The long-awaited whistle heralding commencement of political campaigns for the 2023 general election will be blown tomorrow, Wednesday, September 28, 2022. The whistle, which will be blown by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will actually be a formality. Contestants in the presidential race, especially, have, to all intents and purposes, blown their own whistles much earlier on, and have proceeded thereafter to launch out in their respective pitches to Nigerians.
Indeed, there may not be much more for the presidential candidates of the foremost political parties to do during the campaigns, beyond expatiating on ideas they have already laid before the people since their respective emergence as candidates. What each of the candidates represent, or does not represent, is substantially before the public domain already.
Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer, had for instance, presented an elaborate economic blueprint of his economic policies at his recent outing at the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industries (LCCI). The former vice president’s policy focus is anchored on infrastructural development and financing, solution of the intractable power problem and job creation. Curiously, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information said Atiku’s policy blueprint is a rehash of the policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari policies. Whether in mere outline or in actual delivery, Mohammed did not say.
From the Labour Party (LP) end, virtually everybody who can see, read or hear must have known what its presidential candidate Peter Obi is offering. His new deal agenda promises to avail the citizens, especially the youth, an opportunity to retrieve the country from its present presiding carpetbaggers. Obi offers economic revival, what he refers to as turning Nigeria from consumption to production. The LP candidate has literally taken his gospel of a fresh beginning to all corners of the world. At his own presentation at the same LCCI event, the LP candidate unfolded a seven-pronged economic master plan that will give priority to security, creating a conducive environment for investment, employment and power sector rejuvenation. He also promises to stem the haemorrhage in Nigeria’s income, deriving from what he identified as organized crime in the country’s oil industry and the economy at large. It is left to be seen what else the former governor and the labour mass movement propelling his presidential bid, will further offer during the campaigns, considering what they have already placed before Nigerians as his agenda.
At the corner of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), its presidential candidate Adewole Adebayo has been saying so much, but without matching public attention, unfortunately. Adebayo, clearly, is on the top bracket of the candidates, in terms of profundity of ideas and clarity of delivery. It seems so unfair that he has not attracted as much public attention and following as his quality deserves. May be the formal campaigns will lift his message.
Then, there is the presidential candidate of All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu. if indeed, any of the presidential candidates of the frontline political parties is in urgent need of the broad canvass formal campaign offers, to enable Nigerians to see him, hear him cand possibly understand his plans for the country, Tinubu is the candidate.
In terms of substance and clear plans for the future, not much can be said to have been heard from the Tinubu corner. Indeed, but for a few close-knit meetings and consultations, the former Lagos State governor has not elaborately embraced the public to make his pitch. So far, he has favoured speaking by proxy through his running mate, Kashim Shettima, whose appearance tends to compound Tinubu’s presidential problems, considering the baggage he brings along. In any case, Shettima, is not the real deal.
The campaign season offers Tinubu ample opportunity to address few nagging issues. He needs the marathon schedules and fast pace of campaigns to prove to doubting Thomases that he is alive, well and up to the demands of the job he is chasing. The campaign season also offers Tinubu a critical spot to declare before Nigerians where exactly he stands with the policies and performance record of his party and the incumbent President. His options are clear; he either embraces and owns the policies and performance record of the Buhari government, or he repudiates them and be a man of his own. Nigerians are waiting to hear him.
Another candidate who may need to maximize the opportunity of the campaign season to convince the electorate of his seriousness and depth, beyond another claim of ‘it is my turn’, is Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party [NNPC]. Not much is known of what he is offering Nigerians. It is certainly not enough to just want to be president.
In all, there are 18 presidential aspirants. The field is wide open. The times are challenging. The issues are many. And the terrain is treacherous. Each candidate and party have been presented an opportunity to traverse Nigeria, meet the people in their various grounds, make his pitch and then convince the voters. The choice before Nigerians is actually stark, but this remains Nigeria.
Without doubts, the dynamics of presidential campaigns and elections can be sensational. In Nigeria, in particular, elections can be quite unpredictable, with outcomes that used to be stunning, in some instances. The Independent National Electoral Commission has however, steadily enhanced the place of technology in elections, promising to even do more this time around to secure the integrity of the process. The 2023 elections will, definitely, present a bigger test of the resolve and integrity of the election management body, especially against the backdrop of manifest eagerness of a larger number of eligible citizens to participate in the elections.
It used to be that political campaigns were no more than series of revelries across the land, with political parties and their candidates offering little, if any substantial insight into any meaningful plan for improving the wellbeing of citizens and the society at large. It used to be mostly dances on hollow drums.
In the face of the gross deficit in performance, posted by dominant groups and individuals tasked with managing the affairs of the country since the last general election, the 2023 elections will be a referendum of sorts on the quality of mind of Nigerians.
A persistence of predominant poor selection of leadership, based in the main, on parochial consideration or inducement from politicians, with their contemptuous election-time Greek gifts, will speak of a people condemned by their own poverty of spirit, to a life of slavery, with little hope