2019 Elections and Fate of Anti-Corruption War —Michael E. Agada

“In the grand scheme of things, our votes in every election cycle and particularly in 2019 will be one of the most proactive measures; we as citizens must take in this anti-corruption war and in the survival of our Nation.”

As the campaign around the 2019 general election builds up, it is expected that campaigners will fiercely debate on issues of corruption in Nigeria and the possible strategies they’ll employ to tackle it. Opposition candidates will likely provide best of comparative strategies in comparison with the incumbent government – and even cite examples of lopsidedness, witch hunt, nepotism, etc. on the part of the incumbent administration. Also, the incumbent government will lay bare progress analysis of their anti-corruption “gains” and how this helped to minimize monumental losses. Conversations will abound on how the incumbent ostensibly embarked on the prudent economic management of Nigeria’s limited resources, alongside increased the country’s foreign reserves –despite a downturn in revenues – as compared to previous administrations. Emphasis on landmark court rulings secured in the life of the current administration will not be left out – they may even praise themselves for securing such rulings and in the same breathe, lambast the judiciary for “arm-twisting” unfavourable rulings and its supposed inadequacies in fighting corruption. The “indictment” of the National Assembly on its alleged role in frustrating the anti-corruption war will not be spared. From both side of the divide, many of these issues, as it relates to the anti-corruption war will be the highlight of the 2019 elections.

Candidates riding on the back of the anti-corruption movement is as old as the country’s independence. It’s nothing new. It is as a matter of fact one of the oldest campaign lines not just peculiar to democracies, but to military juntas as well – as corruption more often than not accounted for their reasons for the forceful take-over of power. So expectedly, this will be a wave of a perceived renewed vigour in fighting corruption that will be more imaginary than actual. As much as there’d be genuine campaigns and strategies on tackling the issue of corruption head-on, there’ll also be campaigns of illusions and deceit. It will be a wave of distractions and of propaganda, reeling out nonexistent strategies to defeat corruption when they attain power or when they are (re)elected into office. The difference will be based on the individual or group concerned, and most importantly, on the electorate’s ability to discern.

The reality of the difference for the next four years will be on election days in 2019. If we get it wrong at the point of electing new leaders, we’ll be expending so much energy and resources when the government is sworn in, and in many ways, this afterthought approach has contributed to the bane of Nigeria’s development since independence. We tend to react to issues rather than to be proactive. In the grand scheme of things, our votes in every election cycle and particularly in 2019 will be one of the most proactive measures; we as citizens must take in this anti-corruption war and in the survival of our Nation. What this means in simple terms is that, in our vote lies the power to prevent the next generation of treasury looters from gaining access to the national purse, in our vote lies the power to cut short the aspirations of serial human right abusers, and as a matter of fact, we can with our votes prevent silly persons from attaining political power. Why this is more important is that the success or failure of anti-corruption movements aren’t usually decided when a government is sworn into power, as it’ll rather be hugely decided by the choice of the electorates on the day of the election. Other attempts in pushing on with the movement will be secondary.

The fate of the Nation’s anti-corruption war will greatly depend on the antecedents of the candidates and party set-up, and not necessarily in their promises: in their records of service – whether in private or public capacity. Some fundamental questions electorates must ponder on are; “how did these candidates fare in positions of authority, either in the private or public led sectors? What is the extent and nature of their wealth: are they traceable or miraculously amassed? There is a high chance that they will be driven by the same philosophies that have guided their dignity/criminality as they lead in a position of authority. Make no mistake, change is not automatic, and the idea that their stewardship will not matter as they’d probably be changed individuals is deluded.

So as electorates troop to their various polling units to cast their vote, it will not only be a vote cast for the candidates/parties of their choice, it will be a vote cast in favour or against their future; the survival of the anti-corruption war and the country at large, as this will greatly hang on the shoulders of the individuals they pitch their tent with on election day. Such is the significance of this singular moment that it calls for deeper reflection of the choices we must undertake to either make or mar our destiny as a Nation. The profoundness of this in our national life is greatly captured in the words of a great thinker and proponent of human liberation, Frantz Fanon as he succinctly puts it when he stated that ‘‘Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.’’

This generation cannot afford to continue to make similar mistakes of the past. Many of the challenges we have faced as citizens, and the precarious position that the country finds itself today is a direct consequence of our electoral decisions over the years. We must rise above hate and the euphoria that comes with these political moments and be constantly reminded that our great country’s destiny will be greatly dependent of the choices we’ll make come Election Day in 2019.

Michael Agada works with the Accountability and Social Justice department at YIAGA Africa. He’s an undaunted believer in Democracy good governance. He tweets from @MichaelAgada on twitter.

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