THE year 2023 has taken off in earnest with the breaking of the first day of January. The huge expectations for the year found expression in fireworks that lit-up the skyline in many climes across the globe. Nigeria was not left behind in the frenzy and deluge of prayers in suiting welcome ceremony for the new year but of much concern is what the year holds politically, as the country bears down on general election that ushers-in a new leadership in her polity in less than seven weeks time.
For Nigeria and Nigerians, the year 2023 comes with high aspirations and hopes but not without apprehensions stemming from mundane points of the just ended year, when insecurity dared to stifle meaningful growth in all critical sectors of national economy and governance. Inflation, unemployment, poverty and consequential hopelessness pervaded to give the populace much apprehension as the New Year gets underway. More than anything, 2022 signed out with the country’s unity and democracy hugely threatened under the prevailing circumstances.
Experts are not mincing words in forecasting a tough year, with a possible recession hitting global economies again. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts 2.7 per cent global economic growth in 2023; a decline from 3.2 per cent in 2022 and 6 per cent in 2021. The projection is significant to Nigeria, as she comes face-to-face with election pressure on one hand and on another hand, finding a way to stave-off total economic collapse- the naira’s inglorious crash against other foreign currencies paints no hopeful picture for a country touted as a sub regional giant in Africa, yet 2022 holds such unfancied history for Nigeria. In IMF’s survey of Nigeria’s economy in 2023, all indicators allude to a difficult year, with 3 per cent possible economic growth, against 3.2 predicted by the World monetary institution in July 2022.
Apparently, concerns mount on many fronts but strongly on two planks- the election and economy. The questions agitating the minds of many experts are; “how much would the ailing economy affect the election and how will the election affect the revival of the economy? Trapped between two tough extremes, the possible ray of light can only be seen in the choices to be made in the coming elections. Perhaps, these circumstances has engineered heightened peculiar tempo in political discusses than any other times. The peculiarity bothers visibly on sudden engagements of the youth in the political process with zest that reveals shifting paradigm in the political culture of the people.
Nigeria is obviously not a country in the mould of Cameroon where a single president spends over 42 years on the seat of governance as epitomised by Paul Biya, who became the country’s president in 1982, and has remained in power till date or Equatorial Guinea, whose president, Teodoro Obiang Ngueme has held the reigns for 44 years; hence, the urgency in the Nigerian polity is not the change of leadership but quality of leadership her electoral choices offer.
The difficulty in making the best of the opportunity through electoral choices could be mirrored in former president and elder statesman, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s message to Nigerians on January 1, 2023, reminding all that Nigeria has no business with insecurity, frightening inflation, depleting standard of living, but for bad leaderships that had emerged from the people’s electoral choices. “Let me say it again, loud and clear, Nigeria has no business with insecurity, poverty, insurgency, banditry, unemployment, hunger, debt, division and disunity. We are in these situations because advertently or inadvertently, our leaders have made the choices.”
Reaffirming the place of justice, equity and fairness as quintessential in a progressive Nigeria, OBJ admitted that “none of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, their understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge.
Chief Obasanjo’s message was only a nexus connecting the seeming resolve of the Nigerian youths, whose urge to drive the polity to a new direction cannot be mistaken by discerning minds. The scenario has triggered political conversations that put the “Third Force” at the epicenter; thus shaping what seems like a payback time for parties, their leaders and cronies, under whose activities Nigeria is dragged so low.
In the evolving scenario, the Labour Party stands out with presidential candidate whose character and competence could be relied upon as attested to by the elder statesman. Peter has edge in comparison with other frontline runners in the presidential election, come February 25. How this is translated at the polls is only a matter of weeks to determine. “We can only continue to play politics of ethnicity. religion, region and money bags at the peril of our country and to self- destruction. We need selfless, courageous, honest, patriotic, in short outstanding leadership with character and fear of God beyond what we have had in recent past.”
Arguably, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not relented in giving electorate hopes. This could be sifted from many innovations meant to give the electoral process credibility. Part of this is the full deployment of technology in the conduct of the 2023 poll. INEC’s Voter Education Chairman, Dr Festus Okoye, while giving briefs on the commission’s preparedness, affirmed that Bimodal Identification, Verification and Accreditation System jBIVAS) would be fully utilised, with no provision for ‘incidence form’ as obtained in past elections. Okoye believes that INEC is positioned to deliver on credible elections come February and March but advised the electorate to play their own part by collecting their PVCs or risk being disenfranchised. Some schools of thought hold that the novel BIVAS may be the verve that may give the 2023 much life but some views see the youth factor as the turning point that will make neo political revolution in the country inevitable- a development that old politicians have not shown keenness in embracing, but heavily favoured by the revolutionary wind to reshape the nation’s governance.
Understandably, the technology upon which credible 2023 election is anchored is imperative but the human factors must also not be undermined. A non- governmental organisation, Coalition for Civil Advocacy Group (COLSAG), while calling on all stakeholders to play by the rules, urged the electorate, particularly those duly registered to go and collect their Permanent Voter Cards from designated centres; noting that only fairness, transparency and accountability in the conduct of 2023 general elections will make the emergence of leadership with capacity to address Nigeria’s present humongous problems possible.
The die is cast for Nigeria to make critical choice that will determine her fate in the next four years; will 2017 history in Sao-Tome and Principe, where Evaristo Carvalho braved all odds to defeat sitting president, Juan Pinto da Silva and his party to chart a new beginning for the tiny Central African Island country repeat itself in the election? Obi and other contestants in the 2023 presidential race may not be up against any incumbent but the candidates emerging from those primordial dominant parties have shown that they are in many ways not ideologically different from their predecessors, thus, giving little hopes to offer much in the mission of salvaging Nigeria. The gods are wise and through the youths, a new path is on course.
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