BusinessDay

As we approach the 2023 elections

At the moment, primaries have been concluded by virtual all the various political parties. They are all busy putting in place final touches as regards who will represent them in the forthcoming polls. This is moreso because the search is currently on for running mates.

Indeed and in less than a year, Nigerians of voting age will go to the polls to elect new House of Assembly members, governors, National Assembly members, and the president.

The forthcoming 2023 general elections will be the seventh general elections held in Nigeria since the return to democratic rule, after the ones that took place in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.

After 24 years of continuous democratic rule, the sophistication of the Nigerian electorate should have attained a level that we can say: yes, Nigeria has reached the nirvana as regards electoral protocols and culture. However, the truth is, Nigeria is yet to get there.

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, by and large, the 2023 general elections might not produce results different from what we have had in the past. And after 24 years of organising general elections, if the reactions that trail the exit polls is not applause across board, Nigeria would have lost a lot

This means the entire electoral processes put in place to assess different political parties and their aspirants as well as parties’ manifestoes always befuddle the Nigerian masses. These clogs in the nation’s electoral laws have always taken the shine off the various efforts, financial commitments and diligence that might have gone into the preparations towards the various elections.

Indeed and as far as elections go, the last few weeks have been interesting in Nigeria. Many political gladiators have thrown their hats in the ring through overt and covert expressions of interest to the populace. In the coming weeks, more individuals are going to come out to join the contests for elective positions.

Those who have expressed their interest(s) thus far have continued to interface with different political, economic and religious blocs to canvass for their respective support.

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, by and large, the 2023 general elections might not produce results different from what we have had in the past. And after 24 years of organising general elections, if the reactions that trail the exit polls is not applause across board, Nigeria would have lost a lot.

The loss will come from the huge monetary and material donations towards the polls, which do not produce the kinds of leaders that will improve the socio-economic well-being of the citizenry.

Considering that we do not have much time before the general elections, the electoral processes should have put in place machinery that will lay more emphasis on who emerges as members of the state houses of assembly, governors, members of the National Assembly and those that will occupy the presidency.

The highest office in the land is the presidency; yet and unfortunately, a year before the presidential election, Nigeria’s electoral laws do not permit interested individuals to start political campaigns and present himself or herself to public scrutiny before the general elections. Though it must be admitted here that some politicians are already titillating the populace with promises, plans and projects.

That is partly why, all kinds of individuals emerge as political leaders in this country. Evidently, the time is too short for the electorate to assess who they are or indeed, who they are not! This is a disturbing development as we have seen in the past when an individual who falsified all his credentials ended up becoming the speaker in the National Assembly while others at state level were sacked due to falsification of their credentials. A good and thorough system would not have allowed them to get there in the first place, if there had been ample time for proper scrutiny.

Another linchpin is our economic and fiscal policies. Nigeria as a country suffers on many economic fronts. The country’s revenue comes mainly from crude oil sales. Faced with some hurdles, Nigeria has not fully met the quota assigned to it by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Also, the nation’s refineries are virtually comatose, if not dead. This means the country is not gaining much from oil price rally, as the proceeds from crude oil sales leave its coffers in the form of debt servicing and subsidy payment.

Another economic challenge is the primary nature of non-oil exports. This has not supported the drive to reduce the reliance on crude oil exports. Thus, the nation’s agriculture sector is still being dominated by small-holder farmers whose production cannot meet domestic demand let alone make provision for export.

Meanwhile, there is also the fundamental problem of our inability to add value to our primary commodities – a situation that is partly responsible for the large-scale unemployment in the land.

With the short electioneering period, candidates’ policies which seek to address the nation’s economic challenges will not go through proper evaluation to gauge the ingenuity and preparedness of contestants.

Another pertinent issue is: How wealthy are these individuals? People whose assets we do not know before and on assumption of office can easily pose a problem as regards attempts to track possible instances of looting and primitive accumulation. So, how do we know if they will not short-change and game the system.

Meanwhile, the electoral law deliberately creates loopholes for politicians to exploit to the detriment of Nigerians. This arises from the casual and lacklustre attitude which characterise the declaration of assets by political office holders.

What about written manifestoes during the electioneering period? After the general elections, political office holders become evasive as to what people should hold them to account for. They always deny promises made while canvassing for our votes.

Chances are that written manifestoes submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission along their other documents and which are published in news outlets will solve these perennial problems.

Read also: 2023 Election: How Nigeria celebrities sensitize voters ahead

This nation is in dire need of individuals who can think outside the box. The past electoral contests have not led us anywhere.

Rather, the socio-economic indices continue to worsen by the day. Such índices range from: insecurity, banditry, kidnapping to increasing rate of out of school children, poverty, unemployment, exchange rate volatility and food insecurity.

Therefore, Nigeria needs uncommon and exceptional individuals at various levels of government to lead this country to the promised land. The current electoral system which seeks to hide contestants from public scrutiny will worsen the situation.

Therefore, it is high time the INEC removed these shackles so that the Nigerian people will be able to on a timely basis, scrutinise the academic qualifications, achievements, lifestyles and economic programmes of their future governors and presidents and other political office holders.

Thus, as we trudge towards 2023, we should take all these issues to heart and act seriously on them. This is with a view to ensuring that ultimately, we put in place an electoral process that will guarantee the much needed dividends of democracy in our currently besieged country. Evidently, this country’s economic fortunes or misfortune(!) can do with a positive around by an imaginative leadership.

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