As Nigeria brace for its next general elections, so are the expectations of citizens, especially given the multitude of challenges facing the nation, for a renewed hope to find an end to these crippling challenges.
Nonetheless, what stupefied many is the twist in the entire electioneering process by major political parties, especially the APC and PDP. It is equally safe to postulate that, the 2023 elections would be an election year like no other, for obvious reasons. One, President Muhammadu Buhari, of the APC, won't be on the ballot box, meaning no bloc votes from a certain region.
Again, the unavoidable knotty issue of zoning the presidency, to the South will be at, or is at play, making the process more intriguing and suspense-filled.
Fundamentally, even before the real contest got started, we already had a peep at what to expect, given the display of financial muscles by those seeking the APC's prized possession -- the presidential TICKET. A N100 million, for a nomination form!
If such flagrant and insensitive display of war chest, for just obtaining a form, didn't provoke a national outcry, from the citizens, then as a people, we are part of the problem. ASUU just extended their industrial action for another 3 months, meaning parents and students would bear the brunt and continue to groan, eventually.
Armed bandits as are still making life hellish for harmless citizens, across the North, while unknown gunmen and other criminal elements are decapitating people's head in the Southeast. Hundreds die monthly on our despicable and pothole-ridden highways. Healthcare delivery centers, especially in remote and rural communities are bereft of, or lacking basic medical equipments.
Again, the number of out-of-school children in the country is ignominiously high, and still soaring. All of these never mattered to the political leaders. As usual, governance has been relegated to the back burner.
The bar of governance and politics, as it were has been lowered, in fact, to an all-time low. Even political contestations has been reduced to a circus show, where every clown, with questionable pedigree and sense of responsibility would vie to be president. The astonishing number of persons who's indicated interest in the APC presidential ticket is a stark reminder of what is fundamentally wrong with the country's leadership drive. While it is their prerogative, and constitutional to do so, but on moral ground, it will be reprehensible to even attempt so.
Those who do not have any business with leadership and governance in the country, are unfortunately and incongruously those we ascribe to (un)befitting terms as Honourables, Distinguished, Excellencies etc.
Reasons for all of these are not farfetch. It is quite preposterous, an individual without any verifiable source of income would appear and seek to lead people, without same people provoking a discourse centered around his personality, precedence and capabilities. Thirst for money over capacity in Nigeria's brand of democracy has been overwhelmingly ingrained in our political space, partly because of institutionalization of deprivation of state resources by the ruling elites.
These are inherently why we are in this perilous situation, which is predicated on the question of leadership.
The PDP, though had inexplicably set the cost of its nomination form at a "modest" N40 million, even so, for a nation begging for infrastructure, end to soaring prices of commodities, quality education, improved security and host of other challenges which is insanely an existential threat, the price tag is high, when compared to other countries in Africa. To say the least, they are part of the problem. We must note here that, whoever parts with such mind boggling amount to pick just a nomination form, would certainly have a template for recouping what he'd spent. As it were, politics is the most lucrative business, with a high rate of return of investment, at least, in Nigeria. APC and PDP are same side of a coin. After all, they take pride in political prostitution, in the name of defection. Nonetheless, it seems, they've found a new "BRIDE", the New Nigeria People's Party, NNPP.
Political parties globally are the engine room for development. Their ideologies are masterfully crafted in tandem with realities, visible challenges and a timeframe for achieving such set goals, or campaign pledges. They most often don't deviate from the near-sacredness of such ideologies.
In the UK, for instance, there are lifelong members of Conservatives and Labour Party. As such, party manifestos and membership are driven ostensibly by ideologies, nationalism and patriotism.
In Nigeria, contestations are often premised and predicated upon regional, rather than national outlook hence the agitation for zoning the presidency to a particular region.
Proponents of zoning argued, it enhanced cohesion, integration and unity. But, the overall zoning arrangement, oftentimes negates the very principle of democracy. Some are glaringly disenfranchised in the process. Some political parties aren't too sincere, and, the process is usually not translucent, to allow for the justice and fairness it was supposed to address. Again, competency is traded with myopia.
Every Nigerian, regardless of his faith, background, region and political leaning should be allowed the freedom to participate in electoral process( to vote and be voted for) without necessarily harping on zoning. It is within the purview of his constitutional right.
What is then necessary is bringing forth competent and charismatic individuals to seek the presidency from any region. Such an individual should traverse the country, to seek and engage with electorates from other region. That is the core principle of democracy. And it would create the needed cohesion and inclusiveness.
The mind game, APC and PDP are entangled with, regarding where to zone their presidency is needless, and only breeds contempt, and further polarize the nation along same lines they seek to avoid.
The desperation within which they go about the whole thing took a twist, when they seek an extension of dateline set by INEC for submission of names of candidates. It means the continued back and forth by these parties would further hamper governance, because, at the moment, everything (governance) has momentarily stop receiving full attention.
The political actors should get over this deliberate political gaslighting, and return to its statutory role of governance, and confront the myriad challenges staring at them. The about 9 months before the general elections should be used to salvage whatever they could, at least to put a smile on the faces of citizens, before another round of elections which would usher in another four years of uncertainties, unless we took a decisive step, to correct any perceived wrong. That we can do, at the ballot box.
Abdullahi D Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University-Zaria.
He Writes from Kano