WITH the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s flagging off its campaign for the February 25, 2023 presidential election during a rally in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Monday, other parties are expected on the blocks for the exercise which officially started on September 28, in line with Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s guidelines and time table released under S. 32 (1) of Electoral Act, 2022. As this shifts attention to what the parties will make of the exercise with regard to where the people’s interest is located in their quest, if they really know that power belongs to the people, it’s time to size up the parties’ contents on some issues buffeting the polity in recent times with a view to knowing how campaigners for 2023 mandates could go about addressing or solving them. MATHEW ONWUASOANYA and POLYCARP ONWUBIKO write:
Making Campaign Rallies, National Discourse
There is no need reminding political parties and their campaigns that time is ripe to raise the bar of national discourse rather than relying on banana peels that turned past electioneering campaigns into parodies.
This is where the conundrums facing Nigeria through intractable security challenge, ‘noisy’ political parties and noisome education sector run to front burner. Hence, whatever tool is adopted by campaigns, Nigerians are yearning for a glimpse into their parties’ blueprints to tracking down continuing, nationwide insecurity.
Not only are the people waiting for what each party has up its sleeves with bated breath. On this count, Nigerians need to know the level of clarity and practicability of their manifestoes here.
That’s why from how the parties intend to tinker with the country’s security architecture to how they will address dynamics at the core of current security lapses will assist the people’s judgment on which party to pitch with.
If campaigns do this well, the people will be in better position to know how proactive or retrogressive is each party’s recipes in consigning activities of sophisticated kidnap cartels and their foot soldiers to dustbin of history in same way as the parties’ pushback techniques against rising terrorism and banditry, from onslaught of Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgents to violent agitation of non-state actors such as IPoB elements.
What about oil thieves and bunkering gangs or syndicates making Niger Delta creeks unsafe through bombings and gun raids on oil installations, and by doing so dial up the country’s insecurity barometer apart from siphoning Nigeria’s economic livewire?
Yet, what about new wave farmers-herdsmen clashes in which lives and crops or livestock are not only destroyed but landmines are laid underneath the country’s body politic?
This is why not a few voters may be persuaded or dissuaded to pitch camp with a party based on what each campaign has under its loins in protecting farmlands, forests and creeks.
In doing so, the people will want to know what role will outfits such as Amotekun, Ebubeagu and Miyetti Allah vigilantes play in partnering regular security agencies.
Addressing Infrastructure Deficit In Vital Sectors:
There is infrastructure deficit in almost all the sectors of governance such as transportation, health, agriculture, technology among others.
To say that there is a dearth of basic infrastructures in all the sectors of governance is merely stating the obvious. Take for instance, the health sector; during the 2020 ravages of the global COVID-19 pandemic Nigeria was almost caught napping in going about containing the health menace because of dearth of health infrastructures in the primary, secondary, and tertiary health facilities and institutions.
Health being critical to the contributions to the country’s GDP, there has been poor capturing of the basic health facilities in the country’s health care delivery at all the levels of government.
The primary cause which may be attributed to the deformed political structure of the federation where the federal government has overarching bearing on sub national entities in the control of all the sectors of public governance and dictating policies, programmes and projects and by extension acting like ‘Father Christmas’.
Therefore the presidential aspirants have a herculean task of convincing Nigerians on the better ways to go about adequate health care delivery in the country in a federation as obtained in other federations the world over.
A situation where top and well-heeled political and elected personages jet out to the advanced countries of the world on medical tourism is a pointer to abject dearth of good governance.
The incoming president should be able to provide sufficient and convincing prognosis on how to reposition the entire economic landscape.
How should the country go about the diversification of the economy contrary to the plain deception where the CBN doles out loans to farmers which are not repaid due to the ravages of the supposed foreign herdsmen from the Sahel region of West Africa that chase away the people out of their ancestral lands and taken physical occupation even as the security agents looked away from the plundering, slaughtering and destruction of farm products that became responsible for the looming hunger in the country?
The question is: Can the economy be actually diversified without abolishing federal laws that constrain the sub national governments from exploring and exploiting the vast mineral and natural resources within their domain?
The ballooning local and foreign debts have to be repaid and since over 90 per cent of national revenues come from crude oil sales, there is need to broaden the revenue bases which is realisable through proper diversification of the economy which is an integral part of restructuring the federation to restore true fiscal federalism.
In addition to revenue shortfall and budget deficit approved by the National Assembly, over 90 per cent of the national revenues is channeled to loan repayment which has become overly unsustainable.
In the transport infrastructure, it has been discovered that the centralised political structure has hampered adequate profiling of the road infrastructures all over the country resulting to progressive deterioration of roads throughout the country.
It has been proved a herculean task for the Minister of Works in Abuja to know the deplorable conditions of the so-called ‘Trunk A’ roads in all the 36 states of the federation even as it has become impossible to capture their rehabilitation in the annual budgets.
So the incoming president has the herculean task of convincing Nigerians on how to tackle the monumental road infrastructure challenges in addition to other sectors with the existing fundamentally flawed political structure.
Restructuring The Economy And Jumpstarting GDP:
It will be groping in the dark to believe that the economy of Nigeria can be reinvented if all the national institutions are not repositioned to enthrone the values of transparency and accountability.
There is need to fine-tune the macroeconomic parameters to realistically articulated and frontally addressed the floundering and comatose economy.
Lack of unity in diversity has led to Nigerian borders in the northern part of the country to be thrown open to people from the Sahel region to infiltrate with sinister agenda that not far from Islamic terrorism, kidnapping and colonisation of the ancestral lands of the Nigerian indigenous population driven and languishing in the refugee settlements.
The incoming president should tell Nigerians his plan to safe-guarded the country which may not be far from deploying the state-of-the-art technology as obtained in the developed countries of the world.
The imperative of Nigeria keying into the 5G technology cannot be over-emphasised because for the Nigeria economy to register realistic rebound, there is need to for a pragmatic template which will restore the confidence of foreign investors to reverse the ugly narrative of Nigeria as “poverty capital of the world”.
Agriculture has great potential for maximum foreign exchange earner and the presidential candidates should proffer how to go about value addition to the raw materials to net quantum foreign exchange to stabilise the dwindling value of the local currency and inflationary trends ravaging the economy.
Revamping the economy must factor the containment of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism which according to Tompolo, has been a well-structured syndicate of top security agents and personnel of NNPC. A situation where the National Assembly pad the budgets should be contained.
The presidential candidates should convince Nigerians on how Nigeria should move from consumptive to productivity template to frontally address the economic fundamentals to position the country to pay the humongous debts to save future Nigerians from debt bondage and being slaves of creditor nations of the world.
Offering Solutions To Education Neglect:
Lecturers in public universities began their ongoing industrial action as a warning strike under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14, before declaring it total and indefinite on August 29.
Their contemporaries in Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) similarly have done same thing at one point or another in the year. Staffs of research institutes have also been on strike for over a year.
While this was going on, many states shut down their basic education system for different reasons including insecurity, thereby ensuring that every component of Nigeria’s education sector has its own crisis.
Make no mistake about this. It’s not happening for the first time, after university strike began in 1973-74 session it has almost become a yearly ‘period’ in academic calendars.
While ding dong over which payment platforms between University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) should be used as well as marking up infrastructure in 108 public universities were part of issues behind the stalemate, campaigns owe Nigerians a duty of telling them how they intend to prevent tertiary education from being run aground.
Parties should also address issues connected frameworks for accountability or their templates for checks and balance in budgetary allocation to and monitoring over supervisory agencies such as National Universities Commission (NUC), Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund) and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), among others to ensure that funds are not only provided for education but expenditure is easily tracked.
Talking about funding, Campaigns should tell Nigerians what parties make of UNESCO’s 26 per cent minimum education funding benchmark.
And the parties should do this beyond hype in same way as policy frameworks of reducing Nigeria’s staggering 20 million out-of-school children, as well as their pilot schemes for a functional, digital public education system in the country as a means to halting academic migration or exodus currently accounting for about 70,000 Nigerians seeking ‘refuge’ in foreign schools.
Campaigns should tell Nigerians how they intend to make schools safe for students and pupils and their machineries for compulsory, free, qualitative basic education for the Nigerian child. This job is not totally done if parties do not show evidence of their capacities to halt dearth of skilled teachers through consistent commitment to merit – and nothing more – in recruitments.
Ensuring Nigeria’s Unity In Diversity:
The incoming president should convince Nigerians on his clear measures to tackle the apparently ever-eluding “National Question”; that is how to maintain “unity in diversity”.
The Federal Character Commission” which was put in place to actualise “unity in diversity” was flagrantly abused by a section of the country which belies that they can do anything that please them and go scot-free.
Consequently, the top and sensitive bureaucratic, financial, military and para-military agencies and even oil and gas conglomerates are filled with a section of the country leading to perennial cries of marginalisation by other ethno-religious groups.
The perennial boundary disputes among the states pose formidable challenges and the incoming president should articulate feasible solutions to ameliorate the mindless killings and destruction of property that go with the incessant crises. Lopsided citing of strategic institutions has been a stumbling block to forging “unity in diversity”.
A situation like Kaduna State habouring many military institutions at the expense and neglect of other states of the federation cannot encourage other Nigerians that “unity in diversity” is feasible.
Addressing Commotion In Political Parties Before They Truncate Democracy:
Despite political affiliations or sentiments, nobody can rightly deny that it is presently not only raining but indeed pouring in nearly all the parties.
If it’s not allegation and counter allegation of selling out, then it’s certainly infrared scheming by top shots to fill campaign councils or committees with stogies and cronies in battle for the parties’ soul.
Hence, from ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party to New Nigerian People’s Party ( NNPP) and nearly all others, the parties have literally become Fuji Houses of Communication (apologies to Amaka Igwe) daily embroiled in ‘dramas’ even actors starring in that sitcom may consider absurd or macabre.
The difference is that what is playing out in the parties is not comedy by any stretch but tragedy from every angle. Yet the greater tragedy is that the parties often explain these musical chairs as an ‘internal affair’ even when it’s not so.
And, it’s not so because this has always been coffins for previous democratic dispensations, beginning from the role of proxy war in Action Group (AG) in burying First Republic to ‘explosives’ detonated by National Party of Nigeria (NPN) hawks in cutting short Second Republic down at infancy – not to mention what underbellies of misgivings in Social Democratic party (SDP) contributed in annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election.
This is why dismissing recent showdowns in the parties as an ‘internal affair’ is not only simplistic but symptomatic of historical amnesia. This is why campaigns should tell Nigerians what lessons they have learned from previous intra party feuds by showing machineries in place to avert repeats.
It’s time to know what the parties have in stock for building political trust and confidence among Nigerians as condition precedent to wooing voters to their side.
It’s time to know how deep or shallow the parties’ quotients for meting midwifing political reforms, in tune with widespread yearnings, as means to safeguarding the country’s electoral process and allowing democracy take root in Nigeria after more than 60 years of trial and error or what late afrobeat sage, Fela Anikulapo Kuti will call motion without movement.
Nigerians want to know what course each campaign is charting in repositioning to INEC as an election umpire in line with global best practices.
Campaigns should tell Nigerians their parties’ blueprints for ending ostentatious or expensive electioneering that has continued to negatively or wastefully rub off on the country’s leadership recruitment process.
In doing so, the people will be in vantage points to sieve fiction from facts about which party to vote if giving necessary bite to INEC is a criterion. Campaigns may not have discharged this burden until they tell Nigerians their prototypes to strengthening internal democracy in parties to detoxify them of do-or-die predilections.
Solution To Nigeria’s Foreign Policy Inconsistency:
The foreign policy of a country is unarguably shaped by the socio-economic and political conditions of the country. In formulating foreign policy since the country attained political sovereignty in 1960,
Nigeria has been following a known trajectory until it became sadly unpredictable. In the First Republic, Nigerian political leaders having taken cognisance of Nigeria’s expected leading role in the African continent has made Africa the centre-piece of its foreign policy.
It was termed ‘Afro-centric’ foreign policy. It speared-headed the decolonisation of parts of Africa viz: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, among others.
Nigeria contributed money and materials including its armed forces to restore order in African countries infested with coups and counter coups and ensured that democracy formed the bedrock of governance.
It is pertinent to note that in the course of time, some Nigerian leaders out of extraneous circumstances that are out of sync with the basic interest of the country veered off and pursued other countries interests while that of Nigeria are festering with severe challenges.
While one may not advise the incoming president of Nigeria come 2023 to neglect its “giant of Africa” posturing in pursuing what Prof. Ken Nwuba described as “Africa-centred socio-economic and political thrusts aimed at growing, stabilising the emerging economies of Africa completely devoid of neo-colonial imperatives and vulnerabilities”, Nigeria should first of all get its house in order and satisfy the basic yearnings and aspirations of the populace.
The incoming president should therefore articulate how to marry the deep yearnings and aspirations of the country while weighing how much to commit to the needs of the African countries that look up to Nigeria for one form of assistance or the other.
According to Nwuba in ‘International Terrorism and Armed Hostilities,’ it shoulda policy through which “neither the East nor the West can dictate to them the complexion of their foreign policy; and this is borne out of their bitter experiences in historicity and contemporaneity”.