In his song, “The Way It Is”, music icon Lucky Dube sang,
“I was running like a fugitive all the time…Dodging bullets in the streets…Now that you got what you wanted, you don’t even know my name.
Remember, be good to the people on your way up the ladder because you’ll need them on your way down.”
These lyrics signify the plight of the voters and treatment with contempt by their elected leaders once in office.
Participating in this year’s ‘scientific’ elections felt in the real sense of the word like a blindfolded sheep being taken to the slaughterhouse, ticking or thumping your print on the ballot paper against the name of someone you don’t know or even heard speak to your heart. In reality we had nothing but posters on which to make decisions.
However, despite all these failings, voters somehow managed to make at least some of their feelings clear by ousting some long-standing incumbent MPs.
Politics should not be a hunter-gatherer society, but rather a vibrant and creative space where actions are taken to ensure effective and efficient service delivery down to the lowest persons. This capitalist approach of ‘the end justifies the means’, is self-defeating because it pushes us to the extremes.
Secondly, if you want to avoid being bitten by the electorate, take a new approach to dealing with the legacies of the past that people have been clamoring for a very long time without success. The ‘scientific’ nature of the 2021 elections meant the voters were denied the opportunity to face their leaders to account for their failed or unfulfilled promises.
There is still a massive backlog of unaddressed legacies of conflicts/violence that cannot be downplayed, including the numerous violations stemming from the past and the most recent elections.
Further to this, truth-telling for sustainable reconciliation and healing is needed now more than ever. There is a need for national healing and reconciliation, which will influence how leaders unite across the political divide, leaving aside their selfish belly-filling behaviours, greed and vision. The quest for truths cannot just be ignored as if nothing wrong happened.
What would linger in the minds of survivors and victims as well as relatives or political parties? Should we pretend it did not happen? The voters have exhibited that, you don’t just disregard them, if you do, it might be now but not forever and at your peril.
Delivery on most, if not all of what was promised to your constituents during campaigns is paramount or else you wait for the day of reckoning when the voter has the ballot paper.
Thirdly, as such, political wannabees should take note; if you take a short-term view and just try and make as much money as possible by getting elected, be aware that the electorate can come back and bite you.
And this makes me ask the question, does the freedom of the voter’s end on the day of casting their votes? How do we interrogate this phenomenon of elected Officers acting contrary to the voters’ wishes when they get into office? What are the parameters that we can use to track them?
Can we go forward, move beyond the parliamentary accountability where Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) come to defend what they have done, to doing justice to our oversight roles and close supervision of the implementers? How about looking at the value for money in the products that have come from the trillions channelled into and through the state coffers?
Lastly, to the President, members of the 11th Parliament and the different city and district councils, don’t burn your bridge; you will need it.
Address the legacies of these past conflicts, delay only helps buy time for the mutation of the forms of conflicts/violence, postpones and only breeds toxic relationship.
The ordinary folks will happily or painfully return to their daily labours readying themselves for the next five years of happiness or agony.
Mr Joel Innocent Odokonyero is a transitional justice practitioner, ethnographer and researcher.