Friday, January 13, 2023
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Harrisburg, PA, USA

y interest in Nigerian politics forces me to be in touch, all the time, with grass root folks back in Nigeria. In 2015, I published a book called Nigeria - Contemporary Essays and Commentaries. It is solely dedicated to Nigerian affairs, her politics, her people, infrastructure, economy, way of life and more. I was able to write a book like that because I keep in touch with folks in Nigeria, family, friends, contemporaries and even people I do not know. I do so by texting them, sending WhatsApp messages, emailing, Facebooking and the likes. It is often surprising to people, back in Nigeria, when I, for example, call or text someone deep inside my village and ask about cost of food, weather, political situation, voting, PVC. I believe that it is the only way to ensure that my writings are borne out of reality not fantasy.

In the same spirit, I have kept in touch with folks about the upcoming presidential election. It has been heartening to see how interest in the election has gone from tepid to full interest in many circles. In the Igbo states and elsewhere, the youth have ramped things up with their internet presence and rally attendance for their candidate. Even market women, in my hometown, talk about the "HOPE" they have for change come February and the possible change in their current troubled situation to a better one. It is also heartening to see how the young ones have moved beyond passivity in Nigerian political affairs to full interest. They attend rallies in droves, making constant internet presence and voicing their opinion and interest in support of their candidate.

The general trend of interest in Nigerian politics has been heartening to me and as time went on, I began to believe that this interest and vigor will automatically translate into registration for PVC, collection of PVCs and eventually massive trooping out to the polling booth to vote. But with what I am seeing, reading and hearing, I am no longer so sure. Every day, we read or hear that INEC is saying that there are thousands of PVCs in their custody that are yet to be collected. From what we read, it seems like most of the PVCs belong to young Nigerians who are in front of the vanguard for change! Some of the people I have been in contact with, in fairness to them, have also complained about going to INEC offices to collect their PVCs only to be frustrated, having to spend a long time in the hot sun and ending up not finding their PVCs. This is disappointing and civil society groups should hold INEC accountable now not after the election is over and the deed done.

This brings me to the reason for this commentary- armchair optimism amongst the populace about outcome of the elections. I have been in contact with many who hope that change will occur and that Nigeria will elect a new and forward-looking leader but then you ask them, "do you have your PVC?" and they say, "No" but "God is in control and will not let the old brigade win the election". So, you wonder, they do not have PVC and hence will not vote but they hope that God will intervene? I call this armchair optimism and it is one of the maladies that continue to set Nigerians back. Someone will not study for an exam but will tell you they are hopeful that God will make them pass. Someone will not see a doctor for an ailment but will tell you they hope God will heal them so they fast and pray. Someone will not go pounding the pavement to look for a job but will stay in prayer houses all day and night asking God to give them a job. In this case, someone will not collect their PVC or even register for it but want God to intercede and give Nigeria a new and better president. Haba! You gotta give God something to work with folks.

Yes, be optimistic that God will intervene and give Nigeria the long-awaited leader that will turn things around. But instead of armchair optimism, go the way of effective optimism by giving God something to work with. Do your part by collecting your PVC and be ready to vote on that day come rain come shine. If you go to the INEC office to collect your PVC and they frustrate you once, please follow up. Good things are worth waiting for and nothing good comes easy. Civil Societies, political groups should bear down on INEC to ask for the release of all PVCs while there is still time instead of waiting after the election to go to court. At that time, it will already be late.

You may ask what I am doing on my own part to help? Well, because I do not live in Nigeria but need and want change in Nigeria, I am investing my time writing about the election, the need for the change, the need to collect PVCs and vote. I have also put out jingles, on my own dime, sensitizing people about registering, collecting their PVCs and voting eventually. God knows that if I lived in Nigeria, I will never miss a vote just like I never do in my new place of abode. If everybody does what they can and should and then pray on top of it, there is a chance that God will come. Remember, the other side is hoping that there will be no change in leadership in Nigeria. These are people who continue to benefit from years of disfunction, corruption and the likes in Nigeria. Remember, they also pray to God to grant their wishes. Yes, they are the children of God too like you and I. So, they are hoping too that things will go their way in the election so they will keep "chopping" Nigeria's cake. Their political rallies are also packed with large crowd rented or not. The difference will be the side that hopes but does what it takes to win. And that is to collect PVC and vote

Let me end this with an analogy. Two students are studying for an exam that will bestow scholarship to one person, the person who comes out tops in the exam. That person will go and study medicine at the University of Nigeria. Both are of course God's creations so they are both the same in the eyes of God. Both pray every night before they go to bed and pray in the morning when they rise. One spends a better part of the day studying for the exam. The other spends a better part of their time doing night vigils and hoping that they are the "chosen" one that God will hand deliver the scholarship to. Then the day of the exam comes and they both take the exam. Who, in your mind, will get the scholarship? What I envision God saying to the night vigil one is, "you lazy child that wants to reap where you did not sow, you will not get the scholarship". And to the other one that studied and prayed, he will say, "you hard -working child that prayed and still studied, here is the scholarship you have labored for and while in the university, keep praying and living a Godly life. But also make sure that you study hard so I can have something to work with as I further uplift you"

A word is enough for the wise. Go and get your PVC because as you are "hoping" for change but waiting for others to do the voting, others are also hoping for change and waiting for you to do the voting. In the end, no one will vote and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Here I stand!

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War