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Lessons Nigerian Voters Can Learn From the Japanese

Nigeria voters

Japanese voters are brutally impatient, in a good way, and can sack any non-performing government with little or no remorse. It is on record that seven different prime ministers, from two prominent political parties, have governed the island nation in the past twelve years, beginning with Junichiro Koizumi, who managed to hang on to power the longest (for about six years) to Shinzo Abe (1 year in office but now re-elected for another term in last year's general elections), Yasuo Fukuda (1 year), Taro Aso (1 year), Yukio Hatoyama (8 months), Naoto Kan (1 year, 3 months) and Yoshiko Noda (1 year, 3 months).

It is interesting to note that all these prime ministers were democratically elected and removed from office through national elections. Their offences for being voted out of office are similar to those condoned and, in some annoying circumstances, encouraged by the Nigerian electorate. But whenever there are allegations of mismanagement, corruption, cluelessness or ineptitude, Japanese voters would strike like Shango—the god of thunder—sending the non-performing leaders back to their personal homes.

It is possible to postulate one or two theories while trying to interpret this trend of behavior in Japanese voters. It can be readily assumed that living in an advanced country, Japanese are likely to be more politically aware than the average Nigerian and there may be minimal or no election auctioneering, where people  thoughtlessly sell their votes for money or personal aggrandizement. The truth is that only a few Japanese, due mainly to their workaholic lifestyle, pay attention to politics and governance. You hardly can see thousands of Japanese attending political rallies, even when it is the incumbent mayor or governor or prime minister campaigning. Most Japanese do not know or care to familiarize themselves with the manifestoes of political parties.

Their political choices are practically based on what they could feel in the air: How is the economy doing? Is the incumbent government dangerously bent on increasing the sales tax from 5 to 10%? How will such an action affect the price of goods and services? Does the government in power have good educational and health programs? What are they doing about children? Are the current leaders leading the nation in the right direction, not creating political and territorial tension with China and other Asian neighbors? Are they making less dehumanizing political and oratorical gaffes? And when any Japanese government is found wanting in some of these and some other issues, it is doomed to get axed within months!

The political machinery of Japan is ordered in such a way that opposition parties can call for snap elections, mainly at the Lower House. And when the incumbent loses some seats, the geometry of power is dramatically rearranged and a new prime minister will have to be immediately installed. Incidentally, the uncertainty in the outcomes of past elections always put Japanese leaders on the edge of their seats.

Sometimes they pretend to appear populist, addressing their citizens’ needs directly and interacting with commoners in order to shore up supports for future elections. But this approach has not been working in the past decade. Leaders are basically chosen on their merit and the power to transform Japan’s slow-growing economy. So, Japanese voters have got no time to be emotional or sympathetic to the concerns of any inactive leader. They understood that there is more at stake than tolerating a do-nothing type of leadership.

Nigerians should truly understand that the only power they have to change things from what they are at the moment to what they want them to be is their suffrage. But if you misuse your voting privilege by selling your votes or being sentimental in voting for “hometown buddies” instead of qualified and trusted candidates, there will always be grave consequences. From now on, do not cry over the potholes that destroyed the car you bought from political bribes; be happy with your children attending schools with poor infrastructure and teachers who have lost interest in delivering quality education; be content with your hospitals that look like “death caves” and the expired medicine you are given by quack health dispensers; be happy about your unemployed kids, maybe two or three of them who will continue to live under your roof despite spending a fortune to train them at the universities.

Here is the remedy to all these problems you see around you: vote responsibly. The future of Nigeria is in your hands!

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