• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Cost of living crisis tops voters’ concerns as campaign begins September

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Few weeks to the beginning of the presidential campaign ahead of next February’s poll, the cost of living crisis in the country tops many voters’ concerns, BusinessDay has gathered.

Nigerians who spoke with BusinessDay in separate interviews said that it was imperative that the presidential candidates speak to how they would urgently address the high cost of living crisis that is hitting the citizens hard.

The average prices of household items across major cities in the country have surged by over 100 percent in the last one year, causing inflation to accelerate to 19.64 percent in July, the highest since October 2005. Food inflation quickened to 22.02 percent in July, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

Many households are groaning on the back of rising cost of staples amid shrinking disposable incomes.

According to the newly amended Electoral Act, the presidential campaign is expected to kick off on September 28, exactly five months to the presidential poll in 2023.

The 18 registered political parties in Nigeria have all submitted presidential candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the poll.

However, there are four frontrunners in the race, namely Bola Ahmed Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress; Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party; Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party.

Several of the candidates have not publicly unfolded their agendas, while some have unveiled to the public what their administration would prioritise if they are elected into office.

Read also: How social media can impact election campaigns

Nigerians say the next president must address the worsening insecurity, which, according to them, has drastically affected business transactions.

They added that it was imperative to stabilise the country’s foreign exchange as a step to immediately cut costs for Nigerians amid dwindling revenue and surging prices.

They warned that it was imperative for candidates to be mindful of their promises to avoid a repeat of the past, where after assuming office they denied their campaign promises, while others found it difficult to implement their pledges.

“I think it is clear that Nigerians are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in this economy. I mean the cost of living is unbearable now. The prices of everything are up, it is just scary. People want succour,” Patrick Okimi, a legal practitioner, said. “But making unrealistic promises to lure voters may not go a long way this time around because of the 2015 experience.”

Okimi advised politicians to limit themselves to what they can achieve when they get to power.

“I think it is important to advise the candidates not to make excessive promises, so that the people would have confidence and trust in the political system and the political elite,” he added.

Elias Adagunduro, a media consultant, said that he would prefer Nigeria’s next president to give priority to the economy and create jobs for Nigerians, especially the youths.

He said: “For me, what the ordinary man cares about for now is having three square meals a day. These politicians have been making promises in the past, how many did they implement?

“Look at the way the country is; insecurity, people are kidnapped, killed daily. You cannot travel anywhere, no one is safe. Of course, they should say what they will do so that they won’t set the already volatile country on fire with fake promises.”

Tunde Salman, a public analyst, said: “The standard of living has gone down; we need issue-based campaign and a President that will prioritise economic revival, reduce high cost of living, focus on economic diversification, work on labour intensive growth that will translate into job creation, revive textual industries, reduce hunger, unemployment, address inflation, insecurity, and upgrade education standards.”

Nats Odaudu, a public affairs analyst, said: “Nigerians needs a President who has a proven track record of managing an economy, a President whose diagnosis can bring a comatose economy back to life, and a leader who does not have a history of stealing of public funds and who is frugal enough to manage our extremely depleted resources.”

Moses Onodua, a public affairs analyst, told BusinessDay that the 2023 general election will be a watershed in the annals of Nigeria’s history and the sufferings of the masses will form the basis of electioneering for the candidates vying for the nation’s top political office.

Onodua said the present high cost of living will be the main thrust of the campaigns as only candidates that can proffer solutions to the prevailing problems in the land will get the nod from the people.

He said: “The political parties have all reeled out their manifestos to the public for scrutiny and possible alignment. However, there is more to manifestos in Nigeria’s political landscape. Events in recent years have clearly shown that all our political parties lacked ideologies as is obtained in several other well-developed democracies in the world.

“It’s also on record that party manifestos are not taken into consideration because as soon as the parties get into power, the documents are thrown away into the dustbin of history. Nigeria, the self-acclaimed giant of Africa, is gradually losing grip with realities and only the candidate that can give concrete road map to recovery will get the votes of the people.

“The 2023 general election will surely take a new dimension from all previous exercises. Nigerians are now looking for someone who has their interest at heart, someone who will listen to the cries of the masses, and someone who can be held accountable, someone who will govern by the tenet of democracy that simply says the government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

John Osazuwa, a lecturer at the department of political science and public administration, University of Benin, urged the presidential hopefuls to base their campaigns on the complete revitalisation of the security system and institutions, noting that there may be intolerance between some tribes, which, according to him, can further create a socio-political cleavage that can lead to division.

Osazuwa, while emphasising the need to prioritise agriculture to reduce the cost of prices of food items, said any candidates who do not take the front-burner issues into consideration ahead of the campaigns is “dillydallying.”

Anthony Ikogwe, a Benin-based engineer, said Nigerians are yearning for a better nation, adding that the country had in the past few years been marred by rising insecurity, astronomical unemployment level, dwindling economy and brain drain in the health sector.

He said: “We have listened to some of the manifesto of the candidates even if they have not started campaigns but there are some major issues that need to be prioritised, for example, insecurity, poor educational system and the health sector. Insecurity in Nigeria is so alarming that people cannot travel. Nowadays, before you travel, you consider the security threats because you can be picked up along the road and freed in exchange for cash.

“Nigeria’s economy is a thing of concern and there will be serious work for the next president. The sufferings of the masses have been so much that they may not concede to vote buying because people are no longer happy with the way our leaders have been ruling us.”