The Power of The Vote, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
In 1923, one vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party and that singular vote changed our world! Your vote is your power and one vote does make a difference. In a democracy, it is not just your right to vote, it is your duty as a citizen to vote. Voting is critical to maintaining a functioning Democracy and for securing our value systems. This presidential election is a battle to restore our lost values. It is a battle for integrity over despair. It is about voting the right person who will lead by example over another who is led and held hostage. This election is worth fighting for! Why? We are fighting to restore dignity to the Presidency. We are fighting against corruption, stealing, drug trafficking, oil theft, terrorism, religious manipulation, mediocrity, gun running and many ills that the occupiers of Aso Rock have normalised. We cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity. We can’t afford to be fickle! We are motivated to vote. Unleash the force of your vote that is ordinarily latent and be vigilant at making it count. Your vote can mean the difference between corruption and virtue, between integrity and dishonesty, justice and injustice, between prosperity for all or prosperity for some over others.
Nigeria’s youth bulge, in addition to grave economic and security threats, have shifted the electoral calculations from what it used to be. This electoral cycle proves it and no one can deny the political ramifications of these changing realities. We are seeing the emergence of a political majority who are unified in their intent on using their vote to rescue Nigeria, to save Nigeria from itself and lead the way to a more democratic, fair, thriving and equitable economy where everyone can participate, has equal rights and can prosper. The rampaging plunder of this nation in the last four years has shown that voting matters to the health of the Nigerian political system and to the people who participate in it. Before now, the power of the vote has been suppressed so severely in this country, such that those who actually possess it are, in fact, quite oblivious of it. Like other possibilities denied every Nigerian given our self inflicted wounds, the power to vote and make it count has been snuffed out so badly no one believes a free and fair election can ever take place. We must thank Prof. Atahiru Jega for instituting the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and the card reader. We must commend him for demonstrating to us that credible elections can be held in Nigeria and for doing his best in restoring our faith in the electoral process. Majority of Nigerians are incensed, they cannot wait for the elections. No matter the optimism or skepticism, the choice we make will influence the next four years and eventually, it will shape the future of generations to come after us.
The Buhari volunteers have shown that the force you wield as a citizen is not limited to your vote. You have the power to take social action. The greatest upheavals that tore at the fabric of societies for the last 200years were actions taken by individuals in response to the inaction of those in power. It will take your voice to force action. It will take protests and endless group actions to put the government at alert so it can hear the echoes of reality. Buhari is a phenomenon today because the voice of integrity drowned out the voice of corruption. Buhari has no need to share money to the electorate because he is the symbol of our mass action. Youth volunteers are happy to organize, print T-shirts and create hashtags on their own steam due to mass action. We want him, we want change! To create the change, your vote must work in concert with your voice.
Your vote counts! Even when politicians manipulate the vote, elected officials know people who voted and where they voted. If your community total vote falls well below other communities, candidates seeking public office will pay you less attention and make fewer appearances in your area. In the Nigeria we seek to build, your vote will have a powerful impact on public policy and government because your constituencies have policy and political concerns that is guaranteed to be neglected if you do not vote. I urge you to ask questions, vet the candidates. Make those who want your vote tell you about themselves, their backgrounds, what they believe in, their ideas and what they intend to do in public office. Do not surrender your vote on the basis of rice, kerosine, money, slogans and a picture or two.
It is also important to note that no institution changes peaceably. That is why the traducers of Nigerians are employing every trick in the book. Change does not come easy, it is mandated by force even if that force is not through the barrel of a gun. With the March elections, we are at a crossroad that will define the future of Nigeria. The stakes are high! We cannot afford any more mistakes of putting gluttons in charge of our altars. Those who have kept this country captive bank on our lack of appreciation for history and our remarkably short memory. Even before we rid this country of the Jonathan plague, we must begin to understand that change requires effort, time and memory to happen. We must know where we came from, what we have become, what we want to be and where we want to go. It is time for change when the beneficiaries of our hard won democracy are bent on using the military to truncate the electoral process. It is time for change when the country’s purse is emptied and shared to pastors and monarchs in exchange for their support. It is time for change when unelected persons, political appointees engaged in massive heists are shielded, protected and even fêted.
And to those who are apathetic about politics and voting, I urge you to participate. If you don’t, you lose the right to complain and you have ceded your right to those who will dictate to you how to lead your life, pass laws you may not agree with and take away your rights and freedoms. Your vote is your voice, if you do not cast your ballot, you have lost your chance to make the change in leadership that this country needs. Elections are not the time to hand over your personal power to someone else.
Where will Nigeria be in another hundred years? The answer rests on this election. The vote you wield and the actions you take today will determine the country you have chosen for your children and those who will come after you. Are you going to choose a country of religious disharmony and intolerance, a nation of economic retrogression and lost opportunities, communities of hateful rhetoric and ethnic tensions? You have the power! That power gains dimension and expands when we come together. With Buhari’s candidacy, it is proven that Nigerians can do what others in bondage have done since millennia. The movement his candidacy brought to the open, proves the unified power of individuals. With him as our symbol of change, we’ve built a group force that is unstoppable. The choice now is between responsibility and irresponsiblility. It is between someone who looked the other way while Nigerians were being killed and someone one who has saved us before and will do it again. It is the saviour’s time. We want to cleanse the land!
Bamidele maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times’ Editorial Board. Twitter @olufunmilayo