Yesterday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifted the ban on campaigns, officially declaring open the 2023 race. Today, the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee will gather the parties and their candidates in Abuja to sign the first National Peace Accord ahead of the elections. The essence of the treaty is to ensure that the parties engage in issue-based campaigns.
The Abubakar panel has been in the forefront of promoting peaceful elections since 2015. Through its efforts, then President Goodluck Jonathan conceded victory to President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 election before the final results were released, dousing the brewing tension over the poll following the show put up by a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain at the collation centre. At every election cycle or time, whether at the state or national level, the panel has been getting the candidates and their parties to commit to peace.
The main election next year is the presidential poll. It is also the election that will usher in the successor to Buhari, who is not on the ballot as he is serving his second and final term in office. The campaigns are kicking off on the eve of Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary, an event which provides opportunity for governments (now and in the past) to take stock of their performances. What does the present administration have to tell the people on this auspicious occasion?
What is confronting Nigeria right now is not different from the prevailing global economic downturn. The masses are confronted with the daily challenges of living and how to overcome them. The basic necessities of life are difficult to get because of the high prices of goods and services. The poor are wailing and gnashing their teeth, praying for this cup to pass them. The harder they pray, it seems, the harder the problem. With the release of a new monetary policy rate of 15.5 percent by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday, things are not looking up at all.
With a take home pay that cannot take them home, many live on hope. Hope that things will be better. Hope that they will live long enough to see the end of these trying times. Hope that the prices of bread, rice, beans, gari, petrol, kerosine, and diesel, yes diesel, will crash so that they can become affordable again. The biggest hope of all is that the factories will open again so that the real sector can bring the needed succour of providing jobs for the millions of our youths who are wasting away at home after leaving school.
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For want of something good to do, many of them have taken to crime, becoming what is today known as Yahoo-Yahoo boys. Indeed, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. It is not their fault, but that of the government which has not met its obligations to the people. With only eight months left for it to go, the people cannot expect much from this administration again. What is uppermost in its mind today is to quit the stage, going by the President’s recent remark. So, whatever it does now will be perfunctory. It cannot take any profound decision that will shape or reshape the life of Nigerians.
A few days ago, it spoke about a pay rise because of the global economic downturn. It is a good thing to do, but can the deal be pulled off before its exit considering the issues that surround any pay rise? Will the private sector which is already hard hit by some of the government’s economic measures embrace the suggestion? Can the small and medium scale businesses increase the salaries of their workers with what many of them are going through now?
Any pay rise that does not cut across every sector of the economy will not serve any purpose as all workers buy from the same market. So, increasing the salary of federal civil servants without a corresponding hike in the pay of employees in other sectors will be meaningless. It will cause a tumult which the government cannot handle on the eve of its exit. The first thing for the government to do is to get the buy in of other employers on how to increase salary before any public announcement. What about housing, transportation, power, insecurity, rural and urban infrastructure? These are other key issues which despite its efforts the government did not address fully as it is about winding down.
The next government will have its hands full. Whoever wins among the 18 presidential candidates should be ready to hit the ground running from day one. There will no room for excuses; no ‘I didn’t know that the rot was this much’ statement will be tolerated. They should do their findings now and know the extent of what the prospects and problems is. There are 18 gladiators but three of them have seized public consciousness in the past few months. They are Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, PDP, and Labour Party’s Peter Obi.
Despite the results of some opinion polls being quoted here and there, I am yet to believe that it will be a three-horse race. Many people will be shocked by the outcome of the 2023 presidential election. The reality on the ground does not justify the confidence of Peter Obi’s supporters that he will win. Though the Obi-dient Movement is active in social media and the streets where it is holding marches with a few thousands of people, it has no significant presence in the small villages and towns and the big cities where elections are determined.
Who are its representatives in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria? Who will coordinate its candidate’s campaigns in the remotest parts of the country where people do not even know of social media? Here, all they know is a house or hut or open space designated as polling centre. Tinubu and Atiku can boast of footsoldiers and other related resources necessary for an election. Election goes beyond making noise on television and in social media and holding roadshows with scanty crowds. If this was the case, Atiku will not still be literally begging Nyesom Wike, despite all the annoying antics of the governor.
There is nothing that the antagonists of Tinubu have not thrown at him, but the man is still standing. Calling a candidate names and accusing him falsely cannot detract from his capacity to do the job he has shown interest in. It goes without saying that he is the “best man” for the job as Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola explained in a television interview a few weeks ago. For somebody who worked with then Governor Tinubu in Lagos, Fashola should know what he is saying.
So, by the next independence anniversary, with Tinubu as president, Nigerians should expect from him an account of his great strides in office within 125 days. Nigeria deserves a leader like him so as to take its stand in the comity of viable nations. Happy 62nd independence anniversary, Nigeria.