We are at it again. Prophets are declaring presidents. Chiefs are declaring support for specific candidates.
Celebrities are teaming up to support one political party or another. Opposition parties are promising incredible things should they be elected into power.
The government is also not taking any chances. Roads are being resurfaced. Buildings are being painted. Projects have to be finished – even if it means that it is done shoddily. There is a great expectation in town.
There are television footages of market women hailing one political party or the other for the progress they stand to bring if elected. There are signboards all over town exhorting the great works and excellence of the President. The flags of the various political parties are fluttering in the air.
It is unmistakably an election year. And we are all high on something. It could be sheer excitement. It could be sheer hope. It could be foolishness. It could simply be the euphoria of the moment.
Very little seems to make sense. Governments and opposition vacillate back and forth so long as they stand to gain some political benefit. There are no such things as principles.
But we have to understand one thing: elections without responsibility and vigilance before and after the election are of no relevance at all.
We like to live comfortably. Or more aptly choose the easy way out of things. We get all worked up during the election period. Then relapse into bouts and cycles of depression and despair after the promises by the government turn out to be far from the reality.
The answer to our developmental challenges as a nation is not the politicians- who constitute less than one per cent of the total population in power.
It is the people. It is the citizenry. We are the ones on whose shoulders the progress and development of the nation rests ; and one of our roles is to take part in the collective task of electing leaders.
However, it does not end there because an election is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. And just as employers keep a keen eye on their employees; and without fail, demand accountability, so also must the citizenry keep a keen eye on the government. It is not enough to simply go and vote. You must be involved.
You must be involved in the activities of your local government. You must be concerned about the problems and challenges around you. You must be awake to the calls and protests that will define our time. You must make that personal commitment.
Elections are not quick fixes to the challenges we face as a nation. You can’t simply vote and hope that every four years you will have the opportunity to make things right. Things can be made right there and then.
Considering the way we go about things, just about any government, irrespective of origin, would not be as successful as we would expect. Just as a plant not tended and cared for becomes stunted and malnourished, so also is our democracy.
There is no doubt that our growth and development has been stunted for a while now. And so long as we approach it with “a touch-and-go attitude”, it may hardly yield the dividends that we expect it to yield.
Don’t get me wrong. The government has a role to play in development. Governments do play various roles in development. But governments are made up of people like you and me with different names, ages and demographic backgrounds.
It is human beings that make up the government. Those in government are a microcosm of the larger society. In a lot of ways, we are a lot more like the politicians we chastise daily, than we are willing to concede.
Just that some how we expect that they would be a little better than we are. But we forget that our collective hunger becomes their collective hunger; and our desires become their desires.
Unless we change our ways and attitude we are definitely heading to one direction – the great disappointment. Elections only have not made nations great and prosperous. It is the people’s hunger – the hunger to see things work – the hunger to innovate and make the best out of situations – the hunger to look beyond parochial interests.
If the whole point about an election is to swing the pendulum of prosperity towards one set of people every four or eight years, then we should not have high hopes.
Elections in our part of the world are like war. After victory has been won, the next thing would be to start the distribution of the spoils. And we all know everything is usually shared only on one side of the table.