OBASESAM OKOI, PhD
In 2019 I failed an election in Canada. I contended against powerful forces who had enormous financial resources. The campaign was tedious because I was dedicated to my cause and wanted to convince everyone who cared to listen to my message that I was the best candidate.
I successfully convinced both middle class and low income citizens that I was the best guy for the job who understood how families feel about health care, child care, the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs, and the environment.
My campaign received endorsements and donations from people who had not known me until they stumbled upon my platform on newspaper pages, on the campaign website, or via a brochure.
I was exhausted financially, physically, and mentally when the campaigns ended. I lost. It was painful. Very painful. But I learned important lessons.
So I write as someone who had failed an election in a society where politics is practically driven by both ideas and money.
When it comes to the 2023 elections in Cross River, I chose to remain silent. Yes. Silent.
Politics is money, and power is not given to wishful thinkers. It is wrestled with money and ideas. But money gives voice to ideas.
In the western world, ideas can win hearts and minds in your favor. But money will take your message to the nooks and crannies of society.
In a society like Nigeria, especially Cross River where I come from, ideas are displaced by the hunger to satisfy physiological needs. Those who throw money around will always receive the blessings of the hungry. They will continue to have an upper hand in political leadership even if they lack the capacity to lead.
The hungry aren’t just the poor. They include highly educated people who compromise their integrity for personal gain. They include professors who manipulate election results for personal gain. They include lawyers and judges who pervert justice for personal gain. They include students who mobilize for politicians to satisfy their hunger for food. They include young people who betray their future.
And predictably, hunger will continue to silence reason because it dictates the lens through which we experience political leadership.
Until such a time that citizens are educated about the power of their votes and the importance of voting based on ideological convictions, we will not have the kind of leadership that is needed to leapfrog our development.