Richard Tayo : Beyond The Trekking, Let’s Hold Them Accountable

It’s a year already that we went to the pool. Last year shortly after the general elections Nigeria witnessed a new way to celebrate election victories. It was the season of trekking. A season ushered in by Suleiman Hashimu the man who trekked from Lagos to Abuja for 18days in celebration of the victory of President Mohammadu Buhari. Shortly after him we saw other trekkers like Duduwale who trekked from Adamawa to Abuja, Agu Chidera from Enugu to Abuja, Hajiya Talatu Kaduna to Abuja, a nursing mother Alice Daniel from Minna to Abuja. Abdullahi Afolabi Nadabagi took off from Abeokuta Ogun State to Lagos to thank Tinubu for Supporting Buhari. The losers of the elections got some trekkers on their side too. Oladele John Nihi embarked on the slow walk to Otuoke in Bayelsa to thank Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for conceding defeat to President Buhari. Former Governor Muktar Yero of Kaduna State also had trekkers who sympathized with him over his defeat during the governorship election.

However, way and beyond these trekking for politicians can Nigeria youths start to trek in protest of the fuel scarcity that is currently ravaging our country? How about trekking in protest of inadequate power supply and non payment of salaries?  Can the citizens start to hold politicians accountable for their actions while in office? Can we ever successfully sue a politician for a broken promise? Many citizens would assume that holding politicians accountable for their actions isn’t too difficult in a representative democracy. Arguably, there is no more important stage for a promise than coming from someone seeking public office, but when there is little accountability for that promise what can the electorates do?

Heading to the March 28th and April 11th 2015 elections, there were rumblings of electoral platforms from the major political parties. Both PDP and APC were developing policy planks and trying to convince voters of how they would run our nation should they emerge victorious. However what happens if they are elected and fail to follow through? What can those who voted in reliance of all those campaign promises do to demand accountability?
Can we start to consider election promises to be contract? I feel this idea has some definite appeal but I know courts will say that campaign promises do not rise to the level of contractual promise. I read about a guy who shared a dilemma. He had a good job offer from another organization, while his current organization was also offering a promotion, which would be his fourth in three years. His boss offered the promotion saying, “You build and support a great team, you hold people accountable and you get results.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a better recipe for success in business. Yet, why do we not demand the same for our political leaders?

Nigeria electorates seem to quickly forget. The promises and sound bites linger for a few years and are then quickly lost to another round of sound bites. Perhaps this lack of memory is related to a lack of caring.
Another reason we fail to hold our political leaders accountable is that their promises are often very vague. Promise  like “All Nigerians deserve better education….etc” would we actually vote for someone who wants worse education? When given such vague promises our response should be “what exactly are you promising and how will you make that happen?”.  Assessing the angles, the short answer is there’s not much voters can do outside of not re-electing the politician in the next election or attempting to gathering support for a recall which has never happened in the history of Nigeria.

In addition to the vagueness and the memory loss of promises, there is also the issue of cognitive dissonance – the tension we feel when our candidate’s promises are not kept. Nigeria citizens are quick to pass judgment on those in the other party, while those candidates from their own party are excused with “Well, they’re all like that.”
The sad reality of this is that the issue of broken election promises is one that has real democratic consequences. Broken promises by politicians are a key driver to voter apathy and the stunningly bad voter turnout rates at the last general elections. If we don’t expect politicians to live by their word why bother voting in the first place. That is not a rational conclusion, but horrifying for our democracy.

Until more institutional checks are developed, we are left with our votes and trekking  and the hope that our politicians will remain honest.

Richard Tayo

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of nor its associates

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