2023: It’s up to Nigerians to find answers to their problems
As the Nigerian 2023 general elections campaigns gathers momentum a factor seems to have emerged. It is the fact that the race on who becomes the next President is no longer one between the ruling APC and the previous governing party PDP, but a distinct three horse race.
That third force is the Labour Party (LP) symbolised by Mr Peter Obi. Listening to people on why a discernible number of them are willing to consider an alternative outside APC and PDP; the overwhelming answer has been “we are TIRED and have had ENOUGH of same self-serving individuals, and monumental stealing administered by both the PDP and APC.”
Two questions arise from the above answers. These are: why are Nigerians tired and seeking a genuine alternative to the PDP and APC? Secondly, where is, or what represents that alternative?
The answer to the first question will require providing a comprehensive account of the abuses of power and failed governance by APC and PDP. Mindful of space constraint, this cannot be done here. All that will be provided is a brief summary of the reasons why Nigerians are seeking a new order. In the first instance, it is believed that for 23 years Nigerians have been struggling for the meaning of a civil rule – democracy, which neither the PDP, nor the APC has been able to offer. Since 1999, Nigerians have witnessed elections being routinely rigged with their votes regularly rendered nullity as they do not have effect on who gets into power, but are forced to watch those who have got into power through illegitimate means treat the public treasury as their personal gift.
The worst stealing and abuses are allegedly committed by the governors, who rule their states with absolute power. They exercise rigid hold on their states’ treasury and treat it as their personal piggybank. Also, the most criminally minded amongst them are in complete control of the political processes in their domain. Who becomes members of their House of Assembly, which they dominate, and those who become members of the National Assemblies are entirely their choice. Their local government’s chairpersons are matters for their personal patronage. They hire and fire local government’s chairpersons at will.
Not content with their anti-democratic practices, Nigerian governors have bullied their House of Assemblies to make laws guaranteeing that after leaving office their pension is equivalent to 90 percent of their pay and benefits while they were in office, regardless of what other political office they may hold after being governors. For that reason, the majority of them who have retired themselves into the House of Senate get double salaries, in addition to their self-awarded benefits. All at the expense of the poor starving masses. These actions fall into their definition of democracy offered to Nigerians. Simply–a travesty.
Apart from the treasonable actions of governors, there are no public institutions in Nigeria that are flourishing.
The public educational system is all but collapsed. Primary and secondary education has been completely outsourced to private individuals. As a consequence, the country has the highest number of out-school children in the world. There is no willingness by the various governments to enrol children and improve the standard of education in the country. Public universities, of which most of those in power were beneficiaries of, are perennially closing down with strikes. Until two months ago and in peacetime, the public universities were closed for nine consecutive months, with the government not in any hurry to reopen the schools, but happy in creating the opportunities for idle young people to engage in criminal behaviours.
Of course, they are aware that those who have managed to graduate have no prospect of securing jobs but with life abundant in alienation. The only functioning universities are mostly the private ones, including those built and owned by ex-government officials who stole from the federal or states governments.
Economically the country has been lying flat on its back for years. The feeble attempts of using economic jargons and false statistics by the government to minimise the harsh economic conditions in the country continues to fail in hiding the realities of lives for the ordinary people. The daily struggle to feed, clothe and get a roof over their heads has been nothing but a crushing experience for ordinary citizens under the PDP and APC administrations. Neither party has ever demonstrated any serious desire to pursue economic development policies.
The tragedy about poverty in Nigeria is that it is a deliberate state policy. The reasons for mindless stealing of public money by political actors, aside from avarice, is to subject Nigerians to rent-seeking and begging for survival. Nigeria’s economic philosophy is built on rents and patronage. The political elites’ bastardisation of the economy is probably better illustrated by the activities in its oil industry. The country’s main export and the source of its foreign earning is oil, yet under the government and the President’s watch that oil is been openly stolen on an industrial scale. No other oil producing country in the world has such a gory story to tell.
Insecurity of lives and properties are threatening to unravel the society. Nigerians are living in daily fear of falling victims to kidnappers, armed robbers, hired assassins and deranged characters (called “ritual murderers”). Lives in Nigeria, like in a state of war have become very cheap. Neither the federal nor states’ governments have shown any capacity to investigate and apprehend both kidnappers and murderers. Like poverty, insecurity is also a consequence of failed and rotten politics. Anecdotal evidence suggests that both the abhorrent Niger Delta militants and the Boko Haram group morphed from previously armed thugs used by political actors for election rigging.
Back to the question of where or what might be the alternative to the rotten politics of the PDP and APC in the last 23 years. The answer lies in the 2023 general elections. There are three main candidates vying to be President. They are Atiku Abubakar of PDP, the APC has Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Amongst the three it is Obi’s candidacy that is eliciting the most enthusiasm among the youths who are the largest demography in the country. The other two candidates, apart from the stigma of representing parties that have done very little to improve the general living conditions of Nigerians, are smeared with innuendos and whispers of being involved in grand corruption. Their first audition for power had gained notoriety for being outrageous, although it succeeded in revealing their deeply troubling personalities. Tinubu’s interest in power; he said “it is my turn to rule over Nigerians”, a narcissistic trait that should concern any right-thinking person. Atiku, on his part, has been stoking religious and tribal sentiments, which he posits that eminently qualifies him to be the President of Nigeria.
While the candidates of APC and PDP are motivated by personal ambition and primordial sentiments, both of which have been largely responsible for Nigeria’s woes, Obi has been connecting with the ordinary people with his simplistic but sublime messages.
First, unlike the other two, Obi is not operating under the cloud of corruption.
Second, he said that he is not obsessed in being a President, but in offering Nigerians the opportunity to take back their country. Meaning that Nigerians must liberate themselves by deciding and insisting to be truly involved in their governance – an unimpeachable proposition. Even foreigners with slight interest in the country know that through sham elections the country has been outsourced to criminals and murderers, or what Nigerians call “Agberos.”
Third, Obi says that he is not corrupt and has invited Nigerians with evidence to the contrary to show up. Thus, posing a moral dilemma for his fellow presidential contenders, who would not dare say that. Obi has provided the incontrovertible fact of the billions of Naira, millions of pounds and dollars he left for his successor as governor of Anambra State, a record that his fellow contenders have no equivalent of.
Fourth, he has developed a philosophy of ‘’I no de give Shi-Shi’’ meaning – I would not give you money to get your votes, an extraordinarily bold statement in a country where political actors are notorious for vote buying. Obi argues persuasively that the money used in vote buying is the people’s money stolen from them. “Why buy votes if you really mean well for the people?” he queries, a philosophical position that must be adopted if Nigeria is to accelerate its development.
If Obi with his resonating messages, beliefs and personal examples is not considered the answer in the current circumstances of Nigeria, it is difficult to see Nigeria succeed without a President with an Obi-like message and approach to public service.
Ogbonda, a public affairs commentator writes from London.