BusinessDay

2023 elections: Will Nigerians be better off today than yesterday?

Let’s start by congratulating all winners of the various primaries across the political spectrum. We equally want to encourage all losers to try harder next time. The cacophony of ideas generated by presidential aspirants during various campaigns was because of what some scholars refer to as “the politics of succession.”

It is “the politics of succession” that usually makes incumbent president or governor to make an attempt to impose presidential or gubernatorial candidates on the people alongside massive rigging.

We have seen a president whose ambition was to have a Third Term, in addition to changing the constitution to achieve his desperate political ambition. When these schemes failed, the next move was imposition of a presidential candidate.

African leaders should be reminded that it is their constitutional obligation to relinquish power after any lawful outcome of presidential elections

The “politics of succession” is a global phenomenon. Most incumbent presidents in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, are not favourably disposed to relinquishing power peacefully and constitutionally. When they observe that all known plots are failing, they try to impose their anointed in their place, and in some cases create a dynasty by imposing or sponsoring their children as successor presidents.

African leaders should be reminded that it is their constitutional obligation to relinquish power after any lawful outcome of presidential elections.

We have just observed the conduct of presidential primaries during which presidential flag bearers emerged in registered political parties. It was like a proverbial cat with nine lives as some politicians whom we thought had finished their political career had unprecedented comeback.

They came back strong demonstrating through their victory at the conventions that they are still relevant in the political arena. But the campaigns were not without the usual drama.

Rather than sell their agendas, most of the aspirants were neck deep into marketing themselves and de-marketing others. There wasn’t much of hate speeches and divisions among the politicians. But another wave of defection of politicians from one political party to the other has commenced.

From what we observed during the primaries one can say that Nigeria is almost becoming a 2-party nation.

It is so because the “third force” which many considered to be the Labor Party is still organizing itself to accommodate those politicians who defected from the two main political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Unfortunately, the Labor Party has factional presidential flag bearer as a result of internal crisis that has to be resolved quickly.

The New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), elected a former governor of Kano State, Engr Rabiu Kwankwaso as its presidential flag bearer. There are other presidential flag bearers who have emerged.

There is time for everything on earth. Whatever has a beginning must have an end. The 2022 political party primaries’ season has been concluded and very soon the electioneering campaign will commence.

After the intrigues and mischiefs that usually accompany any political season in Nigeria, the APC confirmed Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s nomination as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.

Against all odds, the former Lagos State governor defeated 13 other presidential aspirants in the APC primary including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Bola Tinubu secured the ticket with 1271 votes. His closest rivals Chibuike Amaechi, former governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation scored 316 votes to come second. This was followed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who had 235 votes.

Perhaps, the only thing that would have prevented Tinubu’s victory was the consensus option. The presidency wanted the consensus option, and Senator Tinubu knew it. Hence, the manipulations . But Tinubu sprang up to the exploits. The Jagaban Borgu outsmarted his political opponents by forcing a vote at the concluded convention. With the failure of the consensus mechanism, Tinubu displayed the enormous resources at his disposal, and the rest, as they say, is now history.

As political analysts are analyzing the concluded 2022 political primaries, the attention of pundits is focused on the main issue: The 2023 presidential election and the battle for the soul of Nigeria. As politicians who won their primaries jubilate and move around on courtesy visits to their “godfathers” and “godsons”; those who lost are treating their scars; and “dollarized” delegates are thinking of how to invest their bounty. Albeit, 200 million Nigerians have been presented with the leaders they deserve: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, of the APC, and other presidential flag bearers.

Both Tinubu and Atiku are friends. They are experienced politicians with a great deal of political sagacity. But can any of these politicians provide the decent future Nigerians are looking for as from 2023? Maybe and/or maybe not! Some public intellectuals and political analysts have gone the extra mile to suggest that we should look beyond the political radar and ask ourselves a simple question: Will Nigerians be better off today than yesterday if either Tinubu or Atiku becomes our president in 2023?

In an attempt to answer these questions, one must consider enduring issues and challenges of the Nigerian economy? What are these issues and why do their examination require consideration? The critical issues and challenges of the Nigerian economy especially given the parlors state of affairs remain: how best can the nation eradicate poverty and bring about a steady employment growth, how will security of lives and property be guaranteed, how will Nigeria reduce drastically its over-dependence on oil, and reduce the debt burden.

Nigeria is not only ranked among the poorest in the world, unemployment remains very high and growing steadily. The question remains: What is the best approach to, or strategy at improving health, education, and infrastructure in Nigeria? We have not forgotten that Vision 2020, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP), Transformation Agenda, Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) and many other programs before remain colossal failures as most Nigerians find it difficult to feed, cloth and provide shelter for themselves. What is the best strategy to improve electricity supply in a nation whose productivity is below the threshold.

Both Atiku and Tinubu have released their economic agendas. We will be commenting on these agendas in this column when the electioneering campaign starts in full swing.

But our presidential flag bearers must not forget that the minimum wage is still N30,000 per month while food inflation as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics has increased by 42 percent in one year.

Nigeria’s debt is rising and the official figures released recently by the Debt Management Office shows that the country’s debt stock has increased to N41.6 trillion in the first quarter of 2022. This covers both local and external debts of the Federal Government, state governments and the Federal Capital Territory.

Debt servicing is currently consuming about 80 percent of Nigeria’s revenue. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that debt servicing may take all of Nigeria’s revenue, that is, 100 percent by 2026. We hope that the nation’s debt will not rise to N50 trillion before the end of 2022 as predicted by an economist.

Debt becomes a problem and possibly it may gravitate to a crisis if the revenue base of the country is not strong enough to service debt owed sustainably. Currently, government revenue can hardly cover the recurrent budget which implies that the entire capital budget and part of the recurrent expenditure are being funded from borrowing.

Read also: 2023: ‘Any party with same religion ticket ‘ll lose election – YOWICAN

Nigerians are interested in seeing local and state governments that are actually working. We want to see more governors and local government chairmen that value lives and invest in human capital development. We would acknowledge state governors who will provide security, quality infrastructure and amenities in the next dispensation.

In my view, Nigerians are tired of settling for mediocrity, corruption and nepotism. Any presidential flag bearer that emerges as the president of the country in 2023 should be prepared to build bridges across religious and ethnic divide. Nigerians are special people and as far as I am concerned all Nigerians matter.

And our people should not be sidelined either on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Politics is about serving the people and it should not be seen as an end. This requires a high dose of moral values on the part of those who will be privileged to lead the nation in the next dispensation.

It takes a generation of committed leaders to build a nation. Is the leadership pool sufficiently large enough to provide committed leaders? Your guess is as good as mine. Thank you.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.