Our Torch of Hope
To what extent should the electorate trust the politician to keep promises made during campaigns for election? This is a nagging question, no doubt, one that has often elicited varied answers. It is a question which has remained a regular feature of democracy all over the world. In advanced democracies, the monitoring of political office holders is much more scientific and rigorous. The reputation of the politician as a promise keeper is always a subject of intense inquisition and many of them become victims of public umbrage for falling shot of public expectation.
Voting in elections is a kind of investment for the electorate. That singular act of saying yes to a candidate is the basis of the power and authority which the beneficiary of such mandate exercises. For his effort, the electorate expects bountiful returns expected in the form of good governance. This investment, in most parts of the world, hardly ever yields good dividends.
Politicians are generally seen as people who do not always stand by their words. Edwina Currie, a 20th century political philosopher, is one of those strong voices on the side of the notion that politicians are not worth being trusted, and nothing confirms his incredulity more than his memorable statement: “When a politician says yes, he means maybe; when he says maybe, he means no: and when he says no, he is no politician.” In other words, politicians are tongue-in-cheek talkers, people who do not mean exactly what they say and do not say exactly what they mean. They do not always lay all their cards on the table for everyone to see. They are clever with their choice and use of words just in case there will be an attempt to pin them down to what they say.
But, is this pessimistic notion of the politician true of all politicians? In other words, are politicians all over the world collectively guilty of this tendency to play the verbal hide-and-seek game? Well, the answer is: to a large extent. But the magnitude of the guilt varies from country to country and this depends on the level of awareness on the part of the people of what their elected leaders owe them and their determination to hold them to account. In the more developed democracies of the West, it has become increasingly difficult for politicians to hoodwink the public with their choice and use of words. The people demand and insist that every word chosen and used be explained. Its meaning is then x-rayed for all to understand and to ensure that both the politician and his audience are on the same wavelength.
In the less developed democracies, especially in Africa, the experience is more frustrating. Politicians have over the years earned for themselves the unenviable reputation of impenitent liars. They exploit the ignorance of the largely illiterate populace and the political aloofness of the elite to abuse their mandate and drag the society down and into the abyss of underdevelopment. The poor state of development in most African countries today is due to insincerity on the part of their elected leaders.
Nigeria has not fared any better in the hands of its politicians. In fact, the country is one of the worst victims of insincerity and broken promises by its elected leaders. Nigerians are very sceptical, if not outright cynical about the integrity of politicians and their reputation for fulfilling promises. When they turn out in their millions to vote for their preferred candidate, it is not that they are absolutely certain that the beneficiary of such generous political support will be remarkably different from the others before him. Far from that. They just want to try their luck once more.
That resolve to keep on trying saw Nigerians trooping out to vote at least three times in April to elect a new set of leaders. The elections were largely free and fair. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the election is President Goodluck Jonathan. He won the presidential election with a wide margin of votes. That victory has brought the country on the threshold of a new political dawn. It was Jonathan’s first major electoral victory in his political career and he is coming into office with tremendous amount of goodwill. A lot of people see him as the torch of hope for the country and its people who have been several times over victims of broken political promises.
But questions must be asked. Can Jonathan wipe away the tears of our long suffering people? Will the next four years of the man of good luck give jobs to millions of our unemployed youths currently pounding the streets helplessly in search of jobs? Will the electricity situation in the country change dramatically? Will our highways and the railway system get better attention this time around; will the educational sector get a face-lift? Will the status of our hospitals change from consulting clinics to centres of excellent medical service? In other words, is our torch of hope here? Jonathan? May be.