he title is just what it is; come next Saturday, the people of Nigeria will go to the polls to vote for their next president, vice president, senators and members of the House of Representatives. My political affiliations notwithstanding, this is marriage and family column. I am not here to campaign for anybody; I can do that in other channels. I am here to talk to Nigerian voters. As I wrote some time ago, the stakes are high so there should be no sitting on the fence. I am not an undecided voter. I have those I want to vote for, so should you. I have clear expectations from candidates I want to vote for next week and you too should have. All Nigerians of voting age have a role to play in deciding who should be our next president.
We all know what our major problems are: insecurity, unemployment, endemic and widespread corruption, unsatisfactory management of the economy, injustice, inequality, cronyism, epileptic electricity, nepotism, inadequate infrastructure, underutilisation of our enormous human and material resources amongst many others. These problems did not start today; they have been there prior to 1999 when the fourth republic started, but they must be solved because they are solvable and we do not need rocket science to solve them. Which of the presidential candidates has the courage, physical and mental capacity to solve our problems? That should be our candidate.
Right now, there are stories that gold, lithium and other precious minerals are being mined by state governments and private individuals illegally. If it is true, does your preferred candidate have the courage to stop this nonsense and injustice? As a Niger Deltan, it is very annoying that the proceeds from oil are being shared nationally, but proceeds from other mineral resources are localised. It is totally unacceptable.
Can your choice of presidential candidate lead by example? In the Niger Delta, if we want to know whether or not a fish is getting bad, we go to the head to check the gills, not the tail. Our new president must lead by example.
There is no perfect politician, just as there is no anus without sh*t. But the countries making strides are run by fallible human beings, not angels. We need a visionary and transformational president with the over 200m Nigerians his focal point. It is possible. We also need institutions that can keep all citizens, including our president, in check.
We know all the presidential candidates have personal ambition to emerge president of Nigeria. That is their PERSONAL ambition to which they are entitled. But achieving their PERSONAL ambition should not be the priority of the electorate. Our priority is to vote for the man best suited to solve our problems. If that coincides with the personal ambition of your candidate and so be it, but our priority is to vote right person for the top job. Luckily, virtually all the top candidates have held top government positions, so we have their track records and conduct in public office to guide us in our choice. Use that knowledge as a guide.
What about his vice presidential candidate? We lost a sitting president before in this country and his vice president was promptly sworn in as president. That gives you an idea of the importance of the vice presidential candidates. Is the vice presidential candidate of your choice capable of being president, running a complex and diversified country like ours? In my opinion, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo did a great job as acting president when President Muhammadu Buhari was indisposed. Can the vice president of the presidential candidate of your choice run the country smoothly in the absence of his principal?
The Vice president presides over the important councils and handles important assignments delegated to him by his principal. Does he have the needed knowledge and capacity to handle these assignments? Does he have the patriotism to work for national interest and common good rather than self-aggrandisement? We need a sound and vibrant vice president. Osinbajo might have his shortcomings, but he is a delight to watch at the national and international stage. He is prodigiously intelligent and knowledgeable, witty and self-assured. We should not settle for less.
Now to the national assembly elections. I had the privilege of being close to my late brother, Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido. He was a top notch senator, so I have an idea of what a good senator should look like. The job of law making requires a lot of intellectual rigour and widespread knowledge, so the candidate you want to elect to be your senator should have wide spread knowledge and be well educated (not just paper qualifications from compromised institutions). His command of spoken English should be good enough to grab attention. The business of the senate is conducted in English, not Pidgin English or any local language, please note. If you elect the wrong candidate, he will spend four years in the senate like a ship at night: unnoticed. A mute senator does his constituents no good, in particular, and Nigeria, in general.
Beyond law making, a senator should be able to attract projects to his senatorial district. That is an added responsibility our peculiar democracy places on senators. Do not come back and give your constituents excuses. Every senatorial district should take time to choose its senator to represent them from 2023 to 2027. We need to have a vibrant senate that will make good laws to right some of the wrongs currently bedevilling Nigeria, perform oversight functions over the executive properly and help to entrench the principle of checks and balances. The new senate also needs to entrench principles of rule of law and separation of powers. A rubber stamp senate does our democracy no good. Being a senator is a great privilege in Nigeria, but it comes with concomitant responsibilities.
The other election next Saturday is to elect members to represent various constituencies in the green chambers. The members of the House of Representative perform the same basic functions as the senators, so what I said above apples to them, but they are closer to the people, so the electorate must be careful in choosing who they elect or re-elect. Let me advise the electorate to be more concerned with common interest than personal interest. I see some people who are against some candidates and the main reason is stomach infrastructure. Stomach infrastructure has become part of our politics. You ignore it at your own peril. But let me appeal to the electorate that they should focus more on common interest than stomach infrastructure. Stomach infrastructure is temporary; common good is more enduring.
In conclusion, continue to campaign and canvass for votes for your candidates. That is very legit, but do not try to subvert the will of the majority. If you do, anything you see is your business. That is if you are alive to see it. The eyes of Nigerians are red. Only a transparent, free and fair election can lead to peace. Any form of subversion can set the country ablaze. Do not join enemies of Nigeria to destroy this great nation. INEC, please give us a free and fair election. Let the will of majority of Nigerians prevail.