Politics may be dirty but shouldn’t scare away clean people

The Christian fasting period and the Muslim fasting period ran concurrently this year. Over the weekend, Christians celebrated Easter to mark the resurrection of Christ and the conclusion of that season which started with Ash Wednesday. Next week, Muslims will end their fasting period (Ramadan) with Eid-el-Fitr. There are other religions in Nigeria, but Christianity and Islam are the two key ones.

Everybody who has governed Nigeria has been a Christian or Muslim. Despite that religion is a strong factor in all issues concerning Nigeria, it is sad that the high level of religious practice among Nigerians has not had a positive effect. Because of the desperation to emerge victorious, many politicians engage in all manner of practices. There are claims of oath-taking inside shrines and coffins, sacrifices involving human blood, signing of ungodly agreements with godfathers, bribery of many stakeholders, rigging, embezzlement of public funds, elimination of opponents, etc.

An ethical or God-fearing person would not want to get involved in things like this. And rather than accept the permissive and compromising if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them maxim, many take the path of honour and moral high ground by keeping away completely from partisan politics. However, the consequence is that when good people keep away from politics, the bad ones take over and determine the fate of the good people.

That is why ethical or God-fearing people should not be afraid to contest for political offices, because the more they stay away, the more godless men and women take charge of the affairs of the nation at the three levels of government and run the nation aground.

Despite the difficulties, some suggestions can help ethical people get into strategic positions in Nigeria without compromising their standards.

First is having a long-term plan.  Anybody who wants to buy an umbrella at a cheap rate must do so during the dry season. Umbrellas cost more during the rains, because that is when the demand is high. By that, I mean that an ethical or godly person should not start campaigning one or two years to the election date like the do-or-die people do. The do-or-die people are ready to spend money; they are ready to compromise their standards to get what they want.

To make things easier, people of integrity or God-fearing people need to make themselves known and loved in their community first in a subtle but consistent way. Beyond being a person of integrity, an ethical person can set up a foundation that focuses on scholarships to poor but bright students, or care of widows and orphans, or support for small businesses, or defence of the rights of the powerless, etc.

One does not necessarily need to be interested in elective office before acting like the Good Samaritan. Rendering a hand to people should be a selfless service without any plans of profiting from such charity. But those who contribute to the welfare of others usually get loved by the common folks. That is the time to show your people that you naturally care about their welfare from the little resources you have been blessed with. Contributing to the growth and welfare of your community may even make the people to agitate for you to contest for a political office with the belief that you will do more if given the opportunity. While others are working hard to win the electorate over with gifts and promises, the people are campaigning for you. A proverb says that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is NOW.

The next point is to jettison the do-or-die mindset. An election is not a business venture. It is not an investment that one needs to sow and reap from. It is supposed to be a service to the people. If one has this mindset, it will help one to be careful how much one spends on campaigns. No matter the assurances from people, one cannot be sure of who will win the election. Having such a mindset will help one to reject undue pressure to sell one’s property or enter into unethical agreements with a godfather before the election.

Such a mindset would also help one to avoid tainting oneself through involvement in vote buying, intimidation of opponents, elimination of opponents, rigging of election, etc.

Another point is that we must change our attitude to elections. If we keep on demanding and receiving gifts from candidates before the election, then we don’t have any moral right to complain when they get into office and embezzle our commonwealth. They are simply trying to recoup the huge money they have invested. If we keep on believing that the people who deserve our votes are those who have lavished more money on us during campaigns, then our nation will continue to be prostrate.

That brings me to the next point which is interwoven with this. We must learn to collectively sponsor ethical or God-fearing candidates. Electioneering costs a lot of money – by this, I don’t mean the money that should be doled out to voters. Candidates need a lot of publicity through the newspapers, television, radio, billboards etc. They need to print posters, banners, T-shirts. They need to have vehicles and staff that will move from one area to another for campaigns. They need to hire venues for rallies, sound system, generator to power this sound system, etc. They need to pay the party to even get a nomination form. Therefore, those who believe in a candidate should be ready to contribute towards that person’s campaign and also volunteer to work for that person without receiving any payment. That was how a fresh senator in the United States, with little political clout or pedigree, was sponsored by the little contributions of the common people in 2008 and 2012 to win the American presidency.

The advantage of having ethical or God-fearing men and women in power cannot be over-emphasised. The biblical Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah and Esther come to mind here. During the administration of Joseph, Egypt was prosperous and the family of Jacob was favoured. But when a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph took over, the same privileged Israelites were turned into slaves. We must also remember that even as a young man, Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife but refused to succumb. That is a sign that he who is faithful in a little thing is most likely going to be faithful in much.

But it must be noted that it is one thing for an ethical or God-fearing person to get into power to change things and for such a person to get into power and be changed by power. Most times, the greed to acquire things of the world as well as retain power at all costs makes many good people derail and become the same thing they condemned. Such people end up not only achieving nothing, but they also create a bad image of God-fearing people in governance that it becomes difficult for other true servants of God to be trusted with power.

The Nigerian political turf may be scary but ethical and God-fearing men and women must not remain aloof, for “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

–X: @BrandAzuka

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

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