By Wole Olaoye
The 2023 election will be like no other. It’s outcome will either make or mar Nigeria. Should an unprepared president emerge winner, he will be inheriting a poisoned chalice in the form of the many social, fiscal, religious and security problems the current government will hand over. But should a ready-made leader be entrusted with sorting out the mess, every challenge will become an opportunity to conquer the odds and excel.
The same set of challenges that constitute a poisoned chalice to one unprepared candidate, are embraced as a welcome opportunity to re-engineer the society for optimal service delivery by another gifted leader. One man’s daunting challenge is another man’s glorious opportunity.
Because of the large-scale deprivation that the masses of our people have been subjected to, the coming elections are not likely to follow the traditional alphabetical tango of ADC, YPP, APC, APGA, PDP, ZLP , etc. This time, the alphabet won’t matter. People will want to scrutinise the credentials and pedigree of aspirants. Unlike never before, Nigerians are going to reject a naked politician’s promise to clothe them. And this will be done beyond partisan party divides. The hard times have taught Nigerians that poverty has no tribe and that good governance has no political party.
Although the PDP and APC will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, voters are not likely to be as attached to them as they were at the dawn of the current spell of democracy in 1999. This is because the people have found out that the main difference between the two leading political parties, is the alphabets with which they are christened.
It wasn’t so long ago when PDP appeared to be the problem with Nigeria. Seven years after the exit of that party from the presidency, the people are rueing their discovery that APC is not necessarily the solution. Many people even wonder if the parties haven’t become the private properties of moneybags and feudal lords.
We are not alone in this predicament. In 1796, President George Washington lambasted political parties for allowing “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” to “subvert the power of the people”. A research conducted in 2018 supported his view as it was found that 38% of US voters identified themselves as unaffiliated with either of the two leading political parties.
If the same kind of research were carried out in Nigeria, I wager that more than 50% of the people will confess that they can’t be bothered about the alphabetical colour of their councillor or governor or legislator or president. And even if we were to limit the research to the real verifiable numbers of members in party registers nationwide, it will be found that those who are registered members of political parties are less than half of the population.
Nothing unites people like adversity — the licking of the stew of sorrow and misery by the wretched of our earth who had, over time, invested time and emotions in the ability of the political elite to deliver good governance, only for such hopes to be dashed. The people have now acquired what my Warri fast-guy calls ‘wiseness’ (as carefully distinguished from ‘wisdom’).
It was that kind of ‘wiseness’ that informed the highly impactful videos of Nuseir Yassin (Nas Daily) which have garnered 43.6 million followers. In one of those clips, he compares governance to piloting a plane. Suppose the people were asked to choose between two pilots: Mr. A shows them his pilot’s licence with a rich flying record; he promises to abide by all aviation rules and fly them safely to destination, while Mr. B promises that he will allow all of them to fly in Business Class free of charge.
Who is likely to win the vote? Mr. B, of course, despite the fact that he knows next to nothing about flying a plane. “This is how we all crash!” says Yassin, “Most humans vote using their feelings and not their brains. And that is democracy’s danger.”
Nigerians can now see the link between whoever calls the shots from Aso Rock and the cost of a bag of garri. They can now understand that out of every one Naira earned by Nigeria, 90 kobo is spent on paying interests on loans. With only 10 kobo left for other expenses, including developmental projects, the country has resorted to borrowing. Most of the monies borrowed are not even invested in projects that will yield returns to pay off the loans.
Ideally, no wise nation borrows more than 40% of its GDP. Nigeria is already at 36.9%. We are nearing the tipping point and life is already excruciating for the masses of the people. Imagine if and when we do cross the 40% mark. With well over 10 million out-of-school children and a rapacious elite that specialises in setting bad examples, the fear over Nigeria’s future is further heightened by the projection that the country’s population will balloon to 401 million by 2050.
The global population growth is 1.05% per year while that of Nigeria is 2.6%. As if to snigger at those population experts, one federal legislator recently celebrated openly the birth of his 28th child. It is examples such as that that the economically marginalised masses follow to their peril.
The story has been told, ad nauseam, about how the almajiri system has contributed significantly to the birth of Boko Haram and banditry in the North. Yet, there is no serious plan by the affected states to discourage irresponsible parenting. Some politicians who see the urchins as pests think that the easiest solution is to load them with motorcycles in cattle-carrying trailers to the south of the country where, it is assumed, they can fend for themselves. The point is, how many can be so transported and how elastic is the capacity of their new hosts? Do we even care?
Whenever you’re travelling out of the country, make sure you visit the business class cabin. You’ll discover that all government officials still fly business class together with their entire families. For a country living on borrowed funds, the only word that faintly describes our attitude to public expenditure is ‘reckless’.
If the eyes patiently cast their gaze downwards, they will behold the ridge of the nose. The elite ought to be wondering how those on the lower rungs of life’s ladder have been coping in these hard times. Several years ago, one ‘mudu’ of garri sold for N150 at the Garki market, Abuja. Today, it is N500. How do people cope? And yet, the pseudo-middle class is groaning more than ever before because the line that separated them from the lowly is fast eroding.
While so many people in government seem to hold fast to the misguided notion that they can tax their way into balancing the books, I have news for them. The current regime of taxes is forcing several small businesses to close shop.
Now that the removal of the opaque ‘subsidy’ on petrol has been shifted forward by another 18 months, whoever becomes president in 2023 has his work cut out for him. He had better be knowledgeable in world economic systems and have the strength of character to stand up to the political vultures who always hover around the corridors of power in search of economic carrion.
I have seen quite a number of potato cans advertising themselves as presidential aspirants. Some are doing it for the glamour; some, because they want to add “former presidential aspirant” to their CV, and there are others who are doing it, believe it or not, to stay out of jail (If you know, you know!)
The Nigerian presidency is serious business. It hurts when charlatans seize the moment to steal a place in the sun. We need a president who comes ready-made. There is no room for learning on the job. And there are some kinds of ‘experience’ that we can do without. We don’t need an experienced thief in government.
We should be seeking out our sons and daughters who are high flyers in continental and global organisations, just as Obasanjo sought out several of our technocrats from the international arena to take charge of strategic sectors. Obasanjo paid off our debts. But see where we are now: living at the river bank but washing our face with saliva.
When the US was in recession, it cured insanity with madness by spending its way out of the bind. It took a president who understood modern economics to leverage on the multiplier effect of such an unprecedented intervention.
If I was a kingmaker or godfather or political juggernaut, if I had a say in the matter, I would think outside the box and draft Dr. Akinwumi Adesina of the AfDB to come home and do his world acclaimed magic here.
(Wole Olaoye is a public relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)
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