Nigeria and Nigerians joined the rest of the world to welcome the New Year, 2023. It was wild excitement that greeted the New Year which was heralded by a night of prayers in churches.
The dominant themes in prayers and sermon in most churches were hope and change. This was to be expected given the nature and character of the out-gone year, 2022. It was a year that most Nigerians, like Israelites leaving the land of Egypt, never want to look back to again.
To many Nigerians, especially the masses of the country, 2022 actually was a metaphor for misery and frustration, especially in their economic life and that of the country. It was a year when hunger became a native in many homes and unemployment became another national flag.
Other indices of suffering which added to the ineptitude and insensitivity of the corrupt leadership of the country literally made the citizenry a bunch of slaves to self-seeking and predatory creditor-nations.
2023 is not just another year in Nigeria. It is an election year. It is a watershed after an era many would see as ‘years of the locust’
It is understandable, therefore, why there is excitement in the land with the new dawn. This understanding becomes all the more effusive given the character of an average Nigerian who has, by circumstance, become a chronic optimist. He hopes, almost always, that tomorrow will be better.
Besides the general feeling that the government might do more to improve the living conditions of the people in the New Year, there is also hope that 2023 will bring the real change that the country needs for there to be progress and meaning in the lives of the people.
So, 2023 is not just another year in Nigeria. It is an election year. It is a watershed after an era many would see as ‘years of the locust’ when, due to acts of omission or commission by managers of the country’s economy, inflation and exchange rate crisis brought the country on its knees.
It is our expectation and those of other Nigerians too that the election which is just a few weeks away will usher in a new crop of leaders for the next four years. These leaders, we hope, will be those that will understand the feelings of the people and will be able to help reposition the country’s economy which has been in dire straits in the last seven years.
We hope too that the election of new leaders at various levels of governance will translate into a meaningful impact in living standards, leading to reduction in unemployment and poverty levels in the country which are, arguably, second to none in Africa.
But, hope and pray as we do, we still have our fears at individual, household and even national level. What is increasingly becoming a tragedy of our being as a people is that, in our circumstance, we are hoping for a change, and praying for God’s intervention, but curiously, we are the ones overtly or covertly, subverting that intervention.
In most cases, criminally-minded people, ethnic bigots, religious fundamentalists, and people on self-seeking or self-serving mission choose to ignore or reject intervention when they see one.
Elections, anywhere in the world, is about making choices and we hold the view strong that man’s progress or success in his life-journey depends largely on the choices he makes.
Nigerians, in the last eight years, have had opportunities to make choices of people to lead them and manage the vast resources Nature has been kind enough to deposit freely on their laps. The sobering moments they find themselves today are pointers to the fact that, perhaps, bad choices were made.
Surprisingly, unfolding events in the run up to another opportunity to choose and correct the mistakes of the past send cold shivers down our spines. The question we find pertinent to ask is whether, as a people, we can afford another eight years of hallucination and aberrant memory in governance.
We are worried and also afraid of what lurks around as a certain unknown. When we look around us, all we see is a desperate moment fuelled by desperadoes that want it win elections by at all cost.
As a result, we see the hope in the new dawn fading away in the face of arson, thuggery, and violence crystalising in wanton killing of political opponents; attack on the electoral umpire’s facilities mainly in areas considered opponents’ stronghold. By the last count, 51 of such facilities have been destroyed in just 12 months.
Since October 2022, reports of attacks or murder of politicians and clashes by candidates’ supporters have been on the rise. Recently, gunmen killed Victoria Chintex, women leader of the Labour Party (LP), in Kaura LG of Kaduna State.
A couple of weeks ago, a Labour Party House of Assembly candidate, Christopher Elehu, was murdered in Imo State by suspected assassins in Onuimo Local Government Area. There are many more others not recorded and they too involved human lives.
Read also: Sustainable consumption: Are Nigerians waste conscious?
These are scary and desperate moments indeed which, in our view, are potential threats to all the hopes and aspirations in the New Year. They are major road blocks in this Israelite journey out of Egypt.
We are worried that all these are happening even with the Peace Accord which was signed by almost all the candidates of the various political parties contesting different positions. We share the view of former President Goodluck Jonathan that no politician’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.
We urge the promoters of the peace accord, security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do all within their power to ensure that the election is not truncated or compromised by desperate politicians who want power at all cost for their selfish interest.
It is our expectation that the election should throw up a leader who will give the economy attention and be able to create jobs and fight poverty. That should also be someone who will stem the rate of unemployment which is the reason for the rise in crime across the country today.
Our country needs a national figure with a national mentality and approach—a leader with national personality who will be able to create a space for all Nigerians, irrespective of their religion or ethnic background. The country needs a president who thinks of Nigeria and Nigerians first.