BusinessDay

Campaign: What we want to hear from politicians – Nigerians

…‘Avoid deception, propaganda, hate speech’

Few days to the commencement of campaign for the 2023 general election, Nigerians have asked politicians to speak to the myriads of challenges in the country and practical ways they hope to ameliorate the people’s suffering.

They have also urged politicians to avoid deception in their promises to the Nigerian people.

Nigeria is beset with too many challenges, ranging from insecurity, economic crisis, high level unemployment, collapse of institutions, disunity, absence of order in society, among several others.

In recent years, the average prices of household items across Nigeria have surged by over 100 percent, causing inflation to accelerate to 20.03 in September, the worst in the last one-and-half decades.

Food inflation is also on a record high in the last one year, while the spate of insecurity has assumed an alarming proportion with daily killings and kidnapping of Nigerians now widespread. Movement within the country has become increasingly nightmarish.

Some Nigerians, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondents across the country, said it was imperative for the presidential candidates and other politicians to make implementable promises, and not to use the opportunity to spread propaganda and hate speech.

Although there are different categories of elections, many Nigerians say that the presidential poll remains the main focus.

Last Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) published the list of all the candidates for the election. The 18 registered political parties in Nigeria are represented as they have candidates for next year’s presidential poll.

From the pack, there are four front runners in the race, namely; Bola Ahmed Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peter Obi, candidate of the Labour Party (LP), and Rabiu Kwankwaso, candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).

Looking at the possible demands of the masses for the incoming president, Jasper Onyeyiri, a senior lecturer at University of Nigeria Nsukka, noted that Nigerians have suffered so much in the last seven and half years, with the overbearing weight of hardship weighing them down, and hence may be dumbfounded to ask for anything, other than, for the incoming government to ‘lighten their loads.’

“They promised Change in 2015, nothing changed, they promised Next Level in 2019, and delivered the next level of suffering for Nigerians. I think a sincere presidential aspirant should promise Nigerians what he can deliver and not what his party, sponsors or friends are suggesting to him. It is Buhari that Nigerians are blaming for the present hardship and not those that sponsored him. If they promise food or even water, it is better than promising to end insecurity and make Dollar at par with Naira in value,” Onyeyiri said.

As well, Anele Oguezi, an associate professor at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, noted that what Nigerians needed most from the politicians are security to go about their businesses across the country and concerted efforts at curbing inflation so that small businesses will continue to thrive and create the jobs the government has been promising since 1999 and cannot deliver till today.

“Although it is a shame that ASUU is still on strike, the graduates universities keep churning out every year do not have jobs, those who went into business or apprenticeship for lack of sponsors of their education pursuits are also handicapped now because of the harsh economy. Inflation and bank interest rates are so high and the cost of doing business is killing entrepreneurs. I think a sincere government should concentrate on revamping the economy and that will settle other promises they would have made in the campaigns,” the university lecturer said.

But Dimeji Olakunle, a freight forwarder, decried that the hunger in the land is so much because of the unreasonable hike in the prices of food items.

“I think one major item in the manifestos of the politicians for the 2023 election should be food security and making food items affordable. A hungry man is an angry man, and then a hungry Nigeria is an angry nation, which can burn anytime and consume everybody,” Olakunle said.

Olakunle, who operates around the major seaports across the country, decried that all the ban on importation of certain food items were counterproductive as the so-called local famers still import and rebag the contraband items.

The freight forwarder, who regretted that most of his colleagues are now out of business because of the harsh economy, admonished presidential aspirants to also give priority to the economy as everything revolves around a good or bad economy.

“We cannot keep deceiving ourselves. If the economy booms, most Nigerians will not bother about who becomes the president, it is because of the bad economy that people are clamoring for a messiah out of this economic quagmire we are in now,” he said.

In his views, Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian diaspora and research fellow in Belgium, summed up what he thinks Nigerians need from politicians for 2023 in three folds of security, food and jobs.

“If you want the economy to boom again, tackle insecurity head-on to woo foreign investments, to reassure us abroad safety of our investments in the country and to enable us invest more. You have to ensure food security to check hunger and create jobs to check insecurity,” Onikoyi said.

For Alice Ebireme, whose two sons have been home since the ASUU strike that commenced in February, the politicians should tell Nigerians how they want to save the educational sector and ensure that for the four years in power, the university gates will remain open.

“My brother sent his children to universities in Ghana in June, my neighbours’ children who were formally in Ukraine before the war, are now in a Poland university because their parents can afford it, this government does not care for the poor and doesn’t want the poor to go to school. Next president should make education work for the poor,” the Ijaw-born mother said.

But Lukmon Adeyinka, a member of Lagos Chamber of Commerce, said Nigerians need a government that will prioritise electricity supply, declare emergencies on power, economy and education sectors and work to improve on them.

Away from the economy, Terseh Orr, a Benue State-born Abuja lawyer, said the president Nigerians need is the one that will curb ethnicity, religious bigotry, favouritism, promote circularity of Nigeria and carry all parts of the country along in his administration.

According to him, “Campaign and promises around these areas I mentioned above are what we want to hear this time around. We have heard too many lies. We have been deceived for too long. I think this is the time every Nigerian should open his or her eyes. We cannot continue to be fooled.”

Tunde Olumide, a marketing executive, said:

“We have been hearing politicians talk in the past nothing came to fruition, i mean as you can see people are not happy with this government. All the promises Buhari and the APC made in 2015 and 2019 there’s nothing to show for it. APC promised restructuring, but they denied; here we are now, there’s no headway.

“This time around, people are wiser, believe me, it is only those who want to be fooled again that can be fooled. For me, I want someone that can tackle the spate insecurity it is a major issue, as we speak

Now my children are at home because of the strike. Nowhere is secured, you can’t go anywhere without that fear in your heart.

“Even there cannot be peace; you can’t do business if you are not sure of your safety or your workers. Look at what is happening in Northern Nigeria and South East.”

Equally, some Nigerians called for stability in the exchange rate to aid the growth of business and trade. They expressed frustration with rapidly depreciating value of the Naira, stressing that the situation had contributed to the rising inflation.

“For me, I am a businessman, I don’t believe in government people before, there is nothing you can tell me about them. What I am concerned about now is this depreciation of the naira, because I used to travel to import goods outside Nigeria.

“Before, when you take our money outside the country to buy goods it was something but since Buhari came, see the way the value is falling every day. That is where I am affected, it is killing my business,” Okoye Chuma, a businessman, said.

Funsho Ogunsanya, an IT expert, said there was the need for the next government to focus on revamping the economy to create job for Nigerians, especially the youths.

Ogunsanya further lamented the industrial action by university lecturers in the country, advising that government must urgently find a lasting solution to save the country future.

According to him, “I am aware the campaign is starting this week, but it is not just about talking, some of us have been hearing this guys talk for decades. I don’t care. It is only you guys in the media that want to hear them.

“But we are not making any progress as a nation, if I am to advise them; I think the majority want the economy to be given attention to by the next president.

“When you fix the economy, people can do business, existing businesses can also grow. I mean jobs would be created, which is what we need now. The rate of unemployment is too much and that is why you see all this crimes now.

“Also to eat now is a problem, the prices of food and services have gone so high that many Nigerians are going through pain. They can no longer afford their daily needs. I spend most of my salary on food. There is hunger in the land, but these politicians don’t know; I don’t want to hear any campaign now.”

Dansoho Terfa, a Public Affairs analyst, said: “There are common instances where Nigerian politicians promise their constituents heaven on earth while politicking without corresponding measures to be as good as their words when eventually tested with power. The consequences of this laxity are pervasive in the trail of maladministration evident in the blazing economic depression, raging insecurity, widespread unemployment, among others that have become part of us over time.

“This development has, no doubt consequently, called into question the trustworthiness, sincerity and passion of the Nigerian politicians to prosecute the affairs of governance to accommodate the popular interest of the populace. Therefore, the expectations of electorate from politicians at the campaign arena ahead of the 2023 general election revolves around how serious, genuine and passionate they will be with the business of serving the people if entrusted with power. This should be apart from weaving the campaign framework around sensitive issues of common interest rather than preaching violence and acrimony.”

Read also: From education, medical to political tourism- sad story of Nigerian politicians

Benjamin Jato, an Abuja-based businessman, said: “We want to know why we are where we are now and how we can get where we want to be. It’s he who knows where he is and where he wants to be that will know the amount of resources and what to do to get to anywhere he wants to be.
“We want to see and hear competent party men and women tell us what approach not using party name as a manifesto. For they will all cross carpet to the winning party at end of the day.”

Aina Omo-Ojeonu, president of Benin Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BENCCIMA), advised the candidates to go beyond identifying problems during electioneering to devising means in addressing the challenges bedeviling the nation.

“The problem is that, as a Nigerian, nobody will be happy with the politicians because they make so many promises and they are not able to keep any. What we are interested in is not the promises but the implementation of those promises. I can say I want to make kerosene to be N2 per litre, then when I assume office, am I able to do it?

“The major problem we have in Nigeria is insecurity. Insecurity has taken a toll on everything, including depriving farmers access to their farms. We talk about export, but how do we do export when we have not fixed the problem inside the house and we are talking about outside,” Omo-Ojeonu said.

Joshua Ehidiamhen, a doctor of Optometry, urged would-be elected officers to make human development as their centre of interest, and prioritise firming up regulations as well as institutions.

“The main focus should be human development and strengthening of our institutions. Most developed countries function and progress because most humans have value to add to a system and the regulatory agencies are given enough support to checkmate any illegal activities,” Ehidiamhen said.

Peter Aguele, a farmer, urged those desiring to preside over the affairs of Nigeria to put in place strategic policies that will revive the agricultural sector with a view to driving foreign exchange earnings and stabilising the naira amid declining oil revenues.

“At this stage of our country, where the revenue from our oil is dwindling, diversification should be our focus. While we were making monies in the oil sector that was not even enough, in 2010, the export proceeds of Malaysia from palm oil was huge. If you check the countries that have done well in agricultural sector, they are countries that have deliberately prioritised particular commodities such as Malaysia that has ministry of oil palm.

“Today, we are net importer of the product. As much as we grow oil palm we are still importing to meet our demands. It is a huge shortfall. So, at the federal level, there should be deliberate steps to ensure oil palm produce become our foreign revenue earner. They should promote commodities like rice and other crops in places where they have comparative advantages,” Aguele said.

Aguele, a former chairman of Esan South-East Local Government Area of Edo State, said: “Promises made before and promises broken afterwards are as old as this democracy, but the narrative is changing. One of the things bringing these changes is the electoral law that is stiffening and reducing the amount of criminality involved in election rigging. So, the crop of politicians we will be seeing are those who will keep to their promises.

“For instance, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State made some promises while campaigning and he is trying to fulfill them. One of such is the actions he is taking in the agricultural sector, especially oil palm. Today, the governor has given lands to investors to come and develop oil palm businesses in Edo.

“It means that politicians can keep to their promises, and I can tell you that in another five to ten years, Edo will be the new Indonesia for oil palm, and this is going to create employment and improve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“As we look forward to the campaigns, we need to break it down from national to state and then to the local government areas. There must be a deliberate action by all levels of government,” he said.

In his published article ‘Election Campaign Promises Too Many’ in December 2015, seven months after the inauguration of the Buhari administration, Steve Obum Orajiaku, an indigene of
Anambra State, “Both at the national and state government levels, Nigerians seem to have developed thick skin or have grown cynical over the promises which our politicians are easily inclined to make, especially prior to any general election, all in their bid to canvass the votes of the electorate. The benefit of hindsight ought to have compelled an intelligent and objective politician to jettison the deceptive tradition of doling out empty promises during their electioneering campaign rallies and embark on convincing the people on what his blueprints are, the manifesto of his party and the vision for the development of projects impacting positively on the lives of the citizens.”

According to him, “We were told insurgency and terrorism will be subdued in three weeks of being sworn in Nigeria. But the dreadful beasts are still out on rampage killing and maiming the innocent and hapless citizens of this great nation.”

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