Dr. Otabor speaks to newsmen in Abuja about what Nigerians need to do to avoid voting the wrong people in the 2023 elections. He also gives an insight on how to vote and monitor the voting process. Excerpts;
Introduce yourself sir and explain how Nigerians should participate in the forthcoming election.
My name is Dr. Christopher Otabor. I run Alliance Hospital, Abuja.
Nigeria is at a crossroads. And we cannot afford to get it wrong going forward from 2023, because we have a major challenge with leadership. And the president that is going to emerge in 2023 must be someone who can take initiative and who must act.
In many countries and many organs of government, the establishment can still survive when you have people who are run by the system. But Nigeria cannot afford a president who the country would run.
The next president must run the country and not vice versa, because there are myriads of challenges that need a well thought out process of action. And we cannot accord to look away from problems hoping that the problem will go away, because that is what has happened to a very large extent recently. We appear to be doing something, but when in fact we are not doing anything, hoping that time will push the problem away.
We must be decisive; ASUU is on strike, you can’t pet the issue. You must get to the bottom of the problem. Be pragmatic and find what is the solution to the strike, because if you pet the problem, ASUU strike will continue.
We have insecurity. We cannot afford to just make statements and say, I want you to solve the security problem. No. What specifics? We must get the specifics and we must get the job done. We must dirty our hands. The next president must dirty his hands. He must lead from the front not just in saying it but in action.
So in every aspect of our lives as a country, whether it is education, whether it is healthcare, whether it is pension reform, whether it is police, whether it is infrastructure, we need specific action. We need the president who will be strong enough to act, because if a president is not healthy whatever is thrown at him, he will not have any strength to take it, because he can’t do otherwise. And the office requires someone who is energetic, who is strong, who is vibrant, and who can be in meetings from morning till night.
If such qualities are absent; the president is not strong, he is not healthy, people will hijack the process. We don’t want cabal this time. We want the president to lead his team, not his team leading. Because you can be in the office and people are just writing memos for you and all you are doing is signing.
But if you are strong you will be able to read through every memo and re-write what you don’t want. That will lead to purposeful, pragmatic leadership. That is the kind of person we should be looking for in 2023 because we cannot afford to get it wrong that year because if we get it wrong the future will be really bleak for everyone of us.
You see, as a country, may be because of the level of education or poverty, the mindset of the people have been so twisted over the years that they just vote for sentimental reasons and for pecuniary reasons.
It is sad to note that even on this day, vote buying is still rite. Why, because people want to get the peanut not knowing the implications for their future.
You can take five thousand naira and vote someone but get ready to wail and to weep when insecurity is going to wipe out your entire village.
Yes, because the purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people. If you cannot extract these two things from someone you are voting for then it is a major mistake.
So the people must sit back and forget about the handout, forget about rice, forget about beans, forget about little stipend that they will give to the people and vote based on what they think is the best for the country.
Unfortunately, democracy being a game of numbers does not also state the quality of minds of this number. Because it is possible, if the majority of the people are ignorant and the majority of the people are uneducated and don’t understand the issues; they can keep voting for the wrong people. So that is one of the drawbacks of democracy.
And a lot of people in the village may not even know the candidates that are being put forward. Someone told someone that told someone that told someone that told them to vote. And maybe money has exchanged hands along the line that is why we need to create a lot of awareness. We need to have town hall meetings. We need to discuss the issues, discuss the candidates, and ask fundamental questions so that the electorate can be well educated enough to make informed choices.
The control word there is informed. It is a universal adult suffrage. Everybody who is eighteen years and above has the right to vote. But how many people have that information about the people they are voting for.
Some people just ask what you want us to vote for. Is it a broom, or is it an umbrella? That is all they know.
So, what kind of product are you going to have from such an electorate? So at the end of the day it might boil down to who spent the most, which made the most noise?
But for those who are elite, who are educated, we can begin to set the agenda and also educate our relatives who are not as educated.
What do you have about INEC that will conduct the election?
For me the best legacy this current president is leaving behind for us is the 2022 electoral act, the current electoral act, as amended. It is a fantastic document. It provides for electronic transmission of results. And I think that would make a lot of difference in this next election because politicians know that votes will count, even though the manner in which the people cast their votes may be questionable.
That is why they want to induce people to vote because they know that vote may count.
Before they know that the vote would not count, all they need to do is to go wait at the collation centre and change the figures. But now that they know that vote will count, they don’t mind paying people, paying their surrogates to get the votes into the system.
So, the job of INEC is cut out for them. They should follow the electoral act according to the letters of the law and ensure that they are not found wanting, because it will be too costly to mortgage the will of the people. It will be too costly to sabotage the system, because they and their families will also be part and parcel of the repercussions of such an action.
So civil societies also need to have their say and I love what civil societies are doing in Nigeria. They are following the votes, they are following the process and they are raising alarm at every point when they suspect infringement on the electioneering process. And we must continue to do that and even do more going into 2023.