By Nana Khadijah
A free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful election has always been a mantra in the Nigerian electoral process. Elections are supposed to be conducted for the people of a country or state to freely choose a leader; a suitable candidate fit to govern the people. However, what do we call a political system where there are substantial persons in positions of government but not enough governance? Nigeria has a chequered history of electoral violence over the years with the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) always giving assurance of a hitch free electoral exercise which has almost always been far-fetched. It is gratifying to note that as of July 16, 2022 the country has seen a slight change with the just concluded Osun gubernatorial election. The process was seamless and peaceful compared to others in the past.
Come 2023, candidates who won party primaries would soon start beating the drums for campaign towards winning elective positions. They are awaiting for the go ahead from the electoral empire to blow the whistle for the commencement of electioneering campaigns. Since Nigeria gained her political independence on October 1, 1960, Nigerians have witnessed the same pattern in political campaigns. Public office holders have chosen to dwell on name calling, blame game, campaign of calumny and smear campaign rather than facing the real issues constituting a clog in the wheel of the country’s progress. For instance, the lingering ASUU strike is no longer news to Nigerians, as the Federal Government and ASUU continue to lock horns for the past 10 years having failed to come on common grounds and come to a befitting conclusion and solution which has left Nigerian students and future leaders idling away at home indulging in questionable acts. Very recently, varsities have been shut since February 14 for almost 6 months and still counting with no hope in sight for both distraught students and their parents. Most of the decision makers on this issue are people who have enjoyed free education in Nigeria in the past whistle the future of the youths is being criminally toyed with and neglected. Nigerian students have become the end victims of this unwarranted crisis. The ones who have managed to escape the shackles of war between the FG and ASUU are left roaming the streets with no job opportunities as unemployment is becoming more expensive with the educational system crashing down to its knees. Yet we wonder why insecurity is devouring the country, banditry and kidnapping has now become a reoccurring decimal that poses a continuous threat to the security system on a daily basis, citizens no longer feel safe at home, on the road, rails, in schools, places of worship, farms with apparently no safety guaranteed even to those in jails. A train is supposed to be one of the safest forms of transportation, but alas as of the 28 of March 2022 this statement has been proven false with the recent attacks on the Abuja-Kaduna train service where scores were abducted many of whom are still in captivity. Such attacks are too numerous to mention. Hyper-inflation is another issue ravaging the Nigerian economy even though as of 2020 food inflation has been global as a result of Covid-19 pandemic that lasted from December 2019 – 2020 with food inflation constituting more than 50 percent of inflation rate. According to an article in Business Day Newspaper. “Nigeria’s inflation rate had climbed to 17.7 percent in May 2022, the highest in 11 months”
The increase in foreign exchange rate raises the inflation rate which affects a currency’s value and in turn becomes more expensive for import and export especially in agricultural production as a large amount of farm products such as machinery, fertilizers, etc are imported. The high exchange rate affects these costs. Manufacturers experience problems importing and exporting equipment. The power sector is another contentious issue in Nigeria, with inadequate power supply throughout the country where most cities including the FCT have been thrown into blackouts. The nation’s power system has collapsed twice in March and twice in April within this year alone. Fuel scarcity continues to persist more than ever before. Movement both intra and inter for commuters have become more complicated and intense as they were fewer vehicles plying the roads due to acute scarcity occasioned by malpractices in the downstream sector.
Nigeria has been battling with most of these issues for years while public office holders continue to use them to campaign every year with each new government ending up with same results worse than the previous one. It is regrettable to note that while Nigerians continue to wallow in abject poverty, hunger and disease amidst daunting security challenges, our wily politicians prefer to throw barbs at their opponents rather than discuss issues of national importance, like security, power, roads, education, health, rising food cost, sanitation amongst other things bedeviling the country. As we approach election season, it is high time we began to have paradigm shift in our political campaigns by forcing politicians to shift their attention to issues-based campaigns that will proffer solutions to the myriad of challenges bedeviling the country. Today political aspirants and persons in government should begin to seek and focus on solutions to these problems and endorse them in their campaigns and also put them on the front burner of national discourse.
Nigerian voters should be able to interrogate their candidates based on issues that directly affect their socio-economic living conditions for the betterment of society rather than waiting for crumbs from the politicians ala stomach infrastructure. The politicians seeking elective offices should strive to project their party manifestos and their individual manifestos to the electorates to enable them make informed decisions about their party choices and preferences for candidates. The mass media and civil society as agents of change and public enlightenment should in conjunction with INEC and political parties embark on massive voter education to enlighten the electorates and help them make informed choices. Candidates should also make conscious efforts to appeal to their supporters in the social media realm to deemphasize the use of vulgar language, publishing fake news, hate speech and avoiding campaign of calumny that overheats the polity rather than swaying voters to their preferred candidates or political parties.
(Continued on www.sunnewsonline.com)
Khadijah, an NYSC member, writes from the Federal Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning, Abuja