Please pardon my cynicism, but I do not share the optimism that any of our political parties is committed to freeing us from the bondage of underdevelopment. I will tell you why.

Let us start from the impact of democracy on Nigerians in the past 15 years. Can we really point to any tier of government; federal, state or local that has left some phenomenal imprint on the lives of the people?

At least,  two of our political parties have been in government under one name or the other since 1999, can we point to any remarkable policy that has affected the common man for good?

Here, I do not mean the construction of bogus flyovers, six lane roads and government lodges in state capitals. I do not mean the construction of massive ultra-modern primary and secondary schools, structures that will soon succumb to the dearth of a maintenance culture amongst us.  I am talking about governmental interventions that change the conditions of the people instantaneously. True, sustainable development is a process but there are short term initiatives that impact promptly.

Let me borrow two Yoruba expressions to explicate my point. They say that when the problem of hunger is solved, the poor has less to worry about. They also say that good health is the catalyst to prosperity. And I totally agree.

Former Premier of the Western Region, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo said the following in one of his countless postulations on good governance: “In order to attain to the goals of economic freedom and prosperity, Nigeria must do certain things as a matter of urgency and priority. It must provide free education (at all levels) and free health facilities for the masses of its citizens.”

Awolowo went on to match his words with action, making this a policy of the Action Group and the Unity Party of Nigeria which followed years later.  In addition to this, Awolowo and his party gave priority attention to the needs of famers whom he described as the “goose laying the golden eggs”. Some of the rural roads constructed for the transportation of produce by the Western Region government are still in use today! So can we find government at any level, in any party that has given attention to these three things in the past 15 years?

Let’s look at the legislative arm. At the national level, members, regardless of party affiliation appear more interested in their filthy remuneration than in the welfare of the people.

Recently, I read that over 120 bills passed by the national assembly have not received presidential assent, yet our legislators are sleeping on their power to veto.  Even then, the Petroleum Industry Bill, laid before the National Assembly in June 2012 and believed to have the capacity to bring sanity into the oil and gas sector, has not seen the light of day even as unimaginable looting goes on. Same inaction is the fate of the Anti -Tobacco and Violence against Persons Prohibition Bills among others. I have not seen any of these men and women put up any fight hinged on party philosophy on this front.

I have not heard of any tenacious effort from our lawmakers, state or national, to initiate laws attending to the urgent need for social safety nets for Nigerians. They do not consider the need for community health insurance, care of the elderly and the physically challenged as well as palliatives for millions of unemployed youths in the country. Most state legislatures, again irrespective of party leanings, are mere adjuncts of their governors. So, why the frenzy about parties?

Truth is that there are competent people scattered all over the parties. For example, the Kwara State government last week won a prize at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee awards for its Community Health Insurance Scheme.

The scheme which started under the Senator Bukola Saraki administration in 2007 entitles beneficiaries to subsidized all- year round basic healthcare for a N500 premium (N200 when it started in 2007). The scheme covers a number of surgical procedures including Caesarian Sections for pregnant women.  The programme currently aims at achieving universal coverage of the estimated 1 million rural dwellers in the state by 2018. What started in one local government in 2007 has expanded to ten out of the 16 local governments in the state under the Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed administration. Now, this was initiated when Saraki was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

To my knowledge, the only other state that has this scheme is Lagos, a state under the APC. Although not as widespread as it is in Kwara, ( I understand it focuses on market people), both states have, in partnership with  the Dutch Health Insurance Fund, Hygeia Community Health and PharmAccess Foundation, provided incredible access to affordable health services for their people.

This, to my mind, is why we must shun party sentiments and go for quality personalities, people with ideas and vision in 2015; people who will champion quality and affordable education, health care delivery and promote agriculture at all levels.

That would to a large extent, tell how much development we achieve between now and 2019.


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About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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