In February and March of next year, Nigerians will elect a new set of leaders into a dysfunctional political system. We are all familiar with the way the process goes. Election time rolls around and is characterised by lofty promises and colourful shows of support for the wellbeing of the public. Both candidates tend to appear equal in capacity, so we vote based on tribal ties.
A year or two after the new President and members of the National Assembly have been elected, we notice that something is amiss. Few if any of the promises made have been kept. Little attempt is made to improve the wellbeing of the masses and we start to complain at airports and bus stops.
What happens at this point is that the cracks in our political system begin to show, accompanied by complaints of corruption and incompetence on the part of the elected leaders. The perpetuation of this process creates the popular view that politicians in general cannot be trusted.
But what we do not realise is that it is the Nigerian political system, and not the Nigerian politician, that has failed us. Corrupt or otherwise, political leaders cannot better the lives of their constituents in a political system which does not support progress and change.
Our two-party dominant system does not support the diverse population in Nigeria, thus leaving a significant proportion of voices unheard and locked out of power. As a result, the tangible results of the 2019 elections are unlikely to differ from those of the 2015, 2011, or 2007 elections. If we want to move forward, the system must change.
According to INEC, voter turnout in the past few elections has been disappointingly low, with constituencies such as Ifako-Ijaye seeing less than three per cent of registered voters participating in elections. Measures have been taken to improve voter turnout for next year’s election, including the government campaigns on social media.
In the process of getting our voters’ cards and registration prepared for the 2019 election, we should not neglect the greatest preparation of all: creating a suitable political system that serves its function in Nigeria.
Without such a system, elections will further continue to be nothing but a farcical performance of democracy in which no individuals outside of the power elite hold any true power.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.