As the 2019 General Elections draw nearer, politicians who intend to contest for different political positions on the platforms of the various political parties in Nigeria have started showing interest and canvassing for votes from the electorate. Whilst those that were elected in 2015 are seeking for re-election, others have been previously elected or are new entrants.
However, Nigerians must use the ‘powers’ of their ‘votes’ to bargain for quality education at all levels of public schools- primary, secondary and tertiary. Regrettably, some Nigerians have indulged in selling their votes during elections in exchange for money and other material things. The recently concluded gubernatorial election in Ekiti State depicts how ‘votes buying and selling’ is gradually turning out to be the yardstick for determining the suitability of a candidate. Following the outcome of the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said “it noted with deep concern the rising phenomenon of vote buying during elections and restated its commitment and determination to continue to work with all stakeholders, especially the security agencies, to stem the ugly trend.
It is high time Nigerians, especially those from low income households, who constitute majority of the voting population, departed from the culture of selling their votes in exchange for instant gratification and bargain for an improvement in the quality of education. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the budgetary allocation to the education sector at the federal level have been hovering between 7 and 10 per cent. This is grossly inadequate compared to the 26 percent recommended by UNESCO. Access to free quality education is a constitutional right of every Nigerian, even though not enforceable by law. However, the “Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004” has, in part, made it enforceable. Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had in 2017 in a case brought before the court by Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, passed a judgement that made free education enforceable from primary to junior secondary. Justice Tsoho ruled, “By the combined effects of section 18 (3) (a) of the 1999 Constitution and section 2 (1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, the right to free and compulsory primary education and free junior secondary education for all qualified Nigerian citizens are enforceable rights in Nigeria,”.
In order to make informed choices of the right political leaders who have the potentials to uplift the standard and quality of education, Nigerians must engage aspirants meaningfully during the forthcoming electioneering campaigns. The electorate must demand for: increase in the budgetary allocation for the education sector both at the state and federal levels, rehabilitation of existing classes and construction of new ones, provision of desks and chairs, libraries stock with relevant books for teaching and learning, provision of sufficient number of computers, arts and science laboratories, recruitment of more qualified teachers, regular training of teachers through workshops/seminars, among others. The above demands should be the criteria for electing political office seekers rather than selling of votes. If you sell your votes now, you automatically mortgage the future of your children and your next generation. Poverty shouldn't be an excuse for selling your votes. Education is the strongest weapon that has the potentials to eradicate poverty. Do not compromise!