By Chris O. O. Biose,
It is generally recognized that the missing link in Nigeria’s development is visionary and disciplined political leadership. The country’s precarious social, economic and political situation needs to be arrested.
The 2023 presidential election presents citizens an opportunity to make a fresh start. The electorate must make rational choices rather than those based on financial inducement or sentiments of religion and ethnicity.
Nigeria needs a leadership that would mobilize all its human and material resources to achieve the goals of the state rather than private, ethnic or theocratic goals. It needs competent leadership that builds rather than divides along gender, ethnic and religious lines.
For some weeks now, some rich presidential candidates bombard the country’s airwaves as well as the print and social media, with lists of infrastructural projects which they wish to implement if elected. The ongoing political campaign for the 2023 presidential election reveals some troubling gaps.
First, the manifestoes presented by presidential candidates of the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), sidetrack the fundamental issue of THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN NIGERIA. This pertains to how 371 national groups that constitute Nigeria as documented by the Federal Government National Ethnographic Survey, 1976, can live together in peace and prosperity.
Second, the manifestoes of the two political parties lack ideological focus. Practical politics is a struggle for power or control of government. Fundamentally, it is also a battle of ideas, involving a process whereby men impose their world views on others.
According to the Gemran philosopher, sociologist and socialist revolutionary, Karl Marx (1818-1883), ideology is a set of related ideas and values which reflects the interests of a group. It arises when ideas are deployed as weapons to defend socially valued interests.
Ideology provides a philosophical and rational justification for a preferred line of action. It serves to set socially desirable goals or a road map for the development of societies.
Every intelligent traveler should at all times be able to say where he is coming from and where he is going to, or the objects of his travels. Like the intelligent traveller, a political party desiring to take control of the government of a country needs to fashion out and specify a definite path to development, either of its own or among available ideological options.
Both the APC and PDP presidential candidates fail to make clear the kind of Nigerian society that they have in mind. Is it more of the same rapacious and heartless exploitation of the masses or a fundamental shift in the direction of the society? There is absolute need for clear shift from the existing feudal-theocratic mode of governance to democratic and republican ethos of equality of opportunity.
In spite of all the noise and fury, the APC and PDP fail to present clear vision. The presidential candidates of the two parties merely made lists of projects they intend to implement if they win. This is not good enough because any school boy can make a list.
The critical issue to be considered in electing a Nigerian president in 2023 is not list of projects. In the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) provided exhaustive list of promises, including devolution of powers, provision of electricity, fighting corruption, fixing the economy and fighting insecurity. After seven and half years in power as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no devolution of powers in sight, electric power remains a mirage, insecurity multiplied and extended throughout the country, corruption became institutionalised while the economy plunged to abysmal levels. Worst of all, Nigerians became divided along ethnic and religious lines more than at any time in their history.
A fundamental issue that underlies series of crises in the country is whether Nigeria is a Republic, Theocracy or Monarchy. It cannot be all three at the same time. It must choose one and not vacillate between those variant forms of government. It is not necessarily about whether one form of government is better than the other. It is about honesty of purpose, being true to oneself and to democratic norms.
Theocracies such as Iran and Pakistan provide infrastructure for their citizens. Monarchies such as United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia also provide excellent infrastructure in those countries. The highly regimented communist China is now the second largest economy in the world.
Almost all economic and political systems can build roads and provide infrastructure. If it was about infrastructure, there would have been no need for Nigerian nationalists to ask colonialists to leave because they built better and more durable roads.
It is sad that, ideologically speaking, Nigeria is still where it was in 1960. In his address entitled Philosophy for Independent Nigeria, a lecture delivered to Nigerian Students at Conway Hall, London, on September 3, 1961, the leader of the Action Group (AG), Chief Obafemi Awolowo declared:
“Every vestige and every channel of undue influence of Britain and her allies in and on Nigeria should be totally eradicated.” (Philosophy for Independent Nigeria, p 21)
In addition, the economic and stratification systems in the country were to undergo comprehensive change. This entails revolutionary empowerment of citizens through universal access to education and health facilities. A true integrated national economy, designed to generate an internal dynamism of its own, was in view.
This Awoist vision for Nigeria that has remained unfulfilled in the past 62 years is the central ideological challenge that confronts Nigerians in the 2023 presidential election, not diversionary tactic of saying that my list is better than your list of projects.
At the end of May 2018, the World Poverty Clock published by the Vienna-based Data Lab disclosed that six Nigerians fall into extreme poverty every minute while poverty in other parts of the world continues to fall.
In 2019, the New York based Brooklings Institution reported that Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the highest number of extremely poor people in the world.
The result of a of Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with several international agencies, published in November 2022, showed that 133 million people living in Nigeria (63 per cent of the population) are multi-dimensionally poor.
Something must be fundamentally wrong with an economic and political system that serves to impoverish more and more citizens in spite of abundant human and material resources. All Nigerians that truly love their country must therefore join hands to abolish the existing system that sends six Nigerian citizens into extreme poverty every minute,
Nigeria cannot afford to continue with a system that thrives on dishonesty, social discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds, grand corruption, pervasive insecurity, disregard of rule of law and man’s inhumanity to man.
Moreover, the presidential candidates of the two major political parties that held power since 1999, need to let Nigerians into how they intend to purge themselves of those defects of character that brought this immensely endowed country to its knees.
The Nigerian electorate, particularly the youth and women segments of it, have a historic duty to remove this cancerous political class from power with their votes in February and March 2023. This is the only way to bring about a humane, egalitarian and just society that provides opportunities for women, youths, the economically underprivileged, ethnic minorities and other traditionally oppressed classes in Nigeria.