By Theophilus Femi Alawonde
There’s no denying the fact that activities on the University of Ibadan campus have taken a new turn since the lifting of the ban electoral activities. The campaigns have intensified, declarations of intent are flying all around, WhatsApp groups get buzzed every other minute, long-form texts are flying all around, texts so long that you wonder who had the time to sit down to compose them. There are quotes, from Leonardo Da Vinci, to Winston Churchill, to Dwight Eisenhower. There are beautifully designed flyers, and there are posters on walls all around the campus – like troublesome tribal marks on the cheeks of an Oyo market woman.
These activities are pointers to one fact: it is that time of the academic session when you, the average University of Ibadan student, will decide who the next set of student leaders. For the better part of this semester, you most likely watched as the Speaker banged his gavel and decided the fate of what your package would be. You watched as the Union made decisions that bordered on your welfare as a University of Ibadan student. You made your grievances known, and you watched the response you got or the result of agitations. It is easy for a freshman to absolve himself, claiming that he was not a student at the time when this set of leaders was ushered in. However, the time is here again, and whatever happens from here on concerns us all – freshmen, stalites, and finalists alike.
It is therefore important to vote for the right leaders. You might wonder how possible this is. Perhaps, you’re quick to throw off articles like this, basing your decision on the assertion that all politicians are the same. What you have however not considered is that although all politicians might be the same (which isn’t true, by the way) the moment you choose not to participate in the electioneering process, you have robbed yourself of the mandate of determining who makes decisions on your behalf. More so, you have lost the right to complain of incompetence and the right to demand to demand for accountability.
It is established; your participation in the forthcoming elections – at your department, faculty, and Students’ Union levels – is extremely important. However, no man goes to the battle unprepared, and to say there are no incompetent, unworthy and sly politicians is to say that there are no squatters in halls of residence. There exist competent politicians who have what it takes to lead the student body, and there are also those politicians who contest for personal gains – to strengthen their CV, oil their ego, or whatnot. This latter crop of politicians needs to be avoided. However, they are sly and sometimes difficult to spot, especially as they hide under the guise of several factors that determine the turn of elections on the University of Ibadan campus. Before you cast your vote or align yourself with any of the political aspirants, think of these things:
What Do They Bring To The Table?
This is pretty simple: just as in every other transaction you, the electorate, must be sure that your votes are cast in favour of someone who will deliver. Your vote is the currency that determines the next occupants of Kunle Adepeju Building. However, before you spend the currency, gauge to know that those whom you’re investing in are worth it, and that they would bring you reasonable returns on your investment. What exactly should you look out for? There are no straight rules as to what you should look out for in their plans. However, try to ensure that you align with someone who has plans that are of benefit to the student populace.
Engage these political aspirants. It is not enough for them to inform you of their aspiration and move on to the next person. No! Ask them for their plans; check to know if they truly have plans. Someone who truly has plans will have little to no difficulty telling you about these plans. Ask them questions about issues that currently affect you and the student populace, and how they hope to resolve these issues. Questioning should not be restricted to the Manifesto and Speech Night, for then, there would not be enough time to take all questions. You are within your rights to question any political aspirant on their plans, and if they try to evade your questions or are not responsive, that is a red flag.
Questioning aspirants even before they get to the office guarantees us of a crop of leaders that is prepared for what the troubles and challenges of the office they’re aspiring to. That sifts out leaders for whom godfathers bought forms, or leaders who are unserious about bettering the plights of the student populace.
How Feasible Or Seemingly Feasible Are They?
It is one thing to have plans; it is an entirely different thing to have feasible plans. It is a common case among political aspirants to gather plans numbering six to ten pages, especially aspirants to the apex office – that of the President. However, a careful scrutiny of many of these plans reveals that they are not feasible. Aren’t you tired of hearing: “we will seek for sponsors”? Truth be told, some leaders do seek for, and sometimes bag sponsorship deals. However, a serious political-leader-to-be will not bank on sponsorship-based plans. If we get to the roots of the matter, we would discover that the needs of the student populace are not as large and intensive as many see it. How many of these political leaders have engaged the student populace to know their needs before contesting? Do they know what you need? Have they cared to ask? Have the set out plans to help meet your needs? These are the questions you should ask, as not all plans are feasible.
True, they cannot reach out to everyone. However, how many people have they reached out to? What questions have they asked? How many discourses have they engaged in? How aware are they of what affects the student populace? How feasible are their plans? You should know to run away from an aspirant promising you free feeding once a week, or free Wi-Fi in the halls of residence, or other bogus and far-reaching plans like that.
What Antecedents Do They Have?
We would be fooling ourselves if we said that antecedents do not matter. Truly, there are leaders who would perform excellently well, with little to no experience. However, such leaders are rare, so rare that you would easily spot them; they wouldn’t need to be the ones telling you.
On that note, it is important to look at the antecedents of aspirants before aligning with them. Ask them: what did you make of the last mandate I gave to you? Is it reasonable to give to someone who continually fails to deliver? Check the antecedents of aspirants before you support them. Beyond checking the number of positions they have held, check to see if they delivered while holding such positions. While it is great to see that the former Interior Minister of Mellanby is aspiring to the office of the Students’ Union House Secretary, look beyond that to see if such a person delivered on their promises while they held the position of Interior Minister. For when all else fails, antecedents can never fail.
Having established what to look out for before aligning with and supporting aspirants during these political times, it is equally essential to look into the things that should never determine who you support. Of a truth, these things are some of the strongest factors that determine the turn of elections on the University of Ibadan campus, year-in, year-out. However, it is high time we looked beyond them. We are intellectuals, and if we crave a better country, we should not be caught basing our decisions on the following.
Religious, Hall, And Faculty Affiliations
Religious, hall, and faculty affiliations are in no way determinants of competence and delivery. That you sing praises with someone every Sunday does not mean they would work towards bettering the welfare of students. That you say the five required prayers with someone at the mosque does not mean they would make student-centred decisions when they get the mandate. Do not let your reasoning be clouded by religious affiliations; if ever you would, let it be that you have considered other reasonable factors mentioned above.
In the same vein, that someone is from your hall of residence or faculty is not enough reason for you to vote for them – if they are not worthy of the office.
It is well known that handsomeness and beauty have registered themselves as great determinants of the turn of elections in the University of Ibadan. However, the time has come when we should shift our gaze from inconsequential things. There’s no wrong in wanting a physically attractive leader, however, that should not be the most important thing to us.
Of what use is beauty with brains? Can beauty help us actualize plans? What need do we have of a beautiful leader if such a leader cannot make solid plans for the betterment of students’ welfare? So, the next time you pass by a glossy flyer and are tempted to align with a political aspirant just because they are handsome or beautiful, remind yourself that when the worst manifests, competence and leadership skills are what will deliver the student populace, not beauty.
Here is yet another factor that students are tempted to base their voting decisions on. This should not be so. The strength of an aspirant’s pockets should never matter if they are intellectually weak and incompetent. Their money might help them facilitate electioneering activities, but will it help them run the office? Will their money help them touch the average UIte? Will their money help them achieve all their plans? How willing will they be to spend personal money on student union issues?
As you read this article, several BCs have popped up on your WhatsApp groups. Someone is waiting to smile and wave at you. You will soon pass by glossy flyers. All things being equal, jingles and rallies will soon start. It is easy to get caught in the euphoria of it all. However, take some time to yourself to ask who the best candidates are, judging by the parameters earlier discussed, and let that alone be your guide at you would cast your votes, come the D-day.