Paradigm shift in 2023 presidential poll

The defeat of Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the recent presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to fly the flag as its standard bearer left many Nigerians across all strata devastated.

The reason being that the Vice President has distinctively, spontaneously won the hearts of many people both in and outside his party, APC through responsiveness in the course of duty particularly in critical times.

Legitimacy is a vital tool in leadership. Undeniably, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign medical trips, Osinbajo, then as acting president satisfactorily took charge, delivered, and proved his worth.

As a result of the traits, many had looked forward to Osinbajo’s emergence as the APC candidate towards succeeding Buhari but their hope was unfortunately dashed by ‘politicians’ at the convention ground. Osinbajo’s professional background needed for critical law reforms stands him out.

Conceivably, his loss seems to be the greatest slip of the ruling party in its years of existence. Had Osinbajo emerged an APC candidate, believably, the poll would be a walkover for the ruling party considering that many people across all corners hold him in high esteem due to his cultured lifestyle.

On the other hand, some supporters of Bola Tinubu, the eventual winner of the APC presidential primary, mostly from the Southwest tagged Osinbajo a ‘betrayer.’ Their gripe is – ‘It is Jagaban’s turn to rule Nigeria.’ Apparently, they didn’t fathom that it is nobody’s exclusive right to aspire for the seat.

Secondly, they didn’t decode that Osinbajo was pressured by leaders-of-thoughts on account of his aptitude. And obviously, they overlooked that winning in a convention of few individuals is not the same as facing the nation considering the present age that the umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has continued to demonstrate capacity to conduct credible elections.

Indeed, Buhari deserves accolades for allowing the agency perform its duties without interference unlike his predecessors. The umpire from records is gradually restoring peoples’ confidence in democracy and also attentively disposed to prudent ideas.

For instance, after the 2015 general elections that many registered voters were handicapped, disenfranchised by the default registration, and couldn’t make it to their polling units mostly due to change of location, through a piece titled ‘INEC, Voters’ Card and Fundamental Rights (The Nation of 13th January, 2017; Nigerian Tribune of 14th January, 2017, and other newspapers), I pushed for INEC to consider periodic review of polling centre prior to general elections to enable people that changed locality do update.

Responsibly, the umpire measured, credited the detailed ideas and by implementing it ahead of the 2023 poll, those disenfranchised in the previous elections due to relocation will vote this time owing to the ‘polling units transfer’ in force.

The agency should continue to sustain the momentum. With the Electoral Act, 2022, the game has changed and those still trusting on electoral malpractices like before may wait forever.

Other contenders for the presidential seat are Atiku Abubakar – PDP; Peter Obi – LP; Rabiu Kwakwanso – NNPP, and others. So far, only the standard bearer of the LP, Obi has articulated how his prospective administration will tackle the present-day crises facing the country.

His economic blueprint itemises how to improve every region in the country from the northern region that has large expanse of fallow land, to the South particularly Lagos to become a livable megacity and down to other southern states. Of course, electorates need to know what to expect. Diverting attention can’t substitute it.

Thus, those yet to show clearly what to expect on the table which is the singular reason for the contest should do the needful. For example, Tinubu’s key mantra is “It’s my turn to rule”. Atiku offered a five-point agenda but arguably the usual campaign rhetoric since ages.

Ditto to Kwakwanso’s undetailed slogan of ‘Taking Nigeria to the promised land.’ Yet, party delegates endorsed them to contest for the sensitive office amid prevailing nationwide crises. This is a misnomer. Leadership underscores value; capacity to provide succor to the people than glamour. Maybe, some still believe that it is business as usual.

Considering the prevalent crises in the country presently, there’s a need for a paradigm shift. The situation in the country demands a leader with proven capacity and knowhow in solving the teething challenges.

Without a doubt, all the candidates are qualified by the enabling laws having attained the requisite age and minimum academic level. However, expediency is very important. Like in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 6:12 says …’All things are lawful unto me but all things are not expedient for me.’

Relatively, all the candidates are legally qualified, but, considering the state of the nation, certainly, not all are fit. Thus, the 2023 poll is peculiar. It is a battle between public interest and personal interest.

The nation needs a leader with capacity for radical innovations for economic growth. Those invoking ethnic sentiments seemingly forget that even Katsina State, home state of the incumbent, is not spared in the crises ravaging the country.

Suffice to say that this critical time is perilous to promote mediocrity at the expense of merit as no ethnic region in the country is spared from the prevalent socio-economic crises.

Electorates must use their power; permanent voters card (PVCs) judiciously against ineptocracy. The nation must say ‘NO’ to visionless leadership. What should matter presently is the capacity to move the nation out of quandary and decay.

To be instructive, what to bring to the table should be the focal point. Though, power should sensibly shift to the south as Buhari, the incumbent; a northerner is rounding off aggregately, a two-term of 8 years in power.

Secondly, as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, an ideal team must reflect inclusiveness so as to promote religious harmony and peaceful coexistence. Indisputably, the two dominant religions; Christianity and Islam have credible and competent practitioners. An action may be lawful merely for being ‘unprohibited’ by laws but not suitable and affirmative.

Indeed, Nigeria is collapsing speedily and demands a state of emergency through innovative leadership. These days, both the rich, poor, even pregnant women and infants are unsafe.

Ditto to monarchs, clerics, security personnel. If it is not herdsmen-community’s clashes claiming lives, it will be abduction for ransom or killing for hostility, money-rituals or religious extremism.

Same for highways and railways, the only affordable means for the majority. Staying at home is not safe, at worship centres and schools – the same. All these vices result from cumulative quack leadership over the years.

Obviously, a turnaround is germane, but cannot come by chance. Leadership is typically garbage-in, garbage-out. So, it is high time a square peg is put in square holes. A democratic revolution is long overdue. Thus, aspirants’ antecedents and qualifications must come to bear.

Ethno-religious sentiments cannot tackle the threatening nationwide disasters. As practiced in the private sector, let the team with proven capacity and best credentials, not political orators, fly the kite. There’s no other way for the dividends of democracy yearning for.

Umegboro, a public affairs analyst and social advocate, writes from Lagos

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