By Dr Omololu Fagbadebo
The race to the 2023 elections in Nigeria is becoming fiercer and tense. It has become the battle of the titans. The political gladiators are back on their familiar turf.
The two major political parties: the governing All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People Democratic Party (PDP), parade an array of individuals seeking to secure their party’s nomination in the contest for the position of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nigerian citizens have little to no expectations, given the failed promises of the APC-led government since 2015, with excruciating pains.
The populist “change” slogan of the APC that dislodged the 16-year rule of the PDP did not eventuate into any meaningful change but chains. Hence, the herculean task faced by those jostling for the Aso Rock Presidential Villa is to convince Nigerians that they can make good on their promises. But Nigerians seem to have been tired of empty political promises.
They have lost faith in the ability to deliver effective public goods in a system characterised by personalised and vested-interest politics. Nigerians are living in palpable fear of insecurity: terrorist attacks, kidnapping, rocketing increase in prices of goods and services.
Basic services are out of the reach of citizens who need them most. Public trust in government institutions is zero. And they perceive politicians as political predators. Thus, whosoever seeks to become the president must present unblemished credentials.
Among the array of the aspirants in the two major political parties are vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, former and serving governors Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi, Rochas Okorocha, Ayo Fayose, Orji Kalu, Bukola Saraki, Nyesom Wike, Kayode Fayemi, Emmanuel Udom, Dave Umahi, Yahaya Bello, Bala Mohammed and Aminu Tambuwal. Former and serving ministers Rotimi Amaechi, Emeka Nwajiuba, and former and serving members of the National Assembly, Pius Anyim, and the private sector, Dele Momodu, Mohmmed Hyatu-Deen, Sam Ohabunwa, Olivea Tariela. The list continues to increase daily.
Except for those in the private sector, a most of the serving and former political officeholders among the aspirants have tainted records of service that are glaring to the public. Those serving in the present administration, especially members of the governing party, have tainted credibility by the abysmal performance of the government.
Former members of the National Assembly and governors, except Peter Obi, have had records of allegations of profligacy while in power. Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, had a brawl with the Assembly for being a prudent manager of state resources because he refused to inflate the budget.
The House of Assembly impeached him through a process that the judiciary later annulled. He was the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP during the last presidential election. He had an outstanding performance during his eight-year tenure as the governor.
His campaign for the presidential candidature of the PDP centred on his aspirations for the future of the country’s education system and the economy with a well-articulated prognosis for the challenging crisis of governance confronting the country.
He seems to have a perfect understanding of the problems confronting the country, speaking the truth that appears real. He has a vision for good education, health, poverty eradication and a strong economy based on production rather than consumption, a strong manufacturing sector with an adequate supply of energy, employment, and creation of wealth rather than profligacy through resource sharing because the outcomes would reduce criminality.
These are what Nigeria and her citizens deserve as an oil-producing country which, ironically, is a paradox of a lack of amid plenty. It is not difficult to discern the expression of reality by an individual who has a credible pedigree but in the uncertain political terrain.
No other presidential aspirant in the two major political parties has this sort of concise and articulated vision. Yemi Osinbajo wants a continuation of the Buhari legacy, a pronouncement that suggests the elongation of the status quo in terms of worsening socio-economic crisis and persistent security challenges amid hunger and poverty.
Other aspirants of the APC and the PDP do not have convincing outlooks of plans for the future of the country. In principle, all the aspirants have an equal chance to emerge as the flag bearer of their respective political parties.
However, given the monetisation of politics and the electoral process in Nigeria, it is most likely that the candidate with the best intention and ideas might not emerge as the winner. And the political parties have set the bar: 100 million naira (about R4million) and 40 million naira as fees for nomination forms for presidential aspirants in the APC and the PDP, respectively.
A president earns 14m naira per annum, translating to 56m naira for four years. Elections in Nigeria have remained a political phenomenon that defines the direction of governance. The first military coup in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, that ended the First Republic was partly the consequence of the outcomes of the 1965 election.
Similarly, the violent crisis, precipitated by the results of the 1983 general elections, was partly responsible for the December 31, 1983, military putsch that shattered the Second Republic. The annulment of the 1993 presidential election by the military government precipitated the emergence of the most brutal military regime in Nigeria until June 8, 1998,when the despotic military leader died. And since May 29, 1999, when civil rule through the electoral process began, the electoral process has remained a nightmare, with shattered hope of good governance and human security.
What hope for Nigeria post-May 29, 2023?
* Fagbadebo is a Research Associate at the Durban University of Technology who has taught courses in political science and management sciences in Nigeria and South Africa