This is a Cull-up from the VADEMECUM FOR ELECTORS IN NIGERIA, a document produced by Catholic Theological Association of Nigeria (CATHAN) at their annual conference in April 2018 which provides helpful criteria for Christian to make informed and conscientious choices when voting. This is because a “well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political party or an individual law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. This is a form of voters’ guide which helps to navigate the frosty political clime under which we exist and hope to conduct future elections.
Religious Freedom – Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, that is, a right that we have simply by being human persons. This can be expressed a two sides of one coin. Negatively, it means absence of coercion to practice a religion of one’s choosing. Positively, it implies that society creates conditions where religious expression can flourish. This should be the case for individuals as well as families, groups and organization. Pope Francis expresses this idea well when he insists that the church must have “the freedom and all the means needed to bring the proclamation of the kingdom to the existential peripheries of society,”
Every Christian should, therefore ensure that they cast their vote for candidates and parties that will guarantee, protect and support the freedom of religion for all citizens, and shall equally allow the people of God to express their faith publicly, and without hindrance.
Peace and Security – on account of our multi-ethic, multi-religious society, Nigerians are prone to competition for social and political relevance. This is often a source of tension, which often escalate into actual socio-political unrest. With Nigeria’s growing population, having to share resources, which are not growing in the same proportion, means that this competition will grow ever fiercer going forward. In this situation, the Church stand that “Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity” becomes even more critical. In order to ensure peace Nigeria needs a government that is ready to facilitate a dialogue process that will ensure the equitable distribution of the nation’s resources and address the discontents among different section of the country. Fostering peace, “demand the absolute and radical rejection of violence and terrorism and requires a constant and vigilant commitment on the part of political leaders.” Thus every candidate for election must ‘demonstrate how s/he intends to resolve the present crisis of terrorism, herdsmen attacks, kidnapping, inter-communal clashes, etc, and to foster peace and security for all citizens
Education – Education is a human right. It is the duty of every government to see to the education of her citizens. Families and groups should be supported to educate their members. Not to educate the child is to deprive him or her a fundamental human right. Several socio-economic problems bedeviling our country are closely linked to the lack of education of our youth. This has made them easy recruits for socially deviant behaviors like thuggery, terrorism, armed robbery, abduction, child soldiers etc. according to Nigerian Catholic Bishops, the lack of a national philosophy or ideology of education I recognition of a free people’s right and the right of their religious institution, to educate their children as they deem fit.
The lack of educational ideology or philosophy is an indication of government willingness to partner with the private sector – Church, voluntary agencies and other qualified groups in education sector. Any candidate presenting him or herself for election should be able to present a plan to uplift the educational system of the country. Such plan must show how to implement the policy of compulsory basic education of all children, improve infrastructures in our schools, end the incessant strikes in our tertiary institution and also address the many social malasies in our schools; like the widespread culture of examination malpractice and growth of cultism at different levels of education.
Corruption – corruption is “the illicit and non-transparent’ provision of private benefits to public officials.” It also refers to changing or altering the implementation of existing laws, rules, and regulations to provide advantages to either state or non-state actor as a result of the illicit and non-transparent provision of private gain to public officials.””? Corruption examples range from “government bribery and graft, rigged election, fraudulent business deals” to “diabolical abuse of occult powers, medical quackery, cheating in school, and even deceiving a lover.” Corruption in these forms affects virtually all aspects of the society and persons at various levels. It is a cankerworm that has stunted development, economic growth and the building of physical and social infrastructure in Nigeria. In a communiqué after their plenary meeting in September 2012, Nigerian Catholic Bishops conference demands courage and sincerity, and the fight has to start from the top to the lowest cadre. “Any candidate who presents him or herself for election must show proven record of honesty and readiness to fight corruption
Betrayal of the Social Contract – According to the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, there is always a great expectation on the part of the citizens that political leaders in offices will promote good governance that will enhance life economically and promote socio well-being by running a government that is based on justice, fair play, protection against internal and external aggression, provision of important and essential social amenities, social safety nets etc. part of the social contract is the preferential option for weak and vulnerable members of the society.
Any social policy or programme, therefore, which discriminates against the poor, the sick and other vulnerable members of the society as well as future generations becomes an evil course of action. On the basis of this expectation from the government, citizens surrender their sovereignty to the elected representative. The ceding of a part of citizen’s sovereignty in expectation of good governance becomes a binding social contract that must be protected and respected.
Responsible Civic Activities
As patriotic citizens of Nigeria, we are obliged to be actively involved in civic and political activities. These responsibilities include:
- Being patriotic and using their votes for the good of Nigeria as opposed to the good of a particular party, group or individual.
- Acquire Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to be able to vote
- Vote for candidates who are God fearing, accountable to the electorate for the common good in respect of right of family, property, freedom of religion, security, education, health etc
- Use their vote to to make sure that the right persons are elected. Acquire PVC and vote because not to vote may mean the wrong persons being elected.
- Choose representatives, who are courageous in defending the truth and justice for all; who are completely honest in fulfilling public and private responsibilities.
- Vote according to a well formed conscience; in accordance with the highest human value without allowing themselves to be pressured or unduly influenced by anyone through bribes, threats, self-interest, etc.
- Considering the role of the media practitioners in shaping public opinion, they should be careful to disseminate only verified information.
- Be careful in the way they accept and disseminate ‘unverified information, especially from social media.”
- Though Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) is the key to active political is the key to active political participation during election, voting during election is the second half of the responsibility to decide the moral compass for peace and development, and consequently the strengthening of democracy in Nigeria
The faithful citizen must be encouraged and challenged to get involved in party politics, from the local level to the national stage. The candidate that eventually become flag-bearer for the various political parties are chosen during party meetings and conventions.
If our people do not get involved at this stage, those with other agenda, and possibly not driven by the kind of imagination, vision, and moral reasoning as our Catholic faith offers, will take over the party structure. Hence, they will continue foist their candidates on the ballot list; and the best we can do is vote for the least of the evils or the best of their best, who may not even be good enough for our basic expectations.
How to Determine a Candidate’s position
- For those aspiring for high offices at the federal levels, such as President, Senate, House of Representative and State Governors, it might be easier to determine what they stand for by the past offices they have occupied. These can be sourced from the traditional media, and the internet. The social media can also be helpful. However, considering the preponderance of fake news, and the tendency of political opponents to create unfounded stories during election, we should endevour to base our opinion on verified reports.
- It is also good to learn about the views of those aspiring for local offices before voting. Yet, some aspirants for such positions may not have been public figures hitherto; one should be concerned about earlier background. We should also critically examine their positions from their manifestoes and campaign offices.
- Pay serious attention to public debates which are becoming a common feature before elections, especially those between Governorship and Presidential aspirants. Attention should be paid to the positions candidates stand for, and how they have been able to justify their positions.
Who to vote for at Elections
While we have no intention to advice Christians which candidate to cast their vote for at elections, we have a moral obligation to spell out what to look for in candidates vying for elective posts. As enunciated above, Christians must always be guided in all their actions by the dictates of the well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.
Thus, Christians cannot vote for candidates that support intrinsic evil actions and a situation where all candidates hold and promote intrinsic evil actions.
How to vote
- Rank the different candidates for each of the offices according to how they fare on the important issues outlined above
- Give preference to candidates who do stand for the issues outlined and do not contradict them.
- Where the available candidates do not fare well on the different issues, choose candidates that are likely to do the least harm.
How not to vote
- While one may have political affiliations, one shall not vote a particular party or candidate for tribal and ethnic reasons.
- Merely religious and denominational affiliation is insufficient to determine one’ vote any candidate for elections must have basic positive values to promote.
- One shall not vote for a candidate or party because one has been financially induced to vote thus.
…to be continued