Babatunde Raji Fashola, minister of Works and Housing, has urged Nigerians to think about how the 2023 elections would positively impact their lives and make the country better.
Fashola, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made the call in lagos Thursday in his keynote speech at The NICHE 2022 Lecture, with the theme ‘2023 AND THE FUTURE OF NIGERIA’S DEMOCRACY.’
Fashola said: “Given that we are 20 days to the formal commencement of campaigns for the 2023 general elections, this year’s annual lecture coming 170 days to the first of the elections in February 2023 provides a potential platform for many possibilities.
“In our current situation we now have 12,332,336 newly registered voters for the 2023 election, whereas there were 14,360,053 newly registered voters in 2019, while 6,944,752 registered as new voters in 2015.
“So, if the hype about 2023 is anything to go by, the number of 12,332,366 newly registered voters does not support it, because it is 2,027,687 less than the 14,360,053 newly registered voters in 2019.
“Obviously, we have seen all the hype before and they detract from the real question which in my view should be: how can democracy, especially the 2023 elections, make our lives better and our country greater?”
He urged Nigerians to focus on the question, because “we must remember that democracy is simply concerned about the popular participation in choosing a leader or set of leaders.”
According to him, “Democracy does not guarantee that the leader or those leaders will deliver or indeed are able to deliver on what we want. Put conversely, what really is it that we expect from those we elect and what do they promise to do before we vote, and what have they done for us? Did we vote for, or did we collect tricycles, sewing machines, generators etc. from them?
“If we did, can we legitimately expect that the budget from which these things were procured will also provide healthcare, drugs and diagnostic equipment in our health facilities?
“If they have sponsored weddings for our families, financed the burial of our dear departed ones or paid school fees for a whole community do we understand that these things or some of them are funded by the budget from which we also expect good schools, good roads and other public infrastructure and services upon which our prosperity depends collectively? Put differently, how many of us who vote truly understand how the process works?”
In his opening remarks, Tanko Yakasai, who was chairman of the occasion, said that Nigeria was at a crossroads.
Yakasai, an astute politician, who traced the history of the country’s systems of government, said: “The Nigerian federal system of government that allowed for equality in governance was established in 1954, making it the oldest on the African continent.”
The chairman, a First Republic politician, also said:
“The system underwent experimentation with varied and distinct three divergent models, including the “Parliamentary system,” “Military Regimes” and “Presidential System of Democracy,” and has been able to maintain a stable government despite the different experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant.”
According to him, “Given that we are 19 days to the formal commencement of campaigns for the 2023 general elections and 169 days to the first of the elections in February next year, the 2022 edition of the lecture presented the opportunity to discuss what is at stake for Nigeria’s democracy beyond the electoral exercise to be witnessed by over 90 million Nigerians.”
He pointed out that “It is my place to emphasize that Nigeria is currently at the crossroads. There is the overwhelming consensus that the political leadership under the current federal system is far from being optimal. The democratic government which ideally should serve the people and build enduring institutions had only succeeded in creating a generation of oligarchs and political entrepreneurs running the country as a private undertaking and not a federation responsible for the wellbeing of over 200 million people.”
He further explained that “Today, 62 years after independence, it is shameful that Nigeria is described as a resource endowed but a poor country. The study by Heritage, (2021), described Nigeria as mostly unfree characterised by severe political instability, security threats, policy failures and disregard for the rule of law. More fundamentally, the lack of diversification – Production and income, in spite of the several policies and plans, continue to worsen the socio-economic challenges of the country.
“The dismal performance of the successive governments in harnessing the abundant natural resources and large population has been blamed for the increasing poverty, hunger, insurgency, militancy, youth restiveness, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug abuse, political thuggery, vandalisation of national assets, and others.
“Unfortunately, there is no clear sign or political will to reverse this negative trend. The lack of empathy, patriotism and developmental orientation among our political leaders may not be unconnected with the massive powers and resources they control, especially at the Centre. No wonder, the nation is hoping for positive change and clamoring for restructuring after 2023.”
“It has been my long standing argument that the regional system of government worked better for the country when compared to all other experimentations. However, in view of the changing local and international dynamics coupled with institutional limitations, reverting to the regional system may not be helpful and feasible under our current precarious situations.
“For this, I advocate for people-oriented change and peaceful restructuring of the current federal system to devolve power and responsibilities to the sub-nationals which would, in turn, offer better opportunity for stability and unity.
“Also, instead of promoting zonal divisive politics, manifesting in the current geopolitical zones arrangements, I support conscious shift to regional competitiveness under a Geo-economic zones model to provide regions with unique opportunity to collaborate, under an agreed structure, to stimulate economic growth in their areas of comparative advantages which may include, industry, agriculture, services, infrastructure, knowledge economy, etc. Eventually, this would offer greater opportunities for states and zones to grow and develop faster than in the current system in the post 2023 era.”