By Seun Awogbenle.
You can wager that one of my favourite songs of all time is the popular “One Moment in Time” – a song by American singer Whitney Houston, written by Albert Hammond and John Bettis, produced by Narada Michael Walden for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
I cannot remember when I first heard the song, but since my first encounter with the song, it has remained a food for my soul, I listen to it particularly when I need to brace up for a new challenge, it is also my song for meditation because I find the lyrics of the song very compelling, and they speak directly to my consciousness particularly on the topic of time and chance.
Maybe unrelated, but since the Continuous Voters Registration commenced on Monday, June 2021, nothing has reminded of the importance of the process more than a part of the song, which according to Whitney Houston sings “I’ve lived to be, the very best, I want it all, no time for less, I’ve laid the plans, Now lay the chance, here in my hands”. That part of the song speaks quite precisely to the importance of this moment in Nigeria’s history. It is a reminder that while we have all continued to clamour for improved governance and transformational leadership, we have this moment in time, laid in our hands, to change our own story and rewrite the fortunes of Nigeria.
If you have been following my writings and interventions online, in the print and broadcast media, you will never be in doubt about my conviction and approach to development. It has always been that of pragmatism or what can better be described as patient progress. I believe pragmatism rather than radicalism can deliver a more sustainable change and development. Engagement, Dialogue and Elections are some of the most fundamental aspects of pragmatism, I reckon.
The first journey to any election starts with voters’ registration and that is what we now have in our hands. The opportunity to register to vote at the election so that we can all collectively deliver a credible and competent leadership for our country. I have always maintained that there is no better revolution than the one done at the election; it is the most effective way to express our collective anger against a system that does not serve our interest. Yes, protests are good, but they can only deliver quick fixes which are ad hoc at best, only electoral action can deliver the kind of system overhaul, sustainable change, and long-term fixes that we badly desire.
I understand the power of elections, which is the reason I dedicated an entire Chapter in my book, The Urgency of Now, to discuss what I termed the Power of the Ballot. I recall writing along the line that, on the ballot lies the present and the future, with every ballot comes an opportunity for renewal, for redemption and restoration!
Some may even argue that by not voting they are protesting but voting itself is a more effective and even louder protest, through the ballot, we can demonstrate again that true power lies with the people. Elections are powerful, and the outcome even outlast the holders of such office, the impact is always that of a lifetime, either good or bad.
I am excited that this time, INEC has made provision for the online pre-registration process where citizens can commence their voters’ registration online and then choose an appointment date for biometric physical capture from July 19, at any of the INEC State and local government offices. This is an impressive leap in our electoral history, which is coming at a time when we continue to advocate for the full deployment of technology for Nigeria’s election.
Now that INEC has laid the chance in our hands, this is the time for every young Nigerian above the age of 18 to register and get ready to vote. Although, I always hear some people say votes do not count, and I have had to counter this argument too many times. While I understand that the Nigerian system has inspired nothing but cynicism over the years, there is really no logic to the generalisation that votes do not count, votes count! My simple counter had always been that if votes do not count, why then do politicians still spend heavily to buy votes, no one would buy what does not count.
While I do not dispute the penchant of the political class for collusion to rig elections, many people fail to understand that the more people who choose not to vote the easier it becomes for the political class to rig elections. The most effective antidote to rigging is for everyone of voting age to come out and vote, it makes it difficult for elections to be rigged. Democracy has always been about numbers and elections offer an opportunity to make the numbers count.
Like I have always said, we have come too far to give up on Nigeria, if we give up on our country, we are giving up on our future. The progress of our country is never out of reach, but we must never forget that elections are the foundation of every democracy, if we must get everything else right, then it must start with elections – by getting involved in the process that produces democratic leadership.
Now that we have the chance laid in our hands, we must make this moment count and get involved in the process that leads to the transformation of our country from that of a third world country to an example of shared prosperity. Register to Vote!
*Awogbenle is the author of ‘The Urgency Of Now’ and a youth advocate.
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