Although it is less than two years to the 2015 elections, almost all political actions, calculations and commentary are geared towards it. It is the quest for the Presidency in 2015 that has informed events such as the merger of major opposition parties into the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) and the crisis within the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Hardly a day goes by without some conversation about whether President Goodluck Jonathan deserves a second term and who is most eligible to replace him, making one of the buzzwords to be ‘change.’
However, while everyone is focused on bringing change at the topmost level, it has escaped the notice of most Nigerians that there are many more avenues for change in public offices in 2015. Of the 26 states where governorship elections will be held, in only eight of those states will the incumbents be eligible for re-election (Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Nassarawa, Kwara, Gombe, Ogun, Oyo and Imo States). This means that come what may, there will be 18 new governors in 2015. This is besides Anambra State where an election will be held in two months as Peter Obi is finishing his second term next year.
This will be the highest number of newly-elected governors in Nigeria since 1999, and it also represents an opportunity for massive change in the pedigrees of who will occupy those offices.
Also, it also means that we as the electorate should equally apply our energies in our various states in ensuring that only persons who have the capability to perform are elected into office. But why is this not so?
Inasmuch as we have a presidential system that places enormous, even excessive powers at the centre, a lot can be achieved if we had functioning state governments led by performing governors and state legislators who do the business for which they are elected for excellently.
For example, while it is generally agreed that the Federal Government since 1999 has not lived up to expectations, a state such as Lagos State has had uninterrupted, visible and impacting positive growth in the same amount of time, courtesy of well-performing governors.
I recall former Bauchi State Governor, Ahmadu Mu’azu circa 2004 saying in an interview that no state can claim to not receiving enough money to make a positive impact on its citizenry. This means that despite the constant cries of our governors of not receiving enough federally-allocated funds to better their chances of performance, what they receive currently can go a long way in making life better for their people.
Sadly, however, we also contribute in allowing our governors to get away with a lot of non-performance, impunity and even corruption, as we are so focused on the federal level as to lump everything that is going wrong in our states on the Presidency.
Very few of us even know the budgets of our states, not to talk about demanding that it is well implemented. We have no idea what the priorities of our state governments are; how then can we critique their performance?
This is not to say that a well-functioning Federal Government is not important; but that an excellently functioning state government can exist even when the centre is inefficient and ineffective. This can also go vice-versa.
So as 2015 approaches, it is time for us to start getting involved in the politics of our states. Let us start joining political parties and movements and take part in the selection of the candidates that will run in the governorship elections.
While admittedly, not all of us can or will join parties and movements, we must not shy away from dissecting the candidates and expressing our support for our preferences. We can also mobilize to support those we feel can do the job, even when they are not in the race, and put pressure on them to run.
A failure to do this could result in persons who have no business with governing a state ending up there, and causing a lot of ruin and havoc in the minimum of four years they spend there.
If we really want change that will bring impact, we should stop focusing solely on the centre and start focusing on the states as well.