By Chiedu Uche Okoye
Why is Nigeria, a country endowed with humungous human and material resources, still trapped in the cocoon of economic and technological quagmire and backwardness? Why has she continued to bring up the rear on the global ladder of countries’ development? The answer to the above question is not far-fetched. The military incursions into our politics had dealt a severe and devastating blow to our democratic growth and national development. And we have not got it right, politically since Nigeria became a sovereign country in 1960. The departing British imperialists laid the foundation for the egregious culture of imposition of national leaders on the populace in Nigeria. They surreptitiously helped Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to become our Prime Minister in 1960. Was Tafawa Balewa better than Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who were intellectual giants and political juggernauts? Not surprisingly, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa failed to unite the Peoples of Nigeria and set the country on the path of sustainable economic growth and irreversible technological development.
And in 1979, after we had experienced a thirteen- year military interregnum, which disrupted our national development, a northern political dark horse, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was helped by kingmakers to win the 1979 presidential election, thereby becoming our first executive president. He dusted such political avatars as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Waziri Ibrahim in that election. And he won his reelection bid. But Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s leadership of Nigeria was inept, lackluster, and rudderless. So the jackboots and brasshats sacked his government. And the rapacious military (an army of occupation) ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1998 save the brief period when Chief Ernest Shonekan was the interim president of Nigeria following the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. It took the deaths of the human vampire and treasury looter, Sani Abacha, and the presumed winner of the 1993 cancelled presidential election, Chief Mko Abiola, for Nigeria to return to democratic rule. Since the inception of the fourth republic, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had taken turns to rule Nigeria on the platform of PDP. But did their ascension to the pinnacle of power each reflect the will of the electorate? The answer to the above question is a categorical no.
We all know that the kingmakers in Nigeria helped Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to become the president of Nigeria in 1999 so as to placate the indignant Yoruba people over the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, presumably won by MKO Abiola, a Yoruba man. But did Chief Obasanjo’s leadership of Nigeria for eight years lead to the positive transformation of Nigeria? And it was Chief Obasanjo who bequeathed the ailing Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua to us. President Umaru Musa Yar’adua led Nigeria briefly and died in harness as he was terminally ill. His successor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who became the president of Nigeria fortuitously, was known for his tardiness, indecisiveness, and inability to curb corruption in the country. His poor leadership scorecard caused his presidential electoral loss to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The merger of ACN, ANPP, and the rump of APGA gave birth to APC, a formidable political platform on which President Buhari rode to power in 2015. He won his reelection bid on the APC political platform, too. However, so far, after leading Nigeria for seven years, president Buhari has recorded a disastrous and abysmal outing as the president of Nigeria. Based on the metrics and indices for assessing national leaders, he is a flop, and will be remembered and recorded in our political annals as the worst president Nigeria has ever had. Today, the educational sector is in utter crisis. And it has been discovered that the president’s fight to extirpate corruption in the corridors of power and in the bureaucracy is a ruse to hoodwink Nigerians, and a red herring to divert our attention away from his political maladministration of Nigeria. More so, today, Nigeria is overwhelmed by severe security challenges. Consequently, millions of disillusioned Nigerians who are hard hit by the biting economic condition in the country want to see the back of president Buhari. But President Muhammadu Buhari himself, who will complete his last term in office next year, has not hidden his eagerness, willingness, and keenness to leave office as soon as possible.
Now, the top political parties in Nigeria have produced their presidential candidates and running mates. The ruling political party , APC, has a same-faith presidential ticket, which has ignited debate on the rightness or wrongness of the presidential ticket. And PDP, the main opposition party in Nigeria, nominated Atiku Abubakar as its presidential standard bearer. Atiku’s choosing of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state as his running mate has pitched him against Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state. And it has split the party down the middle. And the darling of the youths, Mr. Peter Obi, who is vying for the presidential seat on the Labour Party ticket, picked Yusuf Datti Ahmed as his running mate. Mr Peter Obi whose legendary frugality has endeared him to the masses is riding on the wave of his popularity in the run-up to the 2023 presidential election. His rhetoric on economic policies as well as democracy has found resonance among the people. More so, the NNPP presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwakwanso, whose running mate is Bishop Isaac Idahosa, is banking on the support of northern Muslims in Kano to win the presidential diadem in 2023. But as Nigeria is at a critical juncture in her political odyssey , it behooves us to rise above ethnic and religious sentiments when casting our ballots to elect the president of Nigeria in 2023. We should know that political sovereignty belongs to the people, who can vote out a bad political leader and vote in a good one. And our having knowledge of the political antecedents, life stories, character flaws, virtues, leadership scorecards, weaknesses, and strengths of the top contenders for the 2023 presidential election will enable us to cast our votes wisely during that election.
More so, a presidential candidate whose date of birth, state of origin, and educational qualifications are nebulous and subjects of disputations is not a fit and proper person to lead Nigeria. Neither is a presidential candidate burdened with his involvement in the pillaging of our national treasury morally and ethically qualified to become the president of Nigeria.
Thankfully, INEC’s embrace as well as implementation of new electoral methods during staggered governorship elections in some states, notably in Anambra and Osun states, reduced the incidences of electoral fraud during those elections. So we are rest assured that given INEC’S improved electoral methods, our political consciousness, and our desire to end the reigning ugly status quo in Nigeria, the emergence of the next president of Nigeria will be a reflection of our collective will.
Okoye writes from Lagos