2023:Time to choose

As 2023 presidential election is fast approaching with parties currently holding their primaries , the battle lines are, no doubt ,  drawn already among the politicians vying for various political offices at various levels of government; the politicians are back at their usual game of intrigues and manipulations ;however,  some voters, ever than before , seem to have decided to make the race memorable with a mission to spring surprise, counterbalance  and outwit the political demagogues and charlatans  . Will the voters or masses make good their promise and be smart enough not to be manipulated by the self-seeking and corrupt politicians whose stock in trade is to steal the nation bind at their expense? .That is the question whose answer is still hanging in the balance.

The politicians, using  every available channel to launch their  ambitions and launder their images  , in the last few months have continued to come up again with their campaign promises and new tricks to outgun their rivals as well as the electorates . With  strong arguments, they are trying  hard  to convince ,entice ,move and impel the masses  that they have what it takes deliver the much expected dividend of democracy with their  experiences  and capabilities ;they  position themselves as the  savour of the masses; they are also heating up the polity ,either subtly or openly ,trying to outwit their rivals raising issues that will brighten their chances and demoralize their opponents

A major theme that cut the country concerning 2023 general  elections particularly the presidential position  dwells on the issue of age and capability as opposed to the so called integrity that delivered  that  exalted position  to incumbent president in 2015 .In this new dispensation people believed that while integrity is imperative it is not enough without  capability ,  physical and mental fitness.

 Sequel to this, some of them have engaged in rubbishing zoning system ;they have  turned themselves to an apostle, a champion or  an espouser of merit as a new culture of politics  overnight to counter the protagonist of the usual zoning system

To them ,this is the only way to rationalize their fitness and relevance .Leading this new gospel to jettison zoning in politics ,is the former vice president  under  the former President Olusegun Obasanjo , Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Though he is  being sharply criticized on this new posture, he seems to have  a good defence as  no clause in the Nigeria constitution backs up zoning  and supporters  are shielding  with this ; their claim is that  it is a mere moral clause to ensure peace and harmony among the diverse constituent  tribes and divergent cultures that make up the country political landscape  .

Despite this , some of his critics, particularly from the southern part of the country ,would not see him as solution to country divergent and multiple problems ; instead , Atiku has succeeded in generating more critics who see him as greedy ,desperate and unfit ; more so ,  his tribe man is the incumbent president .

The ongoing campaigns are not equally  devoid of the usual intrigues and sentiments bordering on tribalism , religious bigotry and smart  character assassination as weapons  to sell themselves to the electorates. .In the school of thought are those who are rooting a Christian candidate , claiming  since the outgoing president is a Muslim, the  incoming  one  should be a Christian . Also, some are agitating for a candidate from the south east part of the country or of  Igbo  extraction .They claim the region has been politically marginalized  for a long time .Finally ,some dwell copiously on age and their ugly antecedents to trash out some contenders regarded as some old timers   and brighten their chances

 Some of  aspirants  to the highest political office in the land coming under  the harmer of diverse critics based on the above sentiments are  the former governor of  Lagos State  Ahmed Bola Tinubu,Atiku   and Kwara state ,Alhaji Bukola  Saraki .While the  Atiku and Tinubu are  being criticized based on  their  age like Atiku ,  Saraki  comes  under his critics sledgehammer as incompetent  for his alleged inability to rescue his father’s rested bank and estate that allegedly collapsed under his watch .   Despite these critical perspectives on them, their followers see them as experienced and transformative leaders and they believed they have what it takes to tackle the current challenges politically and economically .  Tinubu ,particularly, told his traducers that he is not engaging in wrestling contest to be limited by his age   

  However ,  all eyes appear to be on some new generation of politicians. These politicians jostling for the most powerful political office have been busy positioning themselves as apostles  of merit and intellectual leadership . Among  these are the incumbent Vice President ,Yemi Osinbajo ;the former governor of Anambra  State,  Peter Obi ; Kingsley Moghalu , a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria ; kayode Fayemi, the outgoing governor of Ekiti State ; Senator Ibikule Amosun ,former governor of Ogun State ; Rotimi Amaechi  ,former governor of River State; the incumbent governor of Kogi State ,Yahaya Bello  as well as Pastor Tunde Bakare ,to mention just some top contenders to the highest political office in the country .

 The above aspirants  believed they combine  high intellectual pedigree with political leadership and have what it takes to lift this country out of doldrums .

The only influence and power of the  electorates in the process of elections is to eventually dictate who their president will be if not manipulated by politicians

But to escape this  manipulation is very rare as desperate politicians use money and power with INEC to distort the interests  and choices  of the people .

The fear has always been, it is either the  notorious  politicians rig themselves at the primaries or the governors and the president anoint their successors to cover their tracks .. 

The politicians are smarter than the electorates ;they know that  the most critical  hurdle  is to manipulate the few corrupt delegates at their  political primaries and get the mandate to fly the their party’s flags ; once this is done ,the electorates are left  with the limited options to choose from the multitude of aspirants

At the center, a major fear is that  the president may have ambushed the voters  and anointed  a candidate as his successor   ; this may eventually determines who flies the party flag among the ruling party contenders .For the major opposition party ,money may dictate who finally gets the party nod

With the situation on ground , the electorates  may be still  a victim of manipulation losing the opportunity to change the trend since the independence .This view may not be farfetched .The  conflicting interests in different camps of the electorates is a pointer to this direction.  As usual ,the electorates appear to be confused and  uncoordinated .

 No doubt , voters have remained  grounded in frustration and suffering acute disappointment for  more than two decades out of the misrule of both APC and PDP Nigeria had more than  seven  years of  Muhamed Buhari with  every year  coincided with what is commonly seen as recession. The rate of growth has certainly been sluggish if not negative.

Overall, in the  Buhri’s presidency, economic  growth has been miserable on  yearly basis .  Fiscal policy has been all at sea. The federal debt has been growing at almost at a speed threatening the nation’s sovereignty and growing at a rate many times the rate of GDP . The most unfortunate issue is that this government  has not concentrated  minds on the country’s real imperative  to tackle the budget deficit. This has reminded Nigerians that both the Conservative and the Democrat lack the nerve to do what is necessary.

Not all the blame can be laid at Buhari’s door. It was  first the PDP  who ran up the debt phenomenally . But Mr. Buhari  has not tried to haul it down but currently overdoing that. Every evidence suggests that this government is incapable of moving this nation forward

What  Nigerians need now  are the   politicians who have built their careers with care within the system. Those that  will not  break their moral and intellectual moulds  after tasting the power and are good at the game ; those that are ambitious, solicitous of the masses not self-seeking and corrupt ones currently in or outside the power. Those with enormous spark of political courage, and clear veins of principle, not those that are masters of the usual  flexible postures  or the disingenuous slide  and  convenient memory lapse.

 Although “change” is a theme that brought the incumbent president to power , the expected change in 2023 must be more than mere difference of party but in capacity to deliver the much needed democratic dividends .  For this reason , Nigeria’s only hope rests on one of  those panting  to put into practice the ideas  they have  been developing for years .

However , despite  the above tales of woes ,voters  are ,no doubt, sharply divided by their primordial  or self interests and emotions of tribalism and religion affiliations forgetting that the politicians are merely using these emotions to divide them to have their ways .

But hope may not lost completely.According to our investigations ,some   enlightened ones among them, however , are not throwing caution to the wind , they are currently raising awareness on this . They are not ready be dazzled by the usual campaign razzmatazz  this time around or  be sidetracked by bimbos, or bigots;  they have vowed not to be swayed by religious, political or by party affiliations . Even the usual stomach infrastructures, the baits  by the desperate politicians ,may not be a decisive factor that could pin them down to usual unnecessary emotions or tricks from the desperate politicians .

By our investigations , those in this school of thought believed  only political candidates  with keys to unlock doors to their wellbeing will be ushered  to the seats of power by the voters  They want a president who could give them  jobs , the one who could  come up with visible signs of economic growth. 

 Though this theme is more subdued, enlightened voters are ,no doubt , rooting for political leaders who could lift the country from the current and prevailing  hopelessness ;they continue to register in record numbers to make their choices . This    segment of  electorates seem to be after better dividend .They want jobs. They want visible signs of economic growth. They long for a leader who is patently in command. And, unless a right man or leader is in charge to set these failings right,  they believed , in the next fifty years they would be still grounded in frustration. 

They have vowed to deemphasize party affiliations as a key determinant of who to vote for .   

  The rationale behind this may not be far to seek .With enormous resources Nigerians are expected to be basking in  self-sufficiencies but instead found themselves  in inadequacies prompted by mind boggling corruption and visionless leadership .

Since the new democratic experiment kicked off ,falling real incomes, growing debts, raw social divisions and  moral drift are the recurring decimals in the country ;  these seemed to be the democratic fruit for more than two  decades .  

This newspaper believes  neither of the parties knows  how to govern Nigeria ,nor   should get  another  chance to try again . In the past two decades or more ,  both have wrecked havoc on the nation with the  worst  and deep-seated corruption . Yet their campaigns have always been extraordinary with high volume of promises  that they consequently failed to deliver .

In 2023 Nigerians needs a better leadership .  It needs a leader that can address the country’s real imperative to tackle the budget deficit; and other macroeconomic ill-winds, not a leader that  lacks  the nerve to do what is necessary. The most unfortunate thing  is that no new party is strong enough to take the advantage of the failings of the two dominant parties that have been in power .

The quality of leadership people are advocating is that that gives  them a  break from the past , not  a leader  with low intellectual base  ;it needs a  president  who could enable Nigerians to be a high-skill, export-minded economy, trading freely with the world and, secure in its economic health, able to take on the security burdens the nation may require. And it is on the economy that he is mostly  needed to prove himself..

 A decisive factor to reverse the current frustration is to focus on the capabilities of candidates as opposed to parties in the forthcoming   elections. This is because the electorates could only change their fortunes  by assessing  and electing candidates based on their individual  capabilities  to deal with the rotten economy  and move the economy  out of the wood . .

However , while economy revitalization is should be the primary focus of electorates in assessing their candidates  political analysts and observers believe there are other major issues that could  hinder  the move to reviving the economy .Most importantly are insecurity and  perennial crisis in the education and aviation sectors to mention just a few   .

 The spate of insecurity in Nigeria through the activities of bandits, coordinated terrorist groups, kidnappers and perceived separatist movements  are some the challenges only a strong leader could handle

In a recent meeting with security agencies in the country, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Prof. Mahmood Yakubu raised concerns over insecurity in the country, and the danger it poses to the conduct of a credible election in 2023. 

 Not only security , electorates are expected to vote in a leader that could the crisis ridden education sector .Education Sector crisis that  is currently raising heated concerns : The Education sector is at an all-time low as Nigerians prepare for the 2023 general elections. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike which has been on for over three months. The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU and the Non-Academic Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, NASU, have joined the strike. 

 Few weeks ago , the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP commenced their warning strike, piling pressure on the education system. With nationwide protests by student groups in the country, a speedy resolution of the issues is critical at this point.

 The state of  the country Aviation Industry is also raising .Nigeria needs a leader who could resolve the burning  issue around this sector of the economy. Following the recent meeting between the National Assembly led by House Speaker Rt.Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Airline Operators of Nigeria and Major Marketers Association of Nigeria, agreed to subsidize 6m litres of aviation fuel to stabilize the market for the next three months . But this  is a temporary solution, and the big question is What will happens after August 2022?

To have  such a leader, some political observers have been calling for tenure extension for at least 6 months to enable such a critical issue is resolved . This call is being led by some erudite Senior Advocate of Nigeria  

 The above may not be farfetched .No one could guarantee the continuity of a party projects and policies after its exit from power Nigeria without strong institutions to back this up .   If strong institutions had been place ,little fear would have been expressed over any change  of government from one party to another or who is at the helm of affairs .

The  reported interest of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, CON, in the 2023 Presidency  could be linked a weak institutional culture . His ambition has continued to raise  concerns over the independence of the Central Bank and the sanctity of the institution.

 Analysts sharply  criticized the move  because they believed  “the institutional integrity of the regulator should not be sacrificed on the slab of personal political aspirations or public projections of same. The credibility of the CBN’s signaling actions needs ultimate preservation, with no economic or public agents having to second-guess the intentions of the regulatory chief.” It is also noteworthy that the CBN warehouses sensitive election materials, which is why advocacy groups like the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) have called for efforts to preserve the integrity of the CBN. 

Sequel to this  weak institutions  that make the system to be susceptible to the antics of individuals in power , some political observers is suggesting the need for another Interim National Government.   As Nigeria approaches the 30th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12 elections,  the talk around the possibilities of an Interim National Government is generating a lot of debates. The Afenifere and well-respected Nigerian Lawyer and Elder statesman Mr. Afe Babablola, SAN, are amongst the protagonists for an Interim Government or a “Government of National Unity” in 2023. They believe the ING should take 6 months to chart a new pathway for Nigeria, especially in constitutional reforms.

APC has not yet proved that its policies are  beyond what the cabal dictates .Also , while PDP has been working for  eight years on how to  return to power and making case to  be given a chance to try , it is still the other side of the same coins .  In a nutshell , without  strong institutions in place to the system , the only alternative for the electorates is to keep an eagle on candidates during their  campaigns and vote in  the that could prove  himself to be far more than a token candidate but  intelligent and  energetic ; the one that has grasped most of the issues raised above  with  persuasive solutions to them ; the leader that  could deliver or mark an end to divided government and could bring  Nigerians , rich and poor, closer together. 

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