2023: Presidential candidates’ manifestos short on ‘how’ – Agbakoba

Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria, has faulted the manifestos rolled out by some presidential candidates, saying they are silent on how to tackle the identified challenges.

“We thought that the candidates’ manifestos should have emphasised a lot more about ‘the how to’, not just about ‘will.’ A lot of the manifestos say, ‘we will’, ‘we shall’; we would like them to be specific on how to tackle the challenges,” Agbakoba said.

The observation was made in Lagos Tuesday at the presentation of Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL)’s Policy Report 2022, titled, ‘Big Issues for the 2023 General Election.’

Agbakoba, a senior partner, who was joined at the event by Collins Okeke, associate partner at OAL, pointed out that the presidential candidates of all the political parties standing for election next year should tailor their manifestos towards addressing the pressing needs of the Nigerian people, and detailing how they hope to go about it.

“Nigeria is in an extremely fragile state. Available indices show characteristics of a failing state. There are conflicts and agitations everywhere, feelings of marginalisation and exclusion, rise in political and criminal violence, loss of control of borders, rising ethnic, religious, and cultural hostilities, weak institutions, food shortages, unemployment, inflation, crumbling infrastructure, deteriorating human development indicators such as infant and maternal mortality and literacy rates,” he said.

He said: “These troubling realities make the 2023 general election a defining moment for the country which, in turn, raises the need for a thorough and insightful search for who will preside over the affairs of the country after President Muhammadu Buhari.

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“This is the single biggest issue confronting the presidential candidates. Apart from general statements, most presidential candidates have not said how they intend to reverse Nigeria’s alarming poverty. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has disclosed that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor. This represents 63percent of the nation’s population. According to the NBS, half of this poor population cook with dung, wood, or charcoal, rather than clean energy. Deprivations are apparent in sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.

“Sokoto, Bayelsa, Gombe, Jigawa, and Plateau are the top poorest states. Sokoto leads with 90.5 percent of people in the state being poor. It is followed by Bayelsa with 88.5 percent poor people, Gombe with 86.2 percent, Jigawa with 84.3 percent, and Plateau with 84 percent. How will the Presidential candidates address this?”

He added: “We have followed how the issues of the 2023 election have been projected by the presidential candidates; one good point is that this has been the most issue-based election.

“We also noted from the various manifestos and issues in review that in order for us to have a very free, fair election, and for a candidate who wins to be able to turn around Nigeria, I do not have to tell you that we are in a very terrible state, and that we need to come down from the precipice; so, defining the important issues, for us, becomes a very big concern. The political economy of Nigeria is extremely fragile, and none of the candidates touched that area, even though they talked about economy, politics separately, but a whole field of scholarship called political economy, they did not touch that. It is of great concern.”

In light of the recently released report by the NBS on the high poverty rate in Nigeria, Agbakoba urged presidential candidates who had released their manifestos to go back to the drawing board in order to capture the realities on ground in their documents.

“The candidates may need to look at their manifestos again in relation to the newly released poverty index. The manifestos are good but they could incorporate a lot more. We want to hear them tell us how they want to address the issues they have raised in their manifestos. They have good intentions, but how are they going to go about delivering on those intentions? This is what we are calling their attention to,” he said.