The sleepy political landscape of Delta State has very recently become a beehive of activities. This development, however, should not be a surprise to many as the Delta State Government recently announced its readiness to conduct the local council polls in the state come January 2018.
In light of the above, the political class knows as in war, that “whoever arrives first and take a position is at ease while he that arrives late labours”. This is evident in their early preparations coupled with the fact that seeking elective positions in Nigeria is a capital-intensive project.
Parts of these early preparations as observed lately include but not limited to; the declaration of intent by both Chairmen and Councillorship hopefuls, the proliferation of political groups, political alignments and realignments, flag-off of people-oriented but politically motivated programmes by our political office contenders, incessant meetings by the political heavyweights. Also, the ‘less privileged’ political players are not left out in this jostle for recognition and political ‘rat race’.
As evidently associated with this period, baskets full of promises are not in short supplies as they are dished out by these politicians without recourse to the resources at the disposal of the local councils.
However, the worrying aspect of this narrative is the degree of apathy and complacency being demonstrated by the electorate. A development, the people attribute to reasons which come in double folds.
First, is the unending assumption held across the board that the Local Government Poll is a mere formality as there is always a concretized underground mechanism of planting the candidates who the ‘the political Bishops’ in the state has anointed.
Closely related to the above is the view that the people had neither felt the political wisdom nor enjoyed the ‘democracy dividend’ that accrued from their participation in recent times. A development that has made the people view this episode called an election with skepticism.
However, as much as these reasons as advanced are validly important, Deltans should be mindful of the fact that elections in every clime are a two-way arrangement – the electorates and those seeking to be elected. So, instead of demonstrating this level of apathy, what they need to do as a people is to creatively transform this internal dissatisfaction caused by their unpalatable political experience of the past to a propelling force towards righting these legions of wrongs, using this window as provided by the forthcoming local council polls.
Let’s make no mistake about this, gaining the political ‘upper hands’ in an evolving society such as ours is not a job that is meant for those that are leanly livered or the emotionally gullible. “History is a fit testimony to the fact that freedom is rarely gained without consistency, sacrifice and self-denial”. So apathy should neither be contemplated nor considered at this material time.
Correspondingly, dousing this fire of apathy should be the primary concern of our government as it will assist in determining the success or otherwise of the exercise. Our leaders should first design a strategy of instilling credibility to this electoral project via a conscientious effort and industry of the state Ministry of Information and the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, (DSIEC). The people are expecting an assurance from the government that this forthcoming LG polls promises to be credible, free and fair. Of which only good information management can take care of.
The above step if taken, will soak up the indifference as exhibited by the people, add up to the abiding faith in the process and increase the reputation of this administration in the estimation of all deltans.
Equally important to this discourse is the fact that getting this local council polls right will help in answering the long hanging leadership credibility question in the state. This is important also as credibility can only be established through action and not words.
Very instructively also, this job of educating our people in preparation for this forthcoming election via public enlightenment should by no means be left in the hands of the government alone. Efforts should be made by our traditional rulers and all the cultural cum pressure groups in the state to sensitize their people at the grassroots of the need to vote for candidates that will deliver the democracy dividends that the people yearn for.
Viewed from the above prism and considering our environmental dynamics, it is my humble submission that reputable organizations such as the Izu Aniomas’, the Onu Ika, the Ndokwa nation, the Urhorbo Progressive Union (UPU), the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Delta Ijaw Women Initiatives (DIWI), the Ijaw People Development Initiative (IPDI) and others should rise up to this responsibility of ensuring the rebuilding of our political future by ensuring a free and fair local government election within their local governments.
In the same fashion, we should realize that “the precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need a large amount of money to get elected as it triggers cycle of corruption”. Having spent a lot of money to get elected, the winner must recover their costs and also accumulate funds for the next election. This is not what the state needs presently. So, we should at this election vote for candidates with integrity and not for political capitalists.
This demand may seem impossible but to my understanding it is very possible. To achieve this, all the people need to do is to undress that garment of instant gratitude and have it replaced with delayed gratification built on values.
Furthermore, environmental degradation, as well as pollution, has been an issue in the state, especially in the riverine communities. So Deltans from that axis should see environmental challenges as an issue that will shape their support structure. Voting for those that are committed to the development of the area, as the situation at their corridor could be best described as deplorable and the burden of the excruciating poverty occasioned by neglect is crushing on the dwellers.
Pivotally, what the people can and should do at this moment is to use their brain power and nonlinear intelligence to question the so-called ‘politically settled answers’ and at the same time demand answers to the yet unanswered questions from these office seekers. Doing this will help in schooling us more about their pedigree, their sincerity, their propensity to positively impact and otherwise.
In the same token, the youths in the state should view these local council polls as a golden opportunity to commence their journey to assuming leadership positions in the state. They should bear in mind that the not-too-young-to-run as recently dramatized all over the nation was a mere rhetoric. Let our youths remember also that the “feasibility of a vision is not enough as history is not interested in a vision that is not implemented.”
This moment is very auspicious for our youths to prime and position themselves for at least councillorship positions in the various wards littered within the state using their demographic advantage. Those that will not be vying for any of these positions should be able to form alliances and support their very own.
The outcome of our youths demonstration of their abilities to organize and form a movement will be a pointer to how seriously our ‘political adults’ shall be considering them in the future elections at both state and federal levels.
It is therefore germane, that we collectively use this local council election as a defining watershed in the anal of our state. We have to do this bearing in mind that our wrong decisions and choices in the past are affecting our present.
We should also be mindful of the fact that our present is present in the future. So, whatever choice we make come January 2018 at the local council polls will go a long way in shaping our political future as a state.
As a people, we should also realize that the phenomenal world is in constant transformation, yet there are patterns within it. Holding to any single point loses the power of the larger pattern. We cannot afford to make this costly mistake of voting the wrong people again as that have kept our local councils at the sorry state.
Looking at the above, it is time for the electorate to have the presence of mind to recognize that electioneering period is theatrical in nature and as a result, we should employ the plasticity of the actors.
We should also, like the politicians learn how to be ‘formless and spirit like’ in order to suit our ever dynamic political environment.
All factors considered, it is time for us to depart the old order and use these local council polls to lay a new and formidable leadership foundation for our beloved state.
God bless Delta State.
By Jerome-Mario Utomi