Can the Corporate Sector, in its own Interest, Help with Voter Education?

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By Onuwa Lucky Joseph

A country is only as good as its leadership. Like we never tire of quoting John Maxwell, seeing as he put it so aptly, “everything rises and falls on leadership”. The ‘go-no-go’ in the private sector, never mind the standstill in the public sector, has been occasioned largely by a systemic rudderlessness which has become, so sadly, the norm. We make some progress and quickly, as if programmed, fall into regression, so that our fabled ‘immense potential’ has remained the main talking point all these many years.

A major reason for this is the lack of emphasis on continual political education and awareness creation amongst the populace. Every four years there’s heightened interest in who runs the country, states or LGAs. Moneys are spent right, left and centre and adjudged experts in the arcane art of propaganda, who, by the way, had always been engaged underground, cleverly position the worst products as the best the country needs. This messaging is of course driven down with cash, sometimes as low as N1,000, plus foodstuff, clothing materials, etc. which an impoverished population hungrily grabs and so seal their destiny for another four years.

Compounding this matter is the issue of illiteracy. Even though the everyday press is full of well-reasoned arguments one way and the other, the illiterate simply do not have the knowhow to comprehend and thus make their own independent judgment. Rather, they are led like a herd to what is not pasture but that looks like it. The greenery of cash grabs their attention and so is Nigeria sold on an ongoing basis for a mess of pottage, emphasis on the MESS.

It’s important that all who are invested in Nigeria in whatever form, but especially by nationality and in every sector be interested in promoting voter education, it being the bedrock of the democratic system of government that we have chosen to run. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has not been a massive success in this regard. And this is despite its mandate under Section 2 B(1) of the Electoral Act of 2010 (as amended) which makes the commission responsible and empowered to conduct voter and civic education activities.

Take for instance, the case of permanent voters’ card (PVC) which is formally designated an ongoing exercise. At election time, when there’s a mad scramble from every angle, eligible voters get sidelined by their inability to access their precious permanent voters’ cards, the only currency approved for voting. But ‘continuous’ is the window that the private sector can seize on to advance voter education that percolates all the way down.

That job is too important to be left to INEC and foreign aid donors or development partners. It’s okay for them to support us. But this should be a squarely Nigerian undertaking requiring those invested in this country, who desire its growth from a potential to an actualiser, who want to bequeath something better to their progeny, to put their money where their mouth is.

Voter education would be a good fit for a corporate organization’s CSR programme. What could, in the greater scheme of things, be greater than investing in a sustainable project that helps sustain the vision of those who fought for the independence of Nigeria? In something that helps reverse our misdirection?  What? In partnership with specialised CSOs, the organisation can come up with a deliverable that resonates with its target, the public, government, and other stakeholders. Well executed, it is capable of changing our course and making Nigeria much better than what we are used to. And it need not be on a nationwide basis to begin with. Let’s break it into chunks. Do some LGAs or if resources be available, focus on one state. Do it for some time. Develop a blueprint for how to run such a campaign, something others can learn from and run with. Results aren’t guaranteed to be immediate, but it will be lasting. And that is what nation building is really about. It’s a contribution that promises to keep contributing well into the future.

There can’t be anything more rewarding, nothing more purposefully aimed at leaving a legacy than having a Nigeria of right thinking voters picking the right candidates for public office. The fixation on stomach infrastructure has gone on for too long. Oh, for a patriotic corporate or corporates to help stop this misadventure that’s repeated every election cycle.

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