It is week two of the voter registration exercises. After one week of hitches some facts are gradually becoming clear. The Presidency has acknowledged that the NYCS ad-hoc staffs were ill trained for the exercise while INEC has admitted having various logistic problems including the failure of one of the DDC machine vendors to deliver on time which has led to incomplete deployment across the country amongst other challenges.
Above all these hitches however, its heartwarming to note the enthusiasm with which Nigerians have embraced the registration process and how they troop out, enduring all kinds of pressures daily to participate in the exercise. The massive campaign at all levels has helped in no small way in getting the word out and in having the people appreciate the need to vote in the coming election. Many youth groups have been in the fore front of this campaign beseeching the internet and using all youth sensitive media to reach the largest segment of the population, the youth who from past records have shown apathy and disinterest.
Very heartwarming also is the fact that the clergy are gradually stepping up to the challenge of contributing to nation building by encouraging their congregation to partake in this very important civic duty. For long I have particularly been irked by the silence of the more popular religious leaders who control congregations that run into millions while things went awry in the polity. No gain repeating what strong influence religion has on our people and how the religious institutions remain very key players in the effort to rebuild Nigeria.
I have heard and read about a couple of such effort. A Muslim friend rightly informed me of how the Imam had concluded his sermon at last Fridays Jummat prayers with a call on the worshippers to register to vote. Efforts such as this and those of others including the reminder by the good old priest who said Mass at my Parish church last Sunday combines to make the call for change and progress through the ballot box not just a civic duty but in many ways a religious one as well and that in my opinion is how best religion should serve the interest of the people in our time.
One such message from a man of God, Pastor Paul Adefarasin of the House on the Rock caught my attention recently. It did on the one hand, because for me it was the first time I would hear the rather reserved gentleman speak on a National issue and on the other hand, the message itself drove home the need for Nigerians of all tribes and creed to register to vote in the coming elections.
Naturally I was impressed this was coming from a man of God but even more I felt it was worthy of note that he had prescribed quite unequivocally that creed should play no part in the people’s choice of their leaders instead the virtues of integrity and competence should be sought for in the candidates. Quoting him in the statement, he said “Make religion and tribe irrelevant in Nigeria’s 2011 elections. Register and vote for competence and integrity.”
I take out two important words from his statement which I must state contained many other nationally enriching lines; Competence and Integrity. The absence of this two has been the bane of our country. For so long we have had leaders that were either ill prepared for the office they found themselves in or those that foisted themselves on us through the power of the gun. And when we had a chance to elect, we fouled the system and justified it with our “it’s our turn” or “he is our brother” bias. Competence and integrity have thus been very unpopular virtues of our leaders but a pair that is now exigent as they constitute a sine qua non for progress and good governance.
If we must make progress, then we must grow above our ethnic and religious mind sets and install a new order. In that sense, it becomes not enough to have registered. For if we all fail to sieve properly the candidates and do as we have done in the past, we would once again end up with leaders who do not feel responsible to us and who certainly shall not deliver the promises their manifestos bear. Like I have stated elsewhere, poverty, disease, bad roads, power outage and all the other issues we confront daily do not know zones and neither do they worship God in a particular way. They confront us all squarely.
Pastor Adefarasin’s call and indeed those of all other religious leaders who have been making similar calls is indeed a welcome development and couldn’t have come at a better time. As we endure the inconveniences to register, let us have this at the back of our minds that this time competence and integrity should be the basis for our votes. We can’t afford to do otherwise.