2023 elections: A silly season devoid of real ideas
Arguably the most prominent thinker in the classical western thought system, Plato wrote the foregoing verdict around 380 B.C. and it still finds enormous relevance in modern societies. Having witnessed the unjust trial and execution of his teacher and mentor, Socrates, Plato saw the evil of democratic system of government and ruling elites lacking the virtue of knowledge to reorganise the state justly. And to undo those evils, he wrote his magnum opus, The Republic, as a classic in statecraft where knowledge or ideas complement political power to deliver effective leadership.
Despite the flaws in the detail, Plato’s practical construct of ideas as the scaffold of governance structure to effectively run affairs of the state has continued to be an inspiration to modern States. Unfortunately, today’s Nigeria is an exception to that rule. Its politics is adrift of ideas and politicians lacking in principles. The outcome is a completely defective leadership recruitment process that answers more to the moneybags and deep-pockets. A closer look at some of those candidates jostling to be the next president confirms that thesis.
If the social media optics is anything to go by, then the 2023 presidential poll is set for a three-horse race – Bola Tinubu of the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. As expected, most Nigerians are already divided into three camps for all manner of reasons except one – rational ground. Personally, there is really no clear-cut justifiable reason to be endeared to any of the trio as the next president that today’s Nigeria needs. If none of those frontrunners has a clear idea of what a modern presidency entails and strategically prepares for one less than eight months to elections, then Nigerians are only rooting for candidates with land-grabbers’ mentality and that will not help their frustration.
For a fact, presidential elections are a hell of a big deal in modern democracies. Demands of the office, and health of the country at large, require a prepared, smart leadership that transcends power grubbing, clever demagogues and some old fuddy-duddy banking on their stars to take turns in sitting at the top. It requires more of a clear vision of leadership, mission to accomplish and its detailed work-plan to sell to the citizenry. Besides the constitutional requirement for the replacement of a president every four-year, the issues that agitate the well-being of the masses are the traditional measuring rod upon which to decide who the cap fits in a presidential contest. It boils down to the big ideas on how to move the country forward.
Bob Woodward in the work, The Agenda, chronicled Bill Clintons’ presidency in the United States. Most fascinating is the extent of preparedness for the job. A team of field professionals that also has Mrs. Clinton at the background, did a long arduous work that turned political ideas into facts and figures, to catapult the Arkansas Governor, an underdog in the primaries, into a presidential material that became the 42nd American President. Bottom-line: real politics is a marketplace of ideas. And a candidate is only as credible as his team and their outputs on issues of lasting importance. As Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, “the first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”
In Nigeria’s context, where are the ideas driving our presidential candidates? Who are those advisers and technocrats in their shadow-cabinets, seated in a basement shuffling ideas and writing detailed work-plan on myriads of issues troubling the country, upon which their principals can speak intelligently to Nigerians? What is in their manifesto that will do things differently from the disaster called Buhari’s administration? Buhari’s Nigeria is in a dire strait and everyone can feel the pinch, if not the bite. Going forward, the country needs a saviour, not an undertaker to dispose its carcass. To get there, aspirants should therefore be measured by aces up their sleeves.
In the post-Buhari years, how will the next president stabilise the economy and fix its huge infrastructure deficit that requires $10 billion yearly for at least 10 consecutive years, according to the World Bank estimate? What is his magic wand to reverse spiraling inflation that is currently pegged at 17.71 per cent? How will the administration handle borrowing that is already N41.6 trillion in the face of debt servicing estimated to gulp the entire federal income by 2026? Will the candidate halt or continue with the N4 trillion-plus worth of fuel subsidy amid social unease that will greet further spike in pump price? These are questions for a team of sound practitioners, not politicians, management consultants nor PR managers to handle. Emi l’o kan-manifesto, which some candidates are banding about, is not a credible work-plan fit for purpose.
Beyond just another mob passion in rebuke of a disappointing administration, Nigerians should be asking germane questions and demand detailed response to test the mettle of aspirants. What plan does a candidate have to upturn the epileptic power system that accounts for 45 per cent of manufacturers’ cost of operation? A candidate that is still personally busy window-shopping the Egyptian power system less than a year into office is not ready to turn the corner. What of his plans for the 33.3 per cent of the unemployed masses despite most states being unable to pay salaries and pensions? What will be the candidate’s response to insecurity, state police, and restructuring? What of the over-bloated overhead at the government level? All of these are serious issues that no serious contender should gloss over.
A Peter Obi, for instance, has a persona that is more enterprising than that of his party. But how will his presidency manage a National Assembly that belongs to sharks in rebellious opposition parties? For an Atiku that lives overseas than in Nigeria, what does he know about the Nigerian masses and what does he want from them? By the way, some of these presidential candidates have sleazy reputations. What is their answer to allegations of certificate racketeering and grafts? Keeping mum is not good reasoning. Candidates of parties that have wrecked the country and even apologised for looting its commonwealth dry should really be ashamed of their unholy alliances or be prepared to give credible explanations for their roles in the malady. Credible candidates should undergo the smell-test or quit the race.
Unfortunately, our politicians rarely prepare for office and a reason their tenure often ends in fiasco. That is self-evident in those candidates that are yet unresolved on their choices of flag-bearer some months to election. Those are signs of things to come. But in rooting for such tardiness to succeed Buhari, Nigerians should remember that it took Buhari six months to assemble his ministers despite 12 years of angling for the apex office. One of the ministers, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), in an interview, said it took him another three months to work-out a Marshall Plan of action for his ministries. It took his aviation counterpart almost a year to roll out Aviation Roadmap for the transformation of the sector. Seven years spent and less than one to go, none of the six key projects in the roadmap has been delivered. The scorecard of the entire charade is there for Nigerians to see for themselves.
The 2023 election is offering another opportunity and Nigerians should demand credible candidates with a scrutinised work-plan than deep-pockets and rabble-rousers warming up to bully their way to Aso Rock. The ability of a candidate to deliver a new Nigeria should be much more paramount than just a civic obligation of voting at elections. But should affliction strike the second time, the fault will not be of the politicians but the people that endeared them. Ire o!