Since Nigeria returned to democracy on May 29, 1999, majority of the poor citizens are yet to identify a credible democracy dividend as a result of their faith in a democratic regime. Accepted that the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo regime put in place foundations for a sustainable economic transformation, how was it felt in the grassroots. It is certain that what a government should count as an acceptable achievement is the positive effect of its policies, actions and investments on the poor.
Nigeria is a peaceful country and peaceful countries with leadership that is accountable to its citizens will have the best chances at winning the fight against extreme poverty and disease. Most government policies are usually concentrated on how to continuously favour the elite (ruling class) and not the poor citizens. Poverty at the grassroots is ignored in policies of governance and actions. The poor rural communities feel government presence only when elections are due and votes are canvassed. Electoral promises for developments are not kept or fulfilled and no one listens to the poor anymore after that. It is a fact that transparent government that respects civic participation and the rule of law are necessary to ensure scarce resources are spent well and investments are made in the poorest people.
Today in Nigeria, the larger society is that of the poor people and still they lack basic infrastructure like good rural roads, agricultural assistance programs, healthcare, portable water and access to dignified life. Celebrating 50 years of Independence on October 1, 2010, Nigeria has come of age. With its share of military, autocratic and dictatorial governments, rather than enhance development of the country, it contributed to the harsh economic situations that bedevils the nation today.
In November 2010, Nigeria ratified the African Charter on Elections and Good Governance while the National Assembly amended both the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic. Critical reviews have confirmed that about 10 or more sections of the Constitution were amended and these areas cover the electoral reformation. What areas of the amendment concerns policies that affect the good of the poor masses that will guarantee adequate food, portable water and dignifies the life of the poor. Credible and transparent elections in itself are supposed to guarantee good governance but how are the poor population gaining from policies and actions of government. We suffer from corruption, where politicians misappropriate public funds for personal gains while most constituencies lack portable water, roads, healthcare, electricity, and adequate infrastructure. This is a serious barrier to end extreme poverty.
Conducting credible elections in Nigeria is one, getting the right people into power is another and assurances of good governance that will be responsive to the poor is a vital issue. There has never been an election in Nigeria that ever guaranteed the provision of basic rights and development for the poor communities in Nigeria.
Election is a democratic process of putting people to positions of control of the nation’s resources for the good of the people. Good governance requires people with good intentions who are sincere in what to do to better the lives of ordinary Nigerians. Elections can be free and fair but the product of such elections could be insincere and ordinary Nigerians will continue to suffer. In as much as we pray and work towards conducting a free, fair and transparent elections, let’s hope we get the right people to power who understands the need and importance of working for the poor majority.
Azutoru is the coordinator, Arisenigeria Africa