I’m not sure if it’s the Dubai airport ambience that informed this blog post, but it hurts each time I compare the Lagos airport to this one. The hurt gets deeper when you consider the fact that the same resources that fund government-led projects in this region of the world, where progress has been recorded, are readily available to Nigeria. But some few not-sure-of-their-humanity leaders have selfishly – or maybe unconsciously, if folly would be a good excuse – plunged Nigeria into what a nation should not look like in the 21st century. Think of the fact that Earth Hour was celebrated across the world today, when folks turned off the lights. For Nigeria, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria makes sure we observe Earth Lifetime – with few sprinkles of power supply to remind us of the fact that we have to pay monthly bills.
I’m sure that after 12 years of our return to democracy, Nigerians are now beginning to see the direct connection between quality of life and political leadership. In exactly 7 days, we have that opportunity of using the instrumentality of the ballot to decide who governs Nigeria at various levels for the next four years – save for few states that themselves represent the triumph of democracy expressed via upturned electoral mandates. A lot has been said and done, and the three weekends – April 2 for the National Assembly, April 9 for the Presidential and April 16 for the Gubernatorial / State Assembly elections – will go faster than we can imagine. With 73,528,040 people registered, increased citizen interest and participation, massive youth activity level and an umpire that has given the right signals to date, 2011 appears to be quite interesting – to say the least.
There are countless efforts aimed at making the 2011 elections free and fair but the technology projects have particularly caught my attention. For example, ReclaimNaija’s Ushahidi instance will help Nigerians report incidents during the elections; WANGONeT’s 70ft How (Not) To Rig An Election wall lays out the points that need attention just as their crowdsourced Know Your Candidates project serves as a one-stop location for information on candidates; the new TakeAStand web application allows anyone to publicly declare their support for their respective candidates; the recently held youth-focused #WhatAboutUs presidential debate was largely driven by social media; and EiE Nigeria coalition’s social media-driven Register | Select | Vote | Protect (RSVP) campaign has become the official language of the 2011 elections while the new mobile application, ReVoDa, will change the game as citizens will now be able to monitor elections in their respective polling units without the need to register as formal observers. I can imagine what 2015 will look like when some of these efforts work together and with the opportunity to further refine these tools and deploy them during the subsequent state elections that will hold in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
There will be three types of Nigerians in April: those who will make things happen, those who will work against change, and those who won’t know anything happened. There are enough excuses and assumptions to hold anyone from adding value to this opportunity to restart our national clock, but it is exciting to see the level of activity – especially those that bring together the three forces I believe are responsible for the wave of change sweeping across the world: appropriate technology, dissatisfied youth and change opportunity. Some have, however, argued that the level of interest in the Nigerian 2011 elections is largely elitist but I doubt the accuracy of that argument because Kano, Ekiti, Delta and some other areas of Nigeria where I had the chance to interact with on-the-ground efforts prove that assumption wrong. So, we’re back to the question: what will YOU do to make 2011 count for Nigeria?
As I return to Nigeria in the early hours of tomorrow, I know it’ll probably be the busiest week of my life but it’s worth every second of it because I do not want to tell our kids that when daddy had a chance, he buried his head in the sand like an ostrich. As Nigeria decides the next set of leaders, what value will you add? The least you could do after Register and Select is to make sure that you – and as many people as possible – Vote and Protect.