In five months, millions of Nigerians will troop to voting centres for an opportunity that we only get every four years in our steadily-growing democracy – the chance to elect the President. The man or woman with the power to decide the fate and fortune of our country for another four years.
The person to determine the state of our economy, standard of education for our children, access to basic necessities, among many other things.
Leading to this exercise, most Nigerians are once again focusing on financial pedigree – almost echoing an editorial by The Economist in 2015 which referred to then presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari as “the least awful” option. We have all seen how that turned out. While countries across the world are strongly growing their economies, Nigeria appears to be moving in the opposite direction, becoming the poverty capital of the world in the past few months.
Our youth are undertaking horrible, treacherous, and humiliating journey abroad in search of a better life. Healthcare remains poor due to a breakdown of the system, scarcity of drugs and supplies, inadequate and decaying infrastructure, and inequity in the distribution of resources. Unemployment is high, and lives are lost daily due to insecurity, Boko Haram scourge, indiscipline of the security forces or shoddy road networks, among others.
All these did not start in 2015, they simply got worse under the current administration.
Since the former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, the country has been ruled by two major parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – both consisting of the same recycled politicians passing across power like a relay baton.
In recent years, Nigeria has gone through the banking consolidation, increase in oil price which massively improved our ‘excess crude’ savings and the foreign reserves, and slow rise of the middle class, but the country’s system has consistently been subjected to unhindered corruption at all levels of government and obvious disregard for honesty and accountability by public officials.
Former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar made his latest return to the PDP in 2017, having fallen out of favour with the ruling APC. Before then, he has strategically positioned himself for the contest. With President Buhari and Atiku both winning their party primaries, Nigerians appear to be accepting the erroneous notion that the 2019 presidential election is a two-horse race.
In September 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that there were 84.3 million registered voters in Nigeria, with 14.6 million registered between April 2017 and August this year. Only 69.7 million voters were registered before the 2015 general elections, revealing a 21 per cent increase in voting participation – even though just about 30 million Nigerians voted. With focus on an issue-based campaign, Nigerians have an opportunity to critically assess candidates across the country and vote for individuals who can engage with clarity, purpose, and vision. No one has done this better than Professor Kingsley Moghalu, the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Rather than build a government to harness the resources of the nation for the benefit of its people, the political class continues to dwell in cluelessness. With our population explosion, rising division along tribal and religious lines, and poor economy, we must stop recycling failed politicians. Our future depends on this critical decision – we cannot continue to rely on incompetent and greedy politicians without any sense of direction.
The 2019 election is not a two-horse race. It’s not just about Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari. The next general elections is about poverty versus prosperity; national development versus decay; insecurity versus vulnerability; and the old system versus new ways of doing things. We know what the Nigeria of our dreams look like, so we must work hard at making it a reality. It is left us to step out and seize our future by choosing the right man for the job regardless of big party affiliations.