It is time the Nigerian youths asked themselves how and where many of their fathers and mothers that had danced to the tune of these politicians and helped them execute their self-serving designs are today. What impact did their association with these fellows make on their families and society? This is therefore the time to shine their eyes and determine, like Chinua Achebe once said, where the rain began to beat them.
My simple advice to Nigerian youths today is: You have a choice in this matter! You can refuse to die the death which man and the devil have designed for you. You do not need the kind of politicians we see around today to be whom you should become. Most of them have rather influenced the lives and future of many young people in the wrong direction, an evil they would not even contemplate for their own children. What good can a man possibly offer who has carefully packaged his own children and sent them off to some distant, safe land, and so now cares less how his unguarded language and actions heat up the atmosphere of the nation where other children like his are stuck in? The politician that works so hard to ensure that there is always pre-election or post-election violence or both, does not care how many young adults remain or are cut down in their prime as they seek to realize their ambitions? For many of them, their familiar refrain is that “blood must flow” if things do not work out the way they had anticipated, but whose blood? Of course, not theirs or that of their children or relatives. So youths, you had better shine your eyes. Do not be the prey.
I watched an incident during the previous elections. I was at an aunt’s burial proceedings when a politician vying for a particular seat came around because one my cousins belonged to one of the parties. Before he appeared, so much praises and noise had been made to herald him. And before leaving the venue, he dropped some amount of money which I wouldn’t want to mention here, an amount which I found so humiliating to the people that I wished I could be allowed to throw it back at him. Later the women needed to share the money among themselves (peanut it was indeed) and what did I see? Loud voices of misunderstanding, quarrels and curses as they decided on who should get what. Meanwhile, the ‘good’ man had majestically walked away amidst ovations while the villagers laid curses on each other as they shared the paltry sum. Relatives and those who had enjoyed friendly and harmonious relationships before the arrival of the ‘philanthropist’ suddenly became enemies, and who knows how far that would go.
I would really want my dear young Nigerians to know that these politicians are not altogether foolish afterall, even if they once were. ‘Nothing goes for nothing,’ they now insist. In times past, some fellows had counseled that one could accept the ‘free’ gifts distributed by them during their campaigns but vote for the candidate of one’s choice and go scot free. Today it is no longer so. It does seem that their gifts have assumed a shade of Greek, and those who take them might eventually pay heavy prices. Indeed, even the few cups of garri or rice that came to one could be very ruinous. Now, ask yourself: do these desperate, “generous” politicians allow their children or other relatives to partake of those their ‘benevolence’ or ‘good will’? Check it out. Any of their relatives driven by greed to partake in those gifts is on his own. The gifts are usually given from very “special” purses or stocks. Yes, they are Greek gifts!
So, young men and women, do not contaminate your precious life and future with cursed ‘gifts’. What you see and receive from them is more of poisoned apples. Be wise? Unfortunately, information like this hardly gets to the youths who are actively engaged in some unwholesome political activities and who wear the “garments of death” for politicians. Neither does it get to suicide bombers lurking somewhere in markets, motor parks and other places waiting to brutally destroy themselves and others, or those of them roaming the villages and highways ready to do whatsoever money had persuaded them to. It is incumbent on religious and traditional leaders, parents, teachers, etc, to ensure that these youths are no longer brainwashed and led to their ruin. We owe it to them.
Indeed, the youths of this country have a responsibility to firmly determine to save themselves. They must resist the lethal seduction of selfish politicians. They must help their sisters, brothers and friends to do so. Let their eyes open so they can see clearly to prepare themselves for a better Nigeria , which shall surely come. Indeed, soon, it will be their turn to lead the country. So, they must not mortgage their destiny no matter how alluring the “mess of pottage” being placed before them is. And that is why I tell them again and again: shine your eyes!
Mrs. Carllister Ejinkeonye, a System Analyst/Programmer, writes from Lagos ([email protected])