Generosity Does Not Win Elections In Nigeria – Part I

There are not many truisms in Nigeria’s political system. The fluidity of our political space, constantly changing interests and what is known in local parlance as ‘shifting the goal post’ makes it generally difficult to adequately predict outcomes per circumstance.

But even in such a terrain, hindsight, especially from regrettable experience, has served up a few truths such as the fact that generosity and kindness do not guarantee electoral victory.

To win elections in Nigeria, you do not have to be generous and charitable. This is of course not to be confused with the type of generosity our people call ‘eye-service’, ‘stomach-infrastructure’ and many other such political coinage that ridicules insincere community developments carried out by vote seeking politicians but selfless charity and generosity driven out of honesty of intention, kindness and sincerity. Prefixing one’s political ambition on random acts of kindness or expectations of reciprocity in selfless love is a fast route to electoral heartbreak.

Hard records support my assertions above. Politicians driven by a sincerity of action and believing same to give them an edge in an election usually find out the hard way that professed love on the streets doesn’t always translate to votes.

So here’s the tag line- If you want to develop a town, local government or state, it should be genuinely done for humanity to avoid electoral regrets but if you think these physical projects would make people vote for you massively at the poll, it is important you wake up from dreams and live in reality.

Some days ago, I paid a condolence visit to a friend who lost his loving father. Together with some friends, we visited his family in their hometown and consoled our friend. It was a very long and stressful journey to his town. Besides its total neglect and old buildings, farmers who trekked long distances with cutlasses, hoes and baskets restored my sanity as I would have been forgiven for thinking we were moving into another world. However, as far and remote as this village was, there were political posters and faded banners dating as far back as 2003 pasted along its decrepit streets and hanging on walls at every junction in the vicinity.

So politicians come here to seek for people’s votes? I pondered. Why would an area with such electoral value lack social and basic amenities? No water, no power supply, no healthcare centre, untarred roads and its single elementary school in the area lacked furniture and furnishing expert for broken-down doors and unhinged windows.

As we commiserated with my good friend who lost his father, I was completely lost in thoughts wondering how the people in this town survive without basic amenities. Some parts of the world have gone paperless, students now use tabloids as writing materials but children in this village lacked access to writing materials of the most basic kind. Such an overwhelming inequality was made all the more pronounced because these kids and townsmen have to compete for survival with better placed folks from other communities.

I looked around and swallowed my thoughts figuring it wasn’t the right time to raise such an issue given the original purpose of our visit. Barely a few minutes after we left the family house of my friend, I noticed an erected water tank beside the palace of the king- a hand-pump borehole. I checked the signpost and discovered that the borehole was not constructed by the government. So this village has prominent sons and daughters, philanthropists and captains of industries, I thought, but why did then do they neglect their hometown? I asked.

I was told there was a time one of its prominent sons visited the hometown. He drilled boreholes, created opportunities for youths, settled the medical fees of the sick ones and organised scholarships for his people but he eventually left the town. Why did he leave? I asked.

He said: Some elders of the community pushed him into politics. They told him that he would perform better as a political office holder than an individual especially arguing that the town would benefit more in terms of dividends since he had a heart of gold. He then joined politics to contest for public office but he was brutally betrayed by both the young and old in his hometown. They lied to him and sold him cheaply to his political opponent. He was sacrificed for selfish interest. He felt betrayed by his own kinsmen and decided to render any further form of assistance from afar.

I circumnavigated the town and I saw some physical projects credited to him. They are still active, useful and working. I learnt that his opponent alongside leaders stormed the town at night like thieves and stole the hearts of residents of the town with two packets of indomie and N4000 at least. People collected indomies, cash rewards and within a twinkle of an eye, they forgot the man who sunk boreholes, organised scholarship programmes for their children and created job opportunities for the youths of the community. Now they have no access to more boreholes, more blocks of classrooms, more scholarships, more job opportunities and sadly, the distributors of indomies are now tired having achieved their original intention of seizing power. Truly a lesson learnt in regret on the ephemerality of electoral love and the truism that generosity of the sincere kind hardly ever guarantees electoral victory.

Let us meet in the next edition.

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