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2023: Beneath the iceberg, behind the negotiation

By Emmanuel Ikechukwu Igbo
12 January 2022   |   3:55 am
A particular iceberg model for negotiation struck me as typical and appropriate for evaluating the political interplay that gives rise to political outcomes, especially electoral ones.

A worker holds an election poster to be displayed at a polling station(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

A particular iceberg model for negotiation struck me as typical and appropriate for evaluating the political interplay that gives rise to political outcomes, especially electoral ones. That model captures as the tip of the iceberg, the ‘position’ taken by stakeholders and underneath it ‘interests’, ‘values’ and ‘needs’ as factors that drive its underlying thought process (with ‘needs’ sitting deepest).

As the race in Nigeria’s 2023 elections taxies for takeoff, it is preparatory to examine those factors in relation to the positions that stakeholders take, with a view to ascertaining the best favourable considerations and outcomes for the Nigerian public. While the 2023 elections may have triggered this reflection, it is only exemplary of different political situations or events in Nigeria in which certain factors shape various outcomes.

It is important to first of all examine the negotiating table with a view to ascertaining the adequacy and relevance of those who surround it.  Are the Nigerian people sufficiently participatory or represented in the political process that shapes their fate, either as individual actors or interest  groups/civil society, political parties, the media, the electorate, etc? Are the relevant governmental authorities actively involved in the monitoring, coordination, regulation and direction of political activities towards the common goal of governance? How well informed and intentioned are these stakeholders in terms of the capacity to influence or cause mutually favorable political positions or outcomes?

With technological advancement (especially in ICT) and increasing demographical dynamics, ensuring a large negotiation table with adequate space for diversity and inclusivity cannot be overemphasized. That table has assumed flexibility for accommodating, sifting and harmonizing relevant opinions, interests, reactions, temperaments and ideas from every nook and cranny of the polity. The negotiating  table for political issues in Nigeria should be polity-wide, demographically and geopolitically.

It is pertinent to note that at the bedrock of governance are public needs. While this is so by design, the fact that the needs of some individuals or groups at the table may run either congruent or contrary to public needs, cannot be ignored. There may be for instance, groups or individuals whose business at the Nigeria’s 2023 elections negotiating table would be the acquisition or manipulation of political power for their personal or clannish needs. There may also be genuine intent and commitment towards optimally meeting public needs.

Understanding and processing this is important for various stakeholders, most especially the Nigerian public in making the right alliances and choices at the negotiating table and championing popular opinions and interests that address their needs. While politicians and their likes may have varied needs and interests, it is up to the electorate to identify the horns or halo over them as applicable and favorably opt for leaders who feel and share their needs and also have the intent, capacity and character to address them. It would be detrimental to act otherwise, simple because governance (good or poor) is ultimately targeted at the public. In one way or the other, the Nigerian people must have learnt from history that they are not insulated from the effects of bad leadership, since governance transverses all aspects of public life. Objectivity should therefore reign over sentimentalism and indifference in determining or negotiating who governs them.

Then there is the question of the moral or ethical disposition of stakeholders which borders on political or democratic values. It requires examining the actions, inactions, opinions, antecedents, track records, etc of relevant stakeholders in order to ascertain their alignment and commitment to such political or democratic values as equity, justice, fairness, public good, development, meritocracy, inclusivity, transparency, accountability, etc. Such assessment will afford for instance, the electorate the basis for making favourable political choices. It will also afford such actors as political parties and election candidates the choice of behavior or posturing that can attract popularity, confidence and solidarity.

To guarantee favourable outcomes for Nigerians, the development of the nation’s electoral system to the point where democratic values become the currency with which politicians and political parties shop at the electorate and vice versa, is very key. Nigerians are therefore expectant that electoral reforms will urgently come to fruition prior to the 2023 elections, with the adequacy and sustainability that can drive this critical development.

If all stakeholders in Nigeria’s electoral system can converge at similar democratic values, the harmonization of their various interests into political positions capable of ensuring favorable outcomes for the Nigerian people will not be far-fetched.  A robust operational and legal framework for ensuring this convergence is very key in ensuring that the scope of interests of various stakeholders does not move away from (or run short of) democratic values and the ultimate goal of good governance. The adequacy of that framework will determine to a large extent the credibility and soundness of Nigeria’s electoral process and the positivity of its outcomes.

With the goal of good governance in foresight, the emergence of a winner may not mark the success of an election. While a winner will likely emerge, a leader may not. That success largely depends on the soundness of the electoral process, the adequacy of electoral stakeholders and the laws that govern them. It is also remotely evidenced by the quality of results produced by election winners and their team on the job. Electoral process is equally not seasonal but a cycle that includes evaluating and improving its activities and conditions for credible and favorable outcomes for the public.

In the same vein, negotiating political leadership does not happen at the polls. Casting of votes is only an expression of choice of leadership – the tip of the iceberg. More important is the larger chunk that lies beneath it – the thought process, which preconsiders needs, values and interests.

As the 2023 elections approach, the stakeholders in Nigeria’s electorate system must therefore return to the negotiating table with the view to ensuring that the electoral process is highly inclusive, premised on public needs, reflects democratic values and ultimately pursues public interests and the goal of good governance.

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