On May 20, 2020, a young South African woman lost her chance of being the 2020 Miss South Africa. Miss Bianca Schoombee from Pretoria was dropped out of the list of contestants as a result of her past posts on Twitter. These posts were dug out by Twitter users, who wanted to show that Miss Schoombee was not who she claimed to be. The posts that were dug out were her careless racial and derogatory comments, which she posted when she was a teenager. Even though she apologised for her youthful mistakes and claimed to have changed, South Africans will have none of her. They wanted her out, and she was thrown out.
One may wonder why South Africans did not let go of her past mistakes. Well, one of the reasons why they succeeded in removing her was because the rules for participation in the pageant states that those that have been involved in disrepute, unsavoury or unethical conducts such as racism, bribery, sexism, slander and libel, will be disqualified. Unfortunately for Schoombee, she was found guilty of some of these offences.
Now, you may ask yourself why South Africa bothers itself so much with all these rules for something “as trivial as” choosing a beauty queen. I am not a South African, but I can tell that the major reason for postulating all these is to ensure that whoever takes up the mantle of leadership has no past that might compromise her position as a leader. They want to make sure that whoever wears that crown will be worthy of emulation. In fact, those rules will give room for real and honest leaders to take up that position.
Now, let’s bring this discussion to Nigeria.
The moment I read about this young lady’s disqualification, I told myself that her “crimes” will not even be considered offensive in Nigeria. As disheartening as it may sound, Nigerians, or rather, many Nigerians celebrate crime and mediocrity. We have this issue of “lesser evil” or “the devil you know” ideologies. We tell ourselves, “let’s manage him” and thereby wave off red alerts that glaringly show corruptions, poor leadership and mismanagement.
If you look around the leadership of Nigeria today, you will agree with me that almost all of our public office holders have one scandalous past or another that is shouting at the top of its voice to notify us of what we will face if the person assumes office. But we ignore that voice with the statement, “who better pass” or “all of them are the same”. By the end of the day, we will sit down in one corner and wonder what we got ourselves into.
I tried to find out why Nigeria constitution allows people with questionable characters to be elected into office. I realised that anyone who, within the past ten years, has not been convicted of a crime of dishonesty or that which contravenes the code of conduct, is free to contest. I also found out that if there is no proof that you belong to a secret society, you can carry on with contesting for a position. These are just among the many requirements for contesting elections that needed review.
If you consider these two mentioned requirements, you will notice that they may not prevent the wrong persons from assuming offices. For instance, it is inappropriate for someone that has been convicted of corruption in the past to assume public office because the conviction happened more than ten year ago. What evidence do we have to show that the person has changed? What about his or her past associates? How do we know that they are no longer in contacts?
Of course, all these things were overlooked by Nigerians and that is why corruption will never leave this country, no matter how hard we try. Believe me, if Nigerian constitutional requirements for contesting elections could be a little bit modified to resemble closely that of Miss South Africa Beauty Pageant, we will have hope in Nigeria. All I am trying to say here is that the constitution should stipulate that anyone that has a shady past, whether convicted or not, should be disqualified immediately. Maybe by doing so, contestants that were cultists while in university and those that have been indicted for misappropriation of funds will be removed. Only then, will Nigeria have hope.