The campaigns for the 2023 presidential election will officially start on September 28, 2022. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), recently, released the names of 18 candidates cleared to contest the election. They included the presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi; the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), Alhaji Musa Kwankwaso and others.
Clearly, Obi, Atiku and Tinubu are the frontline candidates in the forthcoming election. Anyone of them can emerge the elected president of the country in 2023. But beyond the razzmatazz and promises that will trail the campaigns lies serious and deep-rooted challenges confronting the country, which the candidates are expected to address.
Among them, the major problem is insecurity. As it is now, almost every part of the country is insecure. From Sokoto to Maiduguri, Kaduna to Benue, Imo to Anambra and even Ondo to Ogun, bandits and terrorists hold sway. Everywhere seems to be in crisis. Innocent students are not spared as they also fall victims to kidnappings across the country, especially in the North. Despite assurances, the present administration has not really tackled the security challenge. Recently, President Muhammdu Buhari ordered the armed forces to end the country’s security challenges by December 2022. It is not certain how this will be achieved within this short timeframe. We expect the presidential candidates to tell us how they will tackle this monster in Nigeria.
We also expect them to tell us how they will fix the country’s comatose economy. Currently, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world with about 100 million of the over 200million population living below the poverty threshold. Unemployment and high inflation have combined to deal a terrible blow to Nigerians, especially the youths. While the current unemployment rate is about 33 per cent, inflation, especially food inflation, climbed 17-year high to 20.5 per cent in August. The Naira has become too weak as the current debt profile of the country is N42.85 trillion. Analysts estimate that it could reach N60.9 trillion next year.
Good enough, some of the candidates appear to be equal to the task of fixing Nigeria’s economy. At a recent forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), both Atiku and Obi informed Nigerians about how they intend to confront the country’s economic challenges if elected President. We look forward to hearing the blueprint of the other candidates. We wish to know, for instance, how they will solve the crisis in the health and education sectors. The state of our education institutions is typified by the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The strike, which the union embarked upon on February 14, 2022, has crippled activities in our tertiary institutions. Health institutions are not better off as resident doctors have also had cause to embark on strikes on many occasions. Thousands of the doctors have migrated abroad in search of greener pastures as their take-home pay here does not really take them home. While those who can afford it travel abroad to treat minor ailments, poor Nigerians continue to die in droves due to our poor medical facilities.
Nigerians also want to know how the candidates intend to galvanise the diverse segments of our country into one. No doubt, Nigeria is more divided now than ever before. Many people tend to tilt towards their tribe or religion in this dispensation. Even before the campaigns officially start, there have been cases of name-calling and hate speeches in some quarters. This is not healthy. Obviously, the task ahead for the incoming President of Nigeria is enormous. It is not a job for the faint-hearted. Hence, the campaigns for this position cannot be business as usual. It will not be a tea party.
Nigerians have been looking forward to this period. They expect the candidates to proffer practical solutions to the nation’s challenges. Talk is cheap. So, it is not just enough to talk. Each of the candidates should give practical examples and definite timelines for solutions. Blame game is not what Nigerians want to hear now. That time is over as many voters appear to be wiser. They appear fed up with deceit of politicians and the entire system. The media has a critical role to play in this period. It not only has to set agenda, it also has to monitor and hold the candidates accountable to the Nigerian people. The media must also be wary of promoting foul language or hate speech either by the candidates or their supporters.
Disruptive leadership is what we need to change the narrative in 2023. In a way, the battle line is drawn. Next year is going to be a defining moment for Nigeria. What do the candidates have for Nigeria? How do they intend to rescue the country from the myriads of problems besetting it? These are the questions that should occupy our minds as we enter the campaign season.