by Oluwajajayomi Weelyams
As a scholar, I cannot satisfactorily describe what these two words mean to me. Having to sit down for hours and maintain my attention while one who is a professional in a particular field tries to impart the knowledge they have spent years to glean almost always leaves me confused about a concept they may have tried to get across and so when these two words are spoken at the end of the lecture, the joy in my heart knows no bounds. Why is this the case? It is so simply because I can be made to fully understand what I am taught and hence, complete the learning process. This article is not about scholarly lectures or academia but definitely about questions.
Anyone who lives in Nigeria and/or is the least concerned about the things going on in Nigeria would know that it is a political season. There are defections on one side, buying of nomination forms on another and declarations of political interests everywhere. Indeed, it is a very exciting time. This political season we see now did not come alone but brought along some ‘weather conditions’. We now get to experience the storm of sycophancy, the erosion of common sense by the flood of propaganda and cataclysmic effects of a tornado-like bigotry. We are not unfamiliar with this season and its appendages but we have never witnessed them in this magnitude before. Like natural seasons, this season too shall pass and in this we find solace.
In the face of all these, this article aims to draw the attention of Nigerians to some very vital questions we should be asking and for which we must demand answers. These questions are of enormous importance and may affect the scheme of things for the next four years or more. For the purpose of this article, I have decided to divide the questions into three basic categories: the “what” questions, the “how” questions and the “who” question.
The What Questions
In simple terms, these are the questions that seek to know the plans of a candidate. These questions are the very basic questions, the ones an aspirant would normally try to answer even when they have not been asked.
These questions come in different variants: what CAN you do, what HAVE you done in the past and what WILL you. Please pay close attention to the words in block letters as these words provide guidelines the candidate must follow in providing answers. These words go a long way in preventing the use of ambiguity in providing answers and subsequent evasion of the questions.
In asking what a candidate can do, you question their personality and to an extent, their knowledge of their duties should they eventually be elected. The “what can you do” question probes the candidate and all they stand for; from their morals to their opinions on current issues. Every aspirant should be able to confidently assert his capabilities.
The next variant is equally very important. A candidate who claims to be able to do something should have some form of proof to buttress their claim and what else can be used as proof other than their antecedents? One who claims to possess some certain capacities but has never shown them nor put them to use is either a wishful thinker or a liar. Even for us scholars, we get to provide sufficient evidence to back up our claims of capabilities whenever we apply for jobs and it is even more serious for research scientists who seek grants. Do not just ask an aspirant to furnish you with details of what he has done in the past but do yourself good by checking to confirm that they are not making bogus claims. This cuts across aspirants that have held public office in the past and those who are fresh from the private sector.
Now that you know what an aspirant can do and he has proven it by what he has done in the past, it is important to know his plans for the future. The “what will you do” question is of extreme importance. This is because it is not enough to have done things in the past. No society that seeks progress will elect a candidate who has no goals just because he had goals in the past. They may have past glories but we definitely do not want to be led by an Ichabod. An aspirant whose campaign manifesto is something like, “vote me in and you will see what I will do” is a joker and is not worthy of the kind of trust that comes with public office.
The aspirant, their campaign organisation and their supporters should be able to furnish you with satisfactory answers to the “what questions” whenever they are confronted with it.
The How Questions
These questions are all about strategies and their importance cannot be over emphasized. Even Jesus the Christ showed how relevant it is to ask these questions when in the Bible book of Luke chapter 14 verses 28 and 29 He says, “”For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him….” As Jesus the Christ has rightly pointed out, a failure (of an aspirant) to provide answers to these questions would bring ridicule upon us as a people.
The “how questions” seek to know the steps the aspirant intends to take in order to achieve what they says they will do. So, what steps will they take, what procedures will they follow, do they have a road map? Are they going to need technical partners and support, have they considered what they would look out for in potential partners? Do they have contingency plans, how many backups do they have should the original fail to pull through?
For instance, if an aspirant says they want to build roads, they should be able to provide answers such as what they hope to do differently in order to overcome the challenges the past (or current) administration faced (or is facing) with regards to road construction. They need to know what roads they are going to give priority and why. They need to know what cushioning effects to put in place so that the road construction can go on smoothly without bringing untold hardship to the people. These are just sample questions and there are even more they can be asked.
The “how questions” would help us sift the wheat from the weed. It would help us make informed choices because an aspirant that can provide detailed and informed answers to these questions has properly thought his ambition and the alleviation of the plight of the people through and thus better positioned to doing what he says he will do.
The Who Question
This question is one which the electorate must answer. It is one you and I must answer based on the answers the aspirants have provided to the other two categories of questions and independent of any influence from any other person.
The answer you provide to this question is the person whose party you will vote for during the general elections or who you will vote for should you be a delegate at the primaries of their party. Thus, the answer to this question should not be provided without deep thought process because it is able to make or mar our society. It may help to remember that the activities of an aspirant should they be elected is not only in effect for the time they spend in government but for much longer.
In order for you to answer this question correctly, you must not allow religious or ethnic sentiments to becloud your reasoning. I say this because if you let these bias your choice, you may not be able to correct your actions after they are elected and may have to bear the negative effects for four years or even more.
I hope the aims of this article have been met and that you enjoy this season even while using it to your advantage.
Oluwajajayomi Weelyams is a scholar who is resident in the United Kingdom. He is the Treasurer of a Nigerian Society and Black Students’ Representative of his university. You can reach him via email at [email protected] and twitter @jayjay_stones.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.