A Lagos Polling Unit Conversation

February 26, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo



Jerome-Mario Utomi



Given my preceding accreditation as a Domestic Electoral Observer by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC), I took an early trip on Saturday 23rd February to a particular polling unit in Lagos, South-west Nigeria, to observe the rescheduled Presidential, senatorial and the House of Representative elections.


On that day, at that time, and in that place, I met with young Nigerians mostly men sprinkled with a few women. They were from different tribes and states of the federation but united by a common objective- a sincere desire to engage as leaders’ best minds to help get the answers and deploy the resources we need to move into the future via a free, fair, and credible general election.


Though I pretended not to be listening to the conversation, I, however, took a keen interest in one of the guys for he was open and honest in his presentations.


Alas! I could not pretend for too long that I was not flowing with the conversation as this particular guy soon observed the utter interest raging in my mind. And to douse the nagging ‘helplessness’ enveloping me as regards what he was dishing out, he quickly pulled close. And with some courtesy, this new guy that I would call Martins introduced himself as an unemployed graduate of philosophy.


He explained that his decision to actively participate in this electoral process was not taken hastily or rashly. But because there is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance. As any nation that produces softminded men purchases its own spiritual and socio-economic death at installment plan.


This leadership challenge you are talking about, is it particular with the current administration or are you speaking in general? I queried.


Yes, in part, he responded. But to be specific, what exists in Nigeria is not leadership but an ‘obsolate team management structure’ that cares less about descipline and planning but concentrates on the working assumption that ‘doing is more important than thinking, and execution s more important than generating breakthrough ideas. And, this state of affairs provides insight as to why the nation is littered with abandoned projects with our infrastructures crumbling slowly and steadily.


To further drive home his argument, like other prominent Nigerians, he queried; ‘could you imagine what Ajaokuta steel could have been like if Nigerian leaders had any sense of continuity and patriotism? Can you imagine the impact on our economy if the refineries have been working efficiently? Can you imagine what our railway system could have been like if those whom we have been saddled what have the presence of mind to carry on with this project? Can you imagine what our situation could have been like with the aviation industry today?’


Continuing, he confessed that what really set the stage for the nation’s current ordeal is that for the past two decades or so, Nigerians did not see anything wrong fraternizing with candidates and public officers that lack due care and those with culpable absence of solicitude in meeting or performing their practical and political duties to the people.


At this point, way forward became our preoccupation.


Martins again pointed out that if this ‘leadershp style’ is left unchallenged or corrected via the general elections, it  will further impede economic growth, social progress, peace and stability and employment generation because the current handlers are neither ready to openly admit and adopt both structural and managerial neither changes nor willing to listen and learn from fair-minded citizens and counter ways to curb the unemployment challenge that has turned a ‘socal dynamite’ in the country.


Certainly, a bracing position canvassed.


However, as we now know, if making the right thing happen on our shores as expressed by Martins truly reflects the complex nature of the challenge we face as a people, the question should be; what do we really want to see happen that is quite different from today?


In my view, aside from having a carefully planned and execution of certain economic policies that will chiefly revolve round finding a lasting solution to the youths unemployment in the country via entrepreneurship and skills development, we can achieve the targeted future for this nation by ensuring two things;


First and fundamental, leadership fence mending and introduction of personalities as leaders and more radical public leadership styles that imposes more discipline than conventional, promote successful decision making processes built on a higher quality of information, and creates government institutions that collaborate with private sectors and civil society has become necessary as we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it or rely on the same set of people at the helm of affairs when these problems were created.


The second is the need to establishing a government that can partner with the private sector in the race for massive infrastructural development as it has become evident that the government cannot do it alone. Achieving this will however call for a higher level of transparency on the part of the government. Transparency will remain the cornerstone as it will increase the confidence expected by these interventionists’ private sectors as well as the civil society groups who may not be disposed to investing in an environment that is devoid of lucidity and accountability.


As the nation races toward the gubernatorial and state houses of assembly elections scheduled for Saturday 9th March 2019, one point these Nigerians that have been ‘traditionally manipulated’ by politicians must not fail to remember is that the outcome of these elections are crucially important to not just Martins and his likes but to the entire world as the quality of those elected will go a long way in determining the success or otherwise of the 2030 sustainable development agenda – a programme formulated by the world body to among other aims promote and carter for people, peace and planet.


Particularly as it’s been argued by development experts that if Nigeria fails to get it right, Africa as a continent will in turn not get it right. Correspondingly, if Africa as a continent fails, it means the 2030 sustainable development agenda as planned will be considered a failure the world over.





Jerome-Mario Utomi

Jerome-Mario is a Social Entrepreneur and an alumnus, School of media and communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria.

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