Expectations are high that candidates would take a departure from the past by putting in the front burner of their campaigns issues agitating the minds of the people
Save for a few pockets of cases waiting to be resolved, the process of nomination of candidates for the various elective positions by registered political parties has finally come to a close.
The stage is, therefore, set for electrifying campaign that would usher in a new government that would steer the affairs of the country for the next four years effective May 29, 2019.
Unlike the previous politics of mudslinging, expectations are high that presidential candidates would take a departure from the past by putting in the front burner of their campaigns some fundamental issues agitating the minds of the people.
By the timeline provided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), presidential campaign is expected to kick off on November 18.
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Ahead of the exercise, some prominent opinion leaders who spoke with Sunday Sun expressed optimism that electioneering process for the 2019 general elections would be issue-based, especially considering the enormity of challenges currently confronting the country.
Though opinions differ on what should be the main focus of campaign by presidential candidates, one point of view on which all are agreed is the need for a review of the present structure of the country in a way and manner that would give the federating units a true sense of belonging.
A renowned Yoruba leader of thought, Prof Stephen Adebanji Akintoye, in an interview with Sunday Sun, said that the time has come for a revival of the country.
His words: “We do need a restructuring of the country to address some of the challenges confronting us as a nation. This concentration of powers at the centre is weird. It is surprising that any group of right thinking beings could ever think of a thing like that. We have to restructure.
“But beyond the issue of restructuring, we need a total revival of the present system.
Restructuring is just a baseline.”
The spokesperson of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumankin, also speaking in the same vein, said: “Most of the germane issues are centred on restructuring. Restructuring will put Nigeria back on the path of productivity. The present government has run the country aground. There cannot be a fresh start without taking back the country to the path of productivity. Every section of the country must bring something to the table to become productive once again.
“What should be in the front burner is how to put back the country on the path of federalism. Nigeria is now the headquarters of poor people.
How can you deal with the problem of poverty when you are not productive? We need an autochthonous Constitution. We need a leadership who can bring all Nigerians together to agree on a template that will move the country forward.”
He also identified security, economy and community policing as some of the issues that need urgent solution.
“Also, the question of insecurity is a major concern. People are being killed here and there. You can see in the past one week, the Shi’ites have been battling security operatives. Kidnapping is still going on.
We need to address the structure of the country. Security cannot be provided with the kind of police we have at the moment. The economy is equally down. Most of these problems are offshoot of economic crisis,” he added.
Similarly, the National Chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, in his contribution stressed that restructuring should form the basis of social contract between the people and the leader.
He said: “Every section of this country irrespective of tribe or religion is talking about restructuring. It is my belief that if Nigeria is restructured in a manner that reduces concentration of powers at the centre and devolve powers to the state and local government in a way that allow federating units to develop at their own pace, it will make people to be more creative in the leadership that they are recruiting. Such leadership will also be more creative in exploring whatever they have in their domains. Each state is endowed with one resource or the other. That is going to be in the front burner.”
He, however, noted that some candidates were using the concept as political rhetoric, saying that everything would be done to stop such individuals.
“Some of us will not allow them to use it to deceive the people. If your party does not have it in its manifesto, which is a social contract between the candidate and the people, you can’t use it to campaign. We will expose those who are merely using rhetoric to deceive the people. For example, Atiku Abubakar is a frontrunner in the campaign for restructuring, but his party has no word on it. For the APC that has restructuring, Buhari has not shown any interest in it. El-Rufai committee has done something very attractive in terms of extensive coverage. All that is needed is for the national executive committee of the party to adopt it as a document. That way, we will know there is a social contract in it. So, definitely, restructuring will be central to the campaign for the coming election. And, of course, anti-corruption will also continue to feature because it is the bane of our society,” he posited.
On the other hand, Dr Junaid Mohammed, a Kano-born politician and social critic, expressed deep disagreement, describing campaign for restructuring as sheer nonsense.
His words: “That is sheer nonsense. First and foremost, no political party has come out to tell us the true definition of restructuring. Whoever tells you miracles happen in politics is lying. There can only be a remedy to a national problem, if people will sit down and come out with a solution that is identifiable and definable. And I haven’t seen that for now in the debate. If they think that giving additional state to the Southeast will stop all our problems, they are deceiving themselves. If we think that the problems will disappear by going back to the parliamentary system of 1963, we are just deceiving ourselves. I was alive and very much politically conscious, nothing in that constitution will solve any of the current problems. Nigerians like quick fix. We have been doing that nothing has disappeared. Why don’t we sit down and plan better. If you don’t have job, how to you address the issue of poverty? How do you improve quality of education and healthcare delivery if you don’t invest?”
In his opinion, the issues of national security and economy are the most serious problems that need to be tackled.
“As far as I am concerned, there are a number of issues which are directly linked with some of the problems we have in the country today. Firstly, I am flabbergasted that none of the candidates is addressing the issue of security that is confronting us today. The issue of security has been a slogan for doing nothing.
Everybody is merely paying a lip service to it. Today, it is not only the issue of Boko Haram that is threatening the peace of the country. Niger Delta crisis is still there and there are also problems here and there in the Middle Belt. There are problems in Zamfara, Sokoto and part of Katsina. The other thing is the issue of economy. When this government came in, it ran the economy into recession. We haven’t completely come out of that recession. The rate of growth of the national economy is far below the growth of the population. This means one unit of growth has to be shared among several people, which is why we have high level of poverty in the country. Unless we have people who are economically literate, who are sincere and can work as a team, it will be impossible for us to get out of the problem we are in right now,” he stated.
Constitutional lawyer and human right activist, Dr Tunji Abayomi, on his part, dismissed the issue of restructuring as a misplaced priority and a clear lack of understanding of Nigeria’s problems.
Putting it in a different perspective, he said: “For me, the principal issues that should be in the front burner are unemployment, economy, corruption and abuse of office by leaders.
These are problems that impede the progress of Nigeria. First of all, before you talk of restructuring, a nation must have a structure. I am talking of agreed structure by the people. I have said it again and again that it is not a government that gives a nation a Constitution, it is a Constitution that gives a nation a government. And it is not the content of the Constitution that validates; it is the procedure of making the Constitution. Nigeria has no constitution. What Nigeria has is a document forged by the military. So, to have a restructure, the people of Nigeria must agree on the nature of government in a free dialogue.
All this debate about restructuring is mere talk in my view. It is lack of understanding of the fundamental. The structure of a nation is its constitution. The constitution of a nation must come from the will of the people freely given through their representatives. This issue of restructuring is not defined. Every valid constitution provides a means of amendment. So, what do they really mean by restructuring? To restructure what? People just use the word without any definition”.
As the nation inches towards the kick off of campaigns following the guidelines provided by the INEC, these and many more are some of the issues Nigerians would want answers and solutions to ahead of the general elections.