“For people running to lead a struggling, near-bankrupt Nigeria, the aspirants seem shy of talking about their actual plans to solve our many problems in any decent detail…. By now, all the major candidates should have their websites that will serve as repositories for their ideas for the country”.
The 2023 presidential election is less than a year away. Dozens of aspirants across many political parties have declared their ambition to run for the number one post in the country. At the last count, 17 people have reportedly bought the N40m nomination form of the People’s Democratic Party, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate president Bukola Saraki, former governors Peter Obi and Ayo Fayose, four other incumbent governors, and the only woman running in a major party, Teriela Oliver Diana.
As for the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose primary election is slated for May 30, the list of political heavyweights who have either picked or are expected to pick the N100m nomination form is nearly as extensive as the PDP’s. They include incumbent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and his erstwhile political godfather, the former governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu. Others are the governor of Kogi Yahaya Bello, and Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, a man who has occupied different political offices in an unbroken 23-year period.
With this star-studded field, it is not unusual that the campaign for the election has begun in earnest and in high gear. Aspirants are moving from one different media house to another, while junketing through several states a day to consult “stakeholders”. And yet, despite the fast pace of the electoral process and the considerable political experience of the aspirants, something crucial is missing, and that’s the manifestoes of the major aspirants. As it was in the previous elections since 1999, the campaigns for 2023 have been dominated by banal issues like the age of candidates, their fitness to run around a stadium, the number of shoes or wristwatches they own at a time, the relative competence of their photographers or tailors, etc.
For people running to lead a struggling, near-bankrupt Nigeria, the aspirants seem shy of talking about their actual plans to solve our many problems in any decent detail. By now, all the major candidates should have their websites that will serve as repositories for their ideas for the country. Instead of soundbites in the media, we should be getting detailed policy papers on solving problems like the fuel subsidy debacle that’s projected to cost the country N4trillion in 2022. None of the aspirants have demonstrated any in-depth understanding of the fuel subsidy issue or how to solve it. This is a problem that is almost entirely in the hands of whoever becomes the next president and any serious aspirant should be selling voters in their party and in the country their plan for this problem.
Another issue that should be generating innovative ideas is the dangerous state of higher education. The sector, for the last three decades, has been bedevilled by strikes and poor performance. All the 44 federal universities are currently shut, thanks to a six-month-old strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Since the 1990s, our universities have been known more for industrial action than for their research output. Not even the creation of a special education tax, solely for tertiary institutions, has helped that sector, and it is clear that the problem is not something more money could magically solve. So, where are the manifesto documents of the presidential aspirants on this problem? Even the aspirant whose current job title reads “Minister of State for Education” hasn’t proposed any policy on this major problem.
There have been soundbites from some of the aspirants on the state of the economy, but nothing tangible has been issued by any of them. We still do not have any policy manifesto on addressing issues of foreign exchange, the balance of trade, improving the revenue of the federal government and expanding the tax base by improving the ease of doing business in the country. The Vice President who has styled himself as a technocrat has not given us any policy documents detailing what he plans to do to bring out our economy from the doldrums it currently languishes in. It’s a sign of our collective unseriousness that we are less than a year from a major election and we are yet to be discussing policies of the different aspirants.
Not even the security situation of the country has inspired any aspirant to come up with ideas on making the country safer. If you can’t come up with your manifesto on securing the country, why even bother contesting? Nigeria faces a security challenge that’s almost unprecedented in its scale and spread. Virtually every region of the country is battling one security challenge or the other. Every year thousands of people are lost to insecurity as if the country was in an actual war. And yet, our presidential aspirants are not issuing their security manifestoes, less than a year to the election.
Unlike in previous years, it is important Nigerians don’t even consider as serious any candidate without comprehensive plans on how to solve our problems. We need plans we can assess. And we need them immediately, so we have time to challenge the proposed ideas and help whoever wins reach greater clarity on their plans. It is very important that 2023 should not be another election of “vibes and In sha Allah.” Or empty virtue-signalling via photo opportunities drinking beverages packed in sachets. It must be an election of unambiguous manifestoes and policy directions we can hold the next president to.