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2023: The Choices Before Nigerians

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2023: The Choices Before Nigerians

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

The time that we are now in Nigeria, is very critical. Why? Because, the country is moving towards another election year. In about 97 days, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect another president, as well as the members who will represent them in the national assembly; the Senate and the Federal House of Representatives. Two weeks after, governors and state lawmakers will also be elected. Every candidate and every party is presenting themselves to be the best and should be chosen. So, among these multitude, how can voters decide who to vote for and which party to support?

Ordinarily, one would think such a choice is that easy but not so. The reason being that, voting has become like “oja okunkun” (black market). No one is sure of what one is really buying. Although, for incumbents who want to continue and those who have previously occupied public offices, one might look at their antecedents. Based on that, it can guide one’s decisions and choices. Sometimes, that is still a gamble. That’s how complicated Nigerian politics can be.

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Many incumbents, especially in the executive arm; governors and president, often try to perform in their first term, trying to impress the citizens and the electorates, only to turn out terrible in their second term. Then, it would have become what the Yorubas call; “a ti t’oje b’oloosha lowo, o ku baba eni ti o bo”. Many times, such first term governors see their second term as the “payback period” to recoup, in full plus interest, their investments. So, using fantastic first term performance to judge might not be a guarantee.

To also judge a former office holder who performed well in the past, who is now aspiring to a new office, based on his or her past, might also not necessarily give any assurance. People change. We have seen people who held political offices in years past, who were exceptional, disciplined, frugal, and performed creditably well, came back to the political arena, only to found out they were not the same persons we thought or assumed they were any more. They were not the same again. So, what do we do? Well, in this case, we can only continue to “gamble” on them, based on what we know of them and hoping we are right.

The most difficult choices are those who have not been previously tested. They have not occupied public offices before. They might have been in private sector and even excel there. However, political office in public sector is miles apart from leadership in private sector. This is due to many factors. The discipline; personal, financial, work ethics, and so on, obtainable in a properly structured private sector is nearly completely absent in the public sector. The system is dysfunctional, which breeds corruption, ineptitude, indiscipline, financial recklessness and all kinds of vices. The institutions to check all these are weak. The people to prevent or correct them are the culprits or compromised. The checks and balances are compromised and become “chop-I-chop”. Things fall apart.

To be fair, many people who are in politics today, holding or who have held public offices in the past, were highly respected individuals while they were in private sector. Many of them were elected specifically because of their track records of performance in their previous private sector engagements. So, it is always shocking seeing such persons behave strangely or act completely in ways at variance with their known characters. What changed? The environment. The system. The. institutions.

Someone was previously a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a private company, with his powers and actions checkmated by a standing constituted board that oversees the business. He or she knows his job is on the line at all times, hence, condemned to deliver to their shareholders. Same person leaves and becomes a state governor or the president (almost impossible in the later case). With the faulty constitution that we operate that mirrors military mentality, governors are lords in their states. A Nigerian president is one of the most powerful democratic president in the world, as donated to the occupier of such office, by the constitution.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Such humongous power at their disposal make them behave like autocratic rulers. They believe they can do and undo, without giving a damn. The checks that is supposed to balance their powers, the lawmakers, most times are mere rubber stamps in almost all states of the federation. It often only took external forces, which are misnormal in itself, for many state houses of assemblies to challenge their governors. They dare not. National Assembly still fare better.

So, it is such latitude that changes many distinguished individuals from private sector to begin to misbehave when they get to such offices. There are some who genuinely want to work for the people but the encumbrance of the system constraints them. While such people try to make fundamental reforms to the system, it is staunchly resisted by the system. And with the interconnectivity and interdependence of states among themselves, and between states and the Federal, such reforms become more complicated and difficult to implement.

A bad leader will provide bad leadership. Bad leadership with provide bad governance. Bad governance will lead to a state of the nation that serves not the people, but some selfish interests. When the people are not served, their own state / conditions degenerate. What choices do the people have then? What are the options before them?

The truth of the matter is, the people don’t really have much choices. The options available to the people are already restricted by the political parties. It is undisputable that the present crop of candidates are not best that we can boast of in the country. However, it is from among them that we will be forced to choose. This is the cross the people have to bear.

Political parties’ campaigns are now in full throttle, with the APC presidential campaign flagoff in Jos on Tuesday. The venue was filled to the brim. The party leaders and candidates took turn to speak, with each eulogised their party and their candidates as being better than others, and therefore should be voted to retain power at both the state, Plateau, whose governor happens to be the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), and at the federal level. The era of making promises is here again. Sweet talking the people to buy into them.

The PDP has continued their own with the massive rally in Borno State last week. They took the fight to Shettima’s door step. There too, the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar spoke eloquently. He reeled out numerous promises he plans to fulfil if elected. Others in his entourage also spoke in the same line. As expected from any opposition party, their request is that the people should reject the broom and embrace the umbrella.

Mr. Peter Obi was also in Nasarawa state recently. After the initial suspension of the campaigns by the party, as directed by him, in sympathy with the victims of flood across Nigeria, who were devastated. They have resume the campaigns. As commendable as such decision to suspend the campaign at the time was, some people still abused Obi for it, claiming he was in hurry to halt his campaign because it is lacking steam to sustain it further. “Nothing we no go hear because of politics”. In Nasarawa, promises were made in abundance. By the way, where are the other 15 or 16 parties?

These are the major choices before Nigerians. How will they decide? In reality, many citizens are low-information voters. Their decisions are not based on any well informed factor but mundane. As I write, there are many block voters that have decided who they will vote for, and it is not based on any critical thinking.

In Nigeria, for a national election like the presidential, the first factor that informs voter’s decision is ethnic interest. Majority are supporting their tribe’s man. This is sentiment whipped by “emilokan”. Similar sentiment was expressed by the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, when he met with the Arewa Joint Committee in Kaduna, where he openly stated that the northerners should choose him, over the others because the Yoruba or Igbo candidate cannot protect their interest. Being frontal with it like that is actually disingenuous.

Obi has been clever to avoid being caught stating such explicitly. However, that is precisely what is read into his candidature as reflected in many of his party’s organisational structure and activities. The National Chairman of Labour Party is Igbo. The presidential candidate is Igbo. A similar arrangement that is even more diverse, is what has divided PDP and rocking the party in the last six months. The state coordinators in Lagos, Sokoto and a few other states, outside Igboland, are Igbos. Majority around him, campaigning for him are Igbos. So, many will simply vote for a candidate because he belongs to their tribe.

Another factor is religion. This factor becomes more pronounced in this contest with the Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima as his running mate. Some christians have made it an issue, rightly or wrongly. This must have necessitated the Christian community, under the umbrella of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), inviting the presidential candidates for interaction, though, that was after they had initially hastily taken a position on their preference. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was with them on Wednesday. Sitting beside him was his Assistant Pastor wife of over four decades, Senator Oluremi Tinubu. The statements made at that meeting by Tinubu were instructive.

Apart from clarifying the Muslim-Muslim ticket and the exigency of it, which he said was premised purely of competence and suitability, and not religion, he also promised to run a government that is secular, solely to deliver dividends of democracy to the people irrespective of tribe or religion, citing his antecedents while in the saddle in Lagos, and his subsequent political and other engagements. “Res ipsa loquitur” (the fact speaks for itself). He stated that if he contests for this position within his immediate family, based on religion, he will lose. This is because, his wife and children are christians. And he has never prevented them from their choices. This is instructive.

Obi was caught on camera sometime ago, speaking to a christian congregation and canvassing them, telling them it’s their children that are suffering from many ills bedevilling the country now, so, they need to for him, as one of them, I suppose. How ignoble that was? Is it only christian children who are affected by whatever is happening in Nigeria? Like Atiku, like Obi. Well, Obi has always mirrored himself after Atiku, by the way. He has also been going from church to church since he became the presidential candidate. That’s religious factor for you.

Another factor is what is now called “stomach infrastructure”. In a land of huge poverty, such should not be unexpected. The NBS report released two days ago stated that Nigeria now has 133 million people in multi-dimensional poverty. That is about 63% of our population of over 200 million people. It is not that the remaining 37% are well-to-do, most simply manage to get by. Majority of them are also poor.

Ordinarily, one would have thought such situation will drive people to shun selling their votes on election days and vote for the best candidate who can deliver them from the shackles of poverty, but no. People can no longer trust the politicians. So, they want immediate gratifications by trading their ballots for few thousands of naira and or some other material things now, rather than wait for some imaginary dividends of democracy in future, that may never come.

As the Yorubas will say, a one-eyed man is the king in the land of totally blind people. If the preferred is not available, the available becomes preferred. Among the presented options, the people will still have to choose. There is need for improved education and enlightenment of the voters. Sincerely, that is at the peak this time around. Many Nigerians seem to have more than passing interest now than ever before. Many are getting informed and involved.

Therefore, the sensitisation that people should participate in voting must continue. The people must not only pay close attention to what each candidate has to say, read their manifestos, but also examine them individually as a person, more critically. When anyone promises he wants to do something, they should be asked how they plan to do it and where they had done it before. What was their achievement in their previous office? What can they boast of as the legacy they left behind? What can we point to as the result of their past efforts and contributions to their constituencies over time? Nigeria need competent leaders with track record of performance. We cannot afford to bungle this chance again. Enough is enough!

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: lateefadewole23@gmail.com
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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November 19, 2022.

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