BY KANMI ADEMILUYI
HURRAY! After so many twists and turns and barring “inconclusive” and reruns, we are heading into the grand finale of an exhaustive seemingly never-ending election season. For the sake of democratic participation and inclusiveness, the turnout must be high.
This is important for the voter turnout during the presidential and national legislative election at 29% was pathetic. Unbefitting of a democracy in particular for a country which held its first election in the western sense a century ago in 1923! The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had better buckle up, there has been an erosion of trust after the debacle of the presidential election. It will take great efforts of persuasiveness to rebuild confidence and the signs are not encouraging, nevertheless let us live in hope.
The erosion of trust in the process comes with various price tags. The blow to the nations self esteem is painful. For example, the condescending manner the British High Commissioner damned the election with faint praise was infuriating. The patronising attitude came across like reference to the Banana Republic. It was like she was giving rave reviews to a circus show. Difficult to blame her though, we reduced ourselves to this level. It is inconceivable that a Nigerian High Commissioner to the Court of St James will be making such insouciance. We asked for it. When Nigeria still had national pride, she will have been booted out post haste. Perish that possibility now that the country is in the self-depreciating grip of Lilliputians.
Whichever way it pans out in the elections tomorrow, we have to face a daunting reality. The time is long overdue to separate Governance from Politics. The emphasis on a misconception of politics has acted as a brake on the prospects for sustainable development. Politics in this misconception actually reflects a stultified economy with very limited options for advancement let alone self-actualisation. In this, politics has become a career rather than what it ought to be which is a vocation. This misunderstanding has come with a debilitating cost.
The emphasis must now be placed on governance. And it is going to be hard. Governance is harder, it requires programs as well as the focus and the presence of mind to pay meticulous attention to details. Unfortunately, the method of selection and recruitment used in our definition of politics makes this difficult. Nigeria needs savvy hands-on technocrats and not political jobbers, hacks and careerists. New governments at all levels to be inaugurated in May should emulate Babatunde Fashola who in his two terms as the governor of Lagos State made a laudable and largely successful effort to separate politics from governance. There is no alternative in the dire straits we find ourselves than to reimagine the Fashola model. It brings to mind the often-quoted observation of the pioneer editor of The Economist Walter Bagheot made over a hundred and fifty years ago. In interpreting The English Constitution in his meal culpa on the constitution, Bagheot made a distinction between the “ceremonial” and the “working” aspects of the machinery of government. The distinction is crucial: it must be at the center of our revaluation of the process of governance. There is simply no alternative if we are to strive for sustainability in development and the achievement of the shared prosperity so necessary to act as both social buffer as well as a stabilising mechanism. And Nigeria, in particular its ruling establishment need all the shock absorbers imaginable.
What happens the day after matters, it is to be hoped that we will see uncommon acts of statesmanship as we cannot expect the courts to replace the electorate as the determinant of the expressed wish of the people. The admonition of the prayer of St Francis helps “..that where there is discord let us look for harmony, where there is a dispute let us look for the truth….”.
May God bless Nigeria.