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Incumbency: The Right Way Vs The Nigerian Way

First published April 5, 2016

I don’t know about you, but when I cast my vote for anybody or any party, I do so for the right reasons. The party or person must be humble, honest, and qualified to govern. And if the candidate happens to have the frequently overrated word called “incumbent” added to his or her name, then my demands increase. He/she must show me what he/she has done with the first governance chance that the people gave him/her. I may give my vote for a second chance only if the first chance was productive. In essence, Mr. Incumbent can never impress me one bit with the so-called “Power of incumbency” if he has nothing to offer by way of performance. The word “incumbent” simply means that he is currently occupying the office being contested. It does not posses any intrinsic value.

          In a sane society the incumbency phenomenon derives its much-touted power from the current performance of the incumbent leader. The incumbent really has no great need to expend resources to campaign for votes. If his/her current leadership performance is clearly satisfactory, then the people want him/her to continue in office. The voters readily give their votes because they want the incumbent to continue the good work. Indeed, some leaders are so good, that the people wish them to continue in office beyond their constitutional limits. Commonly, an incumbent leader strategically executes his/her best public programs as the election year draws close. The idea, obviously, is to leave fresh, favorable impression of his good work in the minds of the voters as they go to the polls.

          All was well in the Land of normal incumbency, until evil Nigerian politicians got involved and criminally redefined incumbency. To Nigerian leaders, incumbency is defined as the power to employ all government machineries and public funds. They intimidate the opposition, buy votes, and/ or rig elections.

Incumbency & PDP’s “Continuity” Campaign

The so-called People’s Democratic Party (PDP) possesses the power of incumbency in Nigeria today. And the party is perceived to put it to clear advantages in every possible way, in the previous and coming elections. One ‘smart’ move by the PDP is the creation of the party’s campaign slogan of “continuity.” But is it really a smart move?

          “Continuity of what?” This is the common and very spontaneous question from virtually every “common man” in the street. Well, look, if that slogan is smart, then I must be a dumbo. I would never have approved that concept if I was in charge of PDP’s campaign. The concept portrays the architects to be completely out of touch with reality. They are obviously out of touch with the feelings and opinions of the ordinary, average citizens who constitute most of the actual voters in the nation.

          My proverbial “common man” in the street perceives the following facts: (1) National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) has been a total failure in the past eight years. And PDP’s “big grammar” about heavenly electricity that is still ten years away does not impress him one bit. He calls it “dogo trenchi” if he happens to be Hausa, which mean long useless grammar. He believes that PDP’s eight years in power was more than enough to establish reliable electricity. He knows that it didn’t happen because PDP crooks in power are too corrupt. Now check out this blunder. In a silly effort to fault Action Congress party’s government, a campaign advert of a PDP gubernatorial candidate foolishly condemns NEPA’s total failure in the state. Obviously, PDP’s campaign team has completely forgotten that NEPA is a federal institution controlled by PDP.

          (2) Even a blind “common man” can see that the nation’s roads are deathtraps and frustration makers. (3) He can also see, very clearly, that there is no safe drinking water in running from his taps. (4) He is hungry everyday because foods have been priced out of his reach. And he knows the factors responsible for his situation, all blamed on PDP. For instance, the total failure of NEPA has killed his business. (5) Ultimately, he perceives too many of PDP’s policies to be insensitive and unfriendly to the common man.

          Now consider our common man to be a voting-age university student. He has spent seven or more years in school for a course of study that should last only four years. This is so because the incumbent party does not give a damn about his education. He knows that PDP has not prevailed on Mr. President to honor the agreement that he reached with the academic unions several years ago. Hence, lecturers are regularly on strike. So, he spends more time out of school than in school. He wants Mr. President to stop flexing muscles for the unions, because they are fighting for the resurrection of our nation’s dead education system. He perceives that Mr. President is uncouth and undemocratic when he deals with the Academic Unions leaders.

    The student is aware that PDP stalwarts are more interested in dishing out licenses to themselves to establish private schools with our stolen funds. He knows that the private schools prize education out of the reach of the common citizens of this country. At this rate, education in this country will soon become the preserve of the children of our rulers. Only the rulers can afford the exorbitant private schools fees with our commonwealth that they have stolen. Now, that’s an excerpt of a very typical perception of our proverbial “common man.” And those are the facts!

          Like I said earlier, if PDP’s campaign slogan of continuity qualifies to be smart, then I must be very dumb, since I totally disagree with it. On the other hand, if my argument does make any sense, then the designers have got to be the dumbest campaign strategists in the world! They are asking Nigerians to vote for continuity of hell!

          I do have to state that I am completely non-partisan. I owe absolutely no allegiance to any party whatsoever. My grouse with the PDP is that its campaign slogan sucks. It smacks of intellectual laziness and stupidity rolled into one. The designers should have come up with something that intelligently downplays the party’s obvious failures. They could effectively highlight the strong points of PDP’s administration. In fairness to the party, I must affirm that some strong points do exist. The party did initiate quite a few reforms. If properly executed without our debilitating corruption, they will benefit this nation on the long run.

          The catch phrase in my commentary is “the common man.” Somebody smart needed to design a good way to break the achievements down for the ‘intellectually-common’ voters out there who do not understand all the high-tech mumbo-jumbo involved in the party’s futuristic initiatives. Do remember, the few intellectual elites who do understand PDP’s mumbo-jumbo long-term rhetoric do not even go out to vote on election days. The people who do vote can only understand that the mumbo-jumbo is not presently putting any food on their tables. They are very hungry now. They want to enjoy some of the dividends of our hard-earned democracy before they die. And waiting ten more years for the long-term plans is certainly too late for many of them. Many have already died during the past eight years of no short-term hardship alleviation policies.

          Essentially, the major problem with the PDP body of policies, therefore, is that it is dominated by reforms that will only yield fruits in far future. They are virtually devoid of solutions to save most of the population that is presently dying under excruciating conditions. And for some strange reason, the PDP leaders pretend not to see why a man should lose confidence in their “heavenly” futuristic initiatives if he cannot feed his family today. Some of our so-called leaders have the ever-annoying criminal-audacity to accuse such a man of being unpatriotic and impatient. They blame him for failing to see why he mut wait ten whole years before he feeds his family. I have very uncomplimentary, unprintable words to describe such idiotically insensitive leaders.

          They loot our wealth, live like ancient emperors, and then ask the rest of us to be patriotic and patient. What arrant nonsense! Why don’t we all wait together in penury for ten years? But no, our almighty looters want the rest of us to be patriotic and die, so that they would have more to steal. Do remember this— futuristic or no futuristic initiatives, there is more than enough wealth to keep every single one of our estimated 140 million people alive and well, if only the leaders cared. But they clearly don’t give a damn!

          Our students are out of school even as I write this, because, once again, academic unions are on strike. NEPA is getting worse everyday. And of course, our roads remain deathtraps, to recap just a few problems. Yet, PDP wants Nigerians’ votes, which it woos with its slogan of continuity. Notwithstanding, I will conclude this with an open challenge to PDP. Give Nigerians constant electricity from today until the days of the elections. And I will forgive all your past follies and plead with Nigerians to vote for you…No Bullshitting!!!

Harry Agina writes from the USA

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