• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why 2023 should matter to Nigerians

2023 election, the electoral institutions and the rest of us

Considering the influence the media wields in society and across human endeavours, in the past and present, there is no dispute that the media is very powerful, as those who undermine its power always do so at their own detriment.

Adducing to that power, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, an English author in 1839, said, the “Pen is mightier than the sword.” Of course, that metonymic maxim created by the author over three centuries ago still stands today as the written word is truly more effective than violence.

Here in Nigeria, the media has not failed in exercising its power from the pre- and post-independence periods, military regimes, and all the republics in the Nigerian democratic era till date.

On a very good note, in 2015, the Nigerian media literally ‘sacked’ the Goodluck Jonathan-led government. But the feat was short-lived afterwards, as the applauded ‘power’ seemed waned, especially under the Buhari administration.

Across all platforms – online and traditional, the media has, in recent times, failed to take on a government that has failed to keep virtually all its promises to the electorate, and according to a columnist, the ‘country is gradually drifting into a failed state where life is nasty, brutish and short.’

Sadly, the kind of orchestrated media vibrancy witnessed in 2015 that saw the fall of a government has whittled in the face of drifting country with most economic indices negative – exchange rate at about N500 per dollar and insecurity, unemployment and inflation unimaginably high.

Today, some Nigerians who voted in the last two general elections of 2015 and 2019 are regretting their political decisions, blaming their actions on being myopic then. It is obvious that voters’ choice in those elections was largely predicated on sentiments, tribal alignments and blind backings instead of economic and management considerations.

But the media shares a huge chunk of the blame as well, because it fell short of its watchdog responsibility and objective criticism of government in order to enforce change.

Well, 2015 and 2019 are gone; leaving the electorate leaking their wounds with their choices and decisions, while the media keeps mute as its power wanes.

But 2023 presents another opportunity and a huge one for both the media and the electorate to right the wrong by pressing to enthrone good economic managers to reshape Nigeria’s economy for the benefit of all.

A healthy economy is equally important for the media, on all fronts, as it is always on the receiving end of economic mismanagement. When advertisers are hit by a harsh economy, they quickly trim their marketing communication budget, which invariably negatively affects advertising in the media.

Advertising is a major source of revenue for the media industry, and when companies sneeze due to bad policies, the media organisations catch the cold.

For instance, sources say companies’ advert spend of N143.7 billion in 2020 dropped by about 12.5 percent in 2021. This is a blow to the media industry.

Presently, socio-economic realities have shown that if Nigeria and Nigerians want to survive years ahead, they need to de-emphasise ethnic and religious biases and focus more on the quality of the leaders and economic managers that will emerge in 2023. The media has a big responsibility to champion this course. Of course, the present suffering should guide everyone, according to a media expert.

It is true that the next leader must emerge from any of the six geo-political zones, with attention focused on South East. If the region does not produce a president in 2023, it will likely take 40 years of democracy to produce a president. If South West produces the president, the position will shift to the North after eight years. That will be 16 years in addition to 24 years, making it 40 years after Buhari in 2023.

But this is not the crux of this discussion. The focus here is on producing a president that will be capable of tackling the daunting tasks ahead, lest the people perish.

Read also: 2023: Let track record be prerequisite for presidency – Obi

As 2023 approaches and Nigerians prepare to elect a new president, whoever emerges will have many issues to tackle including:

Debt: Nigeria’s total public debt stock as of September 2021 stood at N38.005 trillion. This is in addition to N2.540 trillion accumulated debt within the third quarter of 2021. Nigeria’s increasing debt stock under Buhari’s administration is a concern, particularly considering that the government now spends most of its income on debt servicing.

“For instance, the Federal Government generated N3.93 trillion within the first eight months of 2021 but used N2.89 trillion to service debt same period, according to official data. Also, the new figures indicate that the country which has faced two recessions in four years has more than doubled its debt stock since 2016,” according to BusinessDay reports.

What this means is that Nigeria may not be embarking on new projects as the little or nothing left of the revenue after debt service will be used for salaries.

This is unfortunate and will pose a challenge to the next administration, especially when part of the borrowed funds was deployed into consumption instead of projects that are supposed to pay back the debts.

Fear over oil market on electric cars: Electric cars are gradually and increasingly entering the market. What this means is that Nigeria needs to be sceptical over the future price of oil. Increase in electric cars will result in oil becoming less attractive in the international market.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on the oil sector, which accounts for over 95 percent of export earnings and about 40 percent of government revenues, according to the IMF. The oil sector provides for 95 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of its budgetary revenues.

A BusinessDay report states, “Oil-dependent economies like Nigeria with markets in Europe where electric car adoption is on the rise, especially in Spain and France, will see a shrinking market.”

In another report, Ademola Henry, former team leader at the Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER), expressed worry that, “The world is turning its back on oil and Nigeria seems docile. We have absolutely nothing to fall back on.”

The gradual shrinking in the oil market is a big challenge to Nigeria’s economic managers. They need to find alternative sources to feed the over 200 million population and construct infrastructure for the running of the economy. This is why who leads Nigeria from 2023 matters.

Unemployment: Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 35 percent as at the third quarter of last year. This is a frightening development considering its implications on insecurity and agitations. Next leaders have responsibility to reduce this figure, not by rhetoric but true action to create serene environment for investment and business to thrive.

Insecurity: With the high rate of insecurity, life almost means nothing in Nigeria. There is kidnapping, robbery, killing every day, still the authorities pretend as if everything is normal. Nigerians are looking for a ‘Messiah’ in 2023. Leaders that will emerge must be prepared to save the people, else they will be regarded as failures. For regional agitations, the next government can adopt dialogue to calm nerves rather than the force approach, which has not achieved anything.

However, in all these, the Nigerian media is central. As the watchdog, opinion shaper and mouthpiece of the society, the media has big responsibility in reshaping the Nigerian nation from the present terrible socio-economic situations, which the country is confronted with since the last few years.

Nigeria needs a turning point in all fronts and as the biggest economy in Africa, it cannot afford to waste more years with incompetent leaders foisted on the nation by people looking to feather their nest.

As written by Financial Times’ Africa Editor, David Pilling recently, “Nigeria desperately needs an administration whose energies go not into preserving its own privilege but into providing public goods — basic education and health, rule of law, security, power, roads, and digital infrastructure. It must remove distortions and subsidies that direct entrepreneurial activity from production to arbitrage.”

2023 is almost here, it is time for the media to prove once again that the ‘Pen is mightier than the sword’ or get a ‘vote of no confidence.’