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Thursday, December 8, 2022

2023:Where are the parties’ manifestoes?

Afolabi Aribigbola

The last few days have witnessed renewed electoral campaign activities towards the essential 2023 general elections in Nigeria. The election is considered very crucial in the light of the dangerous debilitating experience and decimation of precious lives in the country by irredentist criminals of different modes including Boko Haram, bandits, ritual killers, armed robbers, herders and kidnappers among others. The election is anticipated to bring on board more credible competent candidates imbued with courage and fear of God to handle the multifarious challenges facing the country. No doubt, the challenges confronting the country are enormous and only capable and sincere people can take the country out of the inherent danger or dungeon into which it has been thrown. Therefore, the opportunity of 2023 elections should be used to change the negative retrogressive narratives of the Nigerian situation.

Now that the Independent Electoral Commission has declared open campaign by candidates and political parties; what do we expect from the candidates?. Prior to this time, there seems to be lull in electioneering activities by all candidates after the party primaries except those on the social media. Of course, candidates seem not to dissipate their energies on a long electioneering campaign journey that many have regarded to be the longest spanning 147 days of over four months.

Since the election campaign season started, candidates and their supporters seem to have focused more on what some including this writer considered not very relevant or important issues. Often, their focus has been on personality of the individual candidates, their region of origin, religion or their failure to pick particular individual as running mates and other mundane and frivolous issues. One is not saying that such issues should not be considered altogether; rather, there are more fundamental or germane issues that  promote societal growth and development that should be at the front burner of public discuss and debate. Suffice it to point out that very germane issues have been relegated for less important issues of development. The focus has not really been on issues that really count, that can instigate the needed development and cohesion of the country.

Yes, focus has been on where an individual comes from, whether he or she is from the north, east or west, Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani, or Igbo etc. Though there are some merits in their consideration because they help to bring stability and ensure equity in access to, and the distribution of offices as well ensure inclusiveness in a polarized society like Nigeria, the concern here is that they should not be permitted to become the key factors in choosing our representatives and leaders. The present lopsided distribution of major positions and developmental projects between and among different sections of the country at moment has also heightened such concerns. For instance, how can one explain the exclusion of Ondo and Ekiti States from road construction by the federal government in the last seven years in the country and yet contracts for federal roads are awarded every Wednesday’s FEC? In any case, such tendency or regional imbalance has contributed more to people supporting candidates from their region, ethnic origin and or their towns or section as the case may be.

The above really is not the concern of today’s write up. Indeed, our overwhelming concern is what should now dominate the political landscape.  Debates should be those issues that will address and solve the seeming intractable hydra headed problems facing the country. Anything short of this is begging the issues and should not be permitted. It is of common knowledge and widely acknowledged that Nigeria is confronted with serious problems of insecurity, economic crisis, and polarisation of the country along the fault lines of religion, ethnicity and sectionalism. There are clearly challenges in virtually all sectors. Therefore, what we would like to hear are what each candidate will do differently from the present confused and disorganized state of affairs.

Unfortunately, many of the leading candidates seem unprepared and a number of them are yet to unveil their manifestoes and programmes two weeks into the campaign season. This does not suggest that the country is going forward or is on the right path. I said this against the background that the programmes and manifestoes of some political parties in the first and second Republics Nigeria are still available for people to read and digest. For instance, the manifestoes and programmes of the defunct Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria and others are still available for  people to read. Where are the manifestoes and programmes of the current political parties and their candidates?

It is a sad commentary that most activities revolve around the Presidential candidates of these parties. Virtually all the political parties lack ideology and governing philosophy that should influence their manifestoes and programmes. This explains why the country have been drifting over the years without appreciate progress in critical sectors. Unfortunately, that is why the President, and the Governors operate like gods. What they say determines what will happen and no one dare ask questions or take them up on issues or their programmes. In any case, most government actions depend on their gesture and eclectic disposition to development issues. 

At the moment, it does appear that none of the presidential candidates has come up with pragmatic and proactive manifestoes and programmes to offer solutions to the lingering crisis in education which if not properly and suitably resolved could further destroy the very essence of the country. This is because no society towers above its level of educational development. The main problems of insecurity and deficient infrastructure, facilities and services should attract the attention of the 18 presidential candidates to which they should respond with well thought out programmes of actions to combat them Thus, coming up with pragmatic programmes are the germane issues that Nigerians should be concerned with rather than bread and butter issues and activities such as one, two or five million marches for candidates. If anything, they are unnecessary distractions meant to fill the emptiness in our political process that is devoid of serious development agenda.

In any case, what is the relevance or benefit of a five-million man march other than to distribute and bribe the electorate with ill-gotten wealth whose sources cannot be ascertained.   These are clearly deceitful activities and tendencies to confuse the electorate on the suitability and acceptability of their preferred candidates for the coming elections. It is a sign that our political system is bereft and devoid of ideas to improve the society. Another issue that should shape the campaign is the issue of convoluted federation in operation and how to restructure the country to ensure harmony, equity and parity in the distribution of the country’s resources. These are key issues that require quick and urgent actions. Again, it is sad that after over 60 years of political independence, the country has not moved beyond this pedestal level.

The 2023 general elections offer a good opportunity to scrutinize and elect good people to take the country out of the woods. The people of Nigeria cannot afford to miss this great and unique opportunity to elect the best candidates for all elective positions in the country. It is time not to vote money bags, bench warmers and absentee legislators or governors that prefer the comfort of Abuja to the capital cities of states they are elected to govern. Nigerians must elect people that have what it takes to solve the humongous problems of the country.

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