BusinessDay

2023 political game: What change can aspirants’ effect?

The nation ended the year 2021 on a low key because of many reasons ranging from painful dilemmas, social ruins, spilled-over frustration brewed by many years of insecurity and also, two brutal years of COVID -19 to a weak economy. We have seen serial defections from one political party to the other in the past few months.

The debate for zoning the exalted office of President between the South and North has also dominated public discourse in recent times. We read about how 17 Southern governors have declared in strong terms that the next president of Nigeria must come from the Southern region. This angered Northern governors who were opposed to the power shift in 2023. In fact, the North Central Geopolitical Zone of the country is interested in providing the next President of Nigeria. Who does not want to be the president of the most populous black nation on earth? I do not know!

Just as the year 2021 was coming to an end, we saw political maneuvers and intrigues as usual. These are the signs anytime the nation is preparing for general elections. Some of the key events that took place in 2021 include the refusal of Mr. President to sign into law the amended Electoral Bill, and the success of the Anambra State governorship election that gave rise to Prof Charles Soludo’s emerging as the governor-elect. These are dress rehearsals for the political game that would be played before May 2023.

As politicians bag beans, rice and noodles, the electorate needs to be wise in voting politicians who are competent and of good character

We are in the year 2022. The political game has started. We are in an era of “infodemics” during which false and misleading information about politicians would dot the space in social media. As an advocate of good governance, we appeal to politicians and their supporters not to blow the trumpet of war because they want political power at all costs. This writer does not envy those political aspirants who are interested in any elected office. Methinks that what any politician should be aspiring for is how to truly contribute meaningfully to the economic development of the nation. When one considers the state of the nation today, much is expected to be done by those aspiring to lead the country in order to enhance the security and welfare of the people.

Since the New Year began, the polity has been charged as political gladiators are already scheming and strategizing on who to put forward for political positions at federal and state levels. We know that it is the survival of politicians in the next election that matters now. Political “kings” and “kingmakers” have emerged and they have expressed their interests in the highest office in the land – President. Some presidential aspirants claimed that they have all been nursing the ambition of presiding over the country for a long time. One of the presidential aspirants, Bola Tinubu, claimed he has vision, confidence, and capacity to rule over 200 million people.

Specifically, Bola Tinubu declared his intention to build on the foundation of Mr. President and make Nigeria better. But some powerful interest groups do not want the former Lagos State Governor to aspire to the highest office in the country. These groups believe that kingmakers should not aspire to be kings. In Tinubu’s words: “I have never seen the cap of a kingmaker before. That is the truth. And I have never seen where it is written in the rule book anywhere in any country that a kingmaker cannot be a king unless you commit a murder.”

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Immediately Bola Tinubu expressed his political ambition to be the next president, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization allegedly described the declaration of Bola Tinubu to contest the Presidency in 2023 as against the rules of natural justice. The apex Igbo socio-cultural organization argued that for peace to reign, for the corporate existence of Nigeria to remain intact, it is the turn of the Igbo to be president of Nigeria. Patriots, we were told by Ohanaeze Ndigbo, should consider the collective interest – the group interest more than self–interest. But most of the political aspirants that we know are only interested in self–interest. Many Nigerians are of the view that it is our collective national interest – the interest of the majority and minority ethnic components of the entire nation – that is vital in order to pursue economic development. Why did Nigerians say so?

Twenty-one years have gone by in the Twenty-first Century but Nigeria is yet to be an industrialized country. The third decade in the century is going gradually and unfortunately, Nigeria is still the poverty capital of the world. It is not that Nigeria has not been fortunate to make some progress since independence in 1960. That the country has not achieved political and economic stability as expected is because we have not been fortunate to have generations of committed leaders at the helm of affairs.

At the core of the issues that continue to plague the country is the question of quality and genuine leadership, and all the values and qualities associated with such. To a large extent, the failures in our national systems are all tied to the question of leadership. Just as in conventional war, no democratic society can attain economic development without visionary and committed leaders.

Now we have a national development plan (2021 -2025) which we were told would be driven largely by private investors. Before now, hope-inspiring visions (2010 and 2020), transformation agenda, Seven Point Agenda, National Economic Empowerment, and Development Strategy (NEEDS), Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), and others have not been able to put Nigeria on the threshold of being a developed country. As Nigeria’s population grows with double-digit inflation, coupled with trade and budget deficits, the economy remains sluggish. Thus, within the context of rapid population growth, one expects that policies and programs to reduce poverty and hunger must expand faster than the rate at which population is growing.

But we cannot say accurately what the population of our country is today. How do we plan for a nation when an accurate figure of the people that are to benefit from the development is not known. The World Bank in its 2022 report on Nigeria predicted that “High inflation is frustrating Nigeria’s economic recovery and eroding the purchasing power of the most vulnerable households.” The bank further highlighted the negative impact of inflation on Nigerians and in the absence of an effective strategy to reduce inflation, rising prices will continue to diminish the welfare of citizens. In spite of all these, the Breton Wood Institution has predicted that increasing oil price in the international market will drive Nigeria’s economy by 2.5 percent in 2022.

However, the solution to our prevailing economic problems depends on how far we plan our tomorrow today and how best we evolve and practice the right policies and strategies. We believe that the new national development plan will lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty if the implementation strategies are effective. But with the planned removal of fuel subsidy, the government needs to be specific as to the type of viable projects to be embarked upon in order to earn the trust and confidence of citizens. Fuel subsidy is of economic imperative, but it has its social and political implications.

We only hope that the national development plan (2021 – 2025) is well-researched and throughout in all its ramifications. Aligning qualified technocrats behind each pillar of the development plan will likely change the narrative of the country positively within this decade provided implementation strategies are effective.

Nigeria is indeed a country blessed with enormous human and material resources as well as potentials but committed leaders are very scarce. In fact, our human resources would have been the country’s greatest assets towards promoting and sustaining a virile economy. Unfortunately, because of the absence of an enabling environment and the so-called “Nigerian Factor,” which tends to enthrone mediocrity, our human resources have continued to suffer from excessive brain drain. Illiteracy and poverty have eaten deep into the fabric of society. As politicians bag beans, rice and noodles, the electorate needs to be wise in voting politicians who are competent and of good character. So, the political game as we move towards the 2023 general elections should not be about “kings” and “kingmakers” but about how to improve the security and welfare of more than 200 million people. Thank you.

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