Undecided isn’t good enough.
Millions of us are counting on you. Please spend the next few days deciding whom you will vote for and be bold enough to see it through. Your vote is important, your vote is strategic and it would be silly not to use it. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you why.
First off, if you are one of the lucky 56 million people with PVCs, give yourself a pat on the back. You are a guardian of the welfare of two other Nigerians that will not have a say in how our country is run for at least another four years. Think of yourself as ‘standing in the gap’ for two of your children, employees, friends or neighbours. To stand in the gap is a good thing; it means you speak on our behalf.
Remember also that there 17 million or so, like me, who live abroad for different reasons, but have left their hearts in Nigeria. There is no provision for us to vote. We add the burden of another half a person to each load. Think of us often. Remember you speak for three and a half people, including yourself.
But, if the last two presidential elections are anything to go by, the disappointing reality is that not all of you that who are able to vote will come through for us on March 28. My guess is that around 38 million people – 55% of the 68 million registered by INEC – will actually cast a vote. That means about 20% of Nigerians will speak for the 100%, because 18 million of you with PVCs will do nothing. You will forget the hard slog of getting the card in the first place and ignore its power.
Some of you will mean to vote, but be put off by the simplest inconveniences, like predictably poor logistics or the inevitable heat of the sun. The rest will give us three reasons.
The first group will say their votes don’t matter, “one vote won’t decide the outcome in the end”. And they would be right. If there could ever be an argument for apathy that I respected, this would be it. It makes rational, economic sense. The voting process is individually costly but not individually beneficial since the chance that any one person will cast the single deciding vote is close to zero. It would be silly to respond to this group then with statements like “what if we all didn’t vote?” That’s a close to zero probability event. Thankfully, 38 million people will.
Others will say that the process is likely to be rigged anyway, “it doesn’t matter what I want, the result has been fixed.” These are the classic free riders, and it’s tough to respect that. They are not happy with the status quo and are probably voters for the opposition (or they wouldn’t care if the process were rigged in the first place), but they will abdicate their responsibility. I am not saying that I believe Nigeria is now at the point where elections are entirely free and fair, but I am saying this group should give the process a chance. They are potentially very powerful as a unit but would rather sit at home speculating and sulking.
The last group will tell us that they are truly undecided, and so have no choice but to abstain. They are afraid to take a chance on an outcome that they cannot foresee; they don’t want to vote for a losing candidate, and are probably most in favour of those challengers with an outside chance. These people should spend more time with the most rational of the non-voters. If they did, they would take comfort in the fact that their individual votes will not by themselves change the outcome, and they might have the courage to back their convictions. With any luck, they’d come to understand that voting is not a lottery – it is not about guessing the winner – and that by staying away, they weaken the quality of our democratic discourse.
To the 18 million I say this: you have grown weary too easily. You forget that our democracy is barely 16 years old; the journey has not begun. You want to be inspired, to be rewarded with good leadership and good governance, but until then, you will not join us in the drab modalities of a democracy. Sadly, the promise we all want will continue to be delayed for as long as too few people are involved in deciding how nearly 200 million people are governed. We need many more to be invested in this process. We need you to do your part. We want to be inspired too.
So please vote, and vote wisely. The issues before us are clear and the choice is not easy. Ironically, the campaign slogans of both the PDP and the APC agree that the status quo is unsatisfactory. We debate the semantics of ‘transformation’ vs. ‘change’ and I am reliably informed that one is a point in time occurrence and the other is an impressive process. Politics aside, I understand enough to know that in either scenario the promise is the same – today does not look like yesterday and tomorrow will not look like today.
But, in reality today does not look different enough to where we were four years ago, so given half a chance, I’d give my vote to General Buhari’s government. For no reason other than it is time to go back to the drawing board. The Chinese say ‘if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading’.
But, ultimately, I won’t have a say in what happens on Saturday. If you have a PVC, you can. Whichever way you lean, remember that your vote sends a message, you are luckier than millions of us with no voice and you stand in the gap for 2 and a half people.
You could use your voice to make a show of confidence in President Jonathan, to deliver a message of support for General Buhari or to give a word of encouragement to the phenomenal Remi Sonaiya. That’s your prerogative. Just go out and vote.