The election season geared towards electing a new president for Nigeria is now upon us. In about two weeks, according to the rules of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), the official bar on campaigns will be lifted, the whistle will then blow for the parties now currently on their marks, to take off. This campaign season is more a mile race than a dash. For those who do long distance races, they understand that they must pace themselves: know when to conserve energy, keep an even pace and stay in the race, do not lag, pick up speed towards the final laps, and end with a blinding finish. No one runs the Mile race as though they were doing the 100 Meters dash. Sprinters, especially very experienced ones, learn very quickly, the strength of their opponents, their speech, and most importantly, how to bank against the direction of the wind, or sail with it.
The coming political campaigns remind me of Stanley Ngwaba, that elegant stallion on the tracks, do the 400 meters race on the “Lower Fields,” at the Government College Umuahia, to win the Victor Ludorum during the Inter House Sports Competition.
The point is, the magic is in the pace. That’s what will make the difference in this campaign season: which campaign can last; which gets exhausted and implodes; which would be wound than sooner by scandal, and which would embrace the tape by gathering momentum. The facts are yet to fully emerge, but it does seem that Peter Obi currently has momentum. This is going by the online footprints of his supporters. But his opponents are equally right, it just has to be seen whether this online momentum can translate into votes.
But so far, Obi and Datti Ahmed are leading a youthful surge that feels already like a movement. His opponents have tried to contain him; even going so far as to suggest that his support base is mere figment, and of a digital abracadabra that can only be tested when the polls open. Fair enough. But there is momentum, and only the blind can fail to see this. It was this momentum that led the Campaign strategists at the APC to attempt to derail Obi through all kinds of politricks, including some say, planting stories in dodgy online sites and piggying it back to Peter Obi’s supporters just to discredit Mr. Obi.
They have tried to place the tar of “Biafra” on Obi. They have thus far, put on the back burner, the dispute between Mr. Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Mr. Bola Tinubu, their APC candidate, who have both accused each other of lying. That is pretty serious stuff. But neither of these campaigns are yet on solid ground, enough to achieve an initial goal: to make this election a two-horse face off between the APC and the PDP – the two traditional parties, who claim to have long standing “structures.”
But so far, it seems that Peter Obi’s Labour Party is the new kid on the block. It has surged into a mass movement with very visible grassroots networks, the kinds that neither APC nor PDP have been able to build. They have been unable to build a grassroots base because they have long depended on “middle man” politics; that is politics of third-party representation. You pay off a man who then pays off a few other men. That has been the party.
Actually, in spite of their claims to having party structures, neither the APC nor the PDP has real, self-sustaining structures. They do not have self-sustaining structures because they have not developed solid loyal bases of party adherents who would pay dues, volunteer their free time and resources, and engage in selling the ideas of the party to new members whom they could canvas or recruit. Neither the APC nor the PDP actually have the structures they claim they have. They do not have these because they are the party of oligarchs.
These oligarchs have built a system of the oligopoly whose general idea for power is to create intermediaries to the people rather than build ideas on which people can recreate and view themselves in the political process. This is where the Obi Campaign seems to have created the current wave on which it is riding: it is propelled by a grassroots structure which is self-determined.
But this movement could very well peter out if it is not fully guided with institutional capacity; a well-administered agency of well-trained party stewards and field staff. But that is not the only point. They point for all the parties is in the sustenance of the key issues of this campaign. Last week, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, Campaign Communications Director of the Tinubu Campaign reacted to what he called a dubious use of “fake news” by Peter Obi’s supporters and the use by the same Obi supporters of scurrilous methods to attack the person of Tinubu.
Onanuga called for an issue-based campaign. Of course, while calling for clean, issue-based campaigns, Onanuga could not help himself: he took a dig at Peter Obi’s candidacy, inferring that the website which had produced the “fake news” which Onanuga found disheartening was by an “IPOB” front. In sum, Peter Obi was an IPOB candidate. The method Onanuga was using is well-known in propaganda. It is called “disinformation.” You keep at it, till it catches fire and acquires the shin of truth. I would like to say, nonetheless, that Mr. Onanuga is right. This campaign must be issues based.
I am with Bayo Onanuga on this. The great issues in this campaign are quite clear: what do the parties bring to the table. There three key parties in this election, the LP, the PDP, and the APC, and possible “dark horse,” the NNPP.As the Campaigns kick off, Nigerians are going to need answers on key issues that currently dog Nigeria, and which any winner of the 2023 elections must have to conform head on: one is, the question of Energy Independence.
In spite of being a major oil and Gas producing nation, Nigerians experience scandalous shortages of fuel. Nigerian does not produce its own oil for domestic consumption. It has to import fuel. It is scandalous an inexplicable. The deep muck called the Nigerian oil industry must have to be cleaned up. How does the next president intend to handle the question of subsidies, a most troubling issue for Nigerians. How would Mr. Obi for instance, campaigning under the platform of Labour deal with the issue of ending subsidies; an issue on which he would be at logger heads with his own party. This one issue might be Peter Obi’s albatross. How is it that Nigeria has not diversified its energy supply base.
For a country that lies smack on the equator, there is no clear solar power policy as an alternative to fossil fuel. For a country with a long Atlantic coast, Nigeria has no Hydroelectric power policy. There is of course, the Mambila power project, but Nigeria sits by the great sea, which can power hydroelectric systems as well as wind turbines.
How would the incoming administration construct a bold and comprehensive energy policy and deploy a bold and coherent energy plan to deliver energy goals that would power a productive economy? Given the environmental dimensions of energy production, what would be the Environmental policy, given the short and long term realities of global warming?
How would the new government address its implication for Nigeria’s economy; its food security; its demographic shifts, etc.? Another important issue is the current national debt profile. Nigeria has finally borrowed itself to coma. This is not just a debt overhang. This is a debt-suicide.
The economic policies of this current administration of Buhari and the APC has borrowed Nigeria into a ditch. Nigeria’s debt must be a key or central issue of debate in this election. How do these candidates hope to govern with this kind of debt profile. How do they hope to get the Buhari administration to account carefully for these debts; the borrowings and what was done with them?
The government of Nigeria under the APC administration has borrowed so much, but Nigerians do not see the direct results in investment. Our oil trade receipts are zero. And the question which the candidates of this election must answer is, how can Nigeria not pos any revenue from oil in spite of the rise in demand for oil, and the spike in oil prices to over $100 BPD.
Given the totality of the scenario, what does the APC seeking re-election with Tinubu its presidential candidate, and leading architect of the current APC government in 2015 and 2019, wish to do differently from the party and the president whom he has backed to the hilt? Every now and then, the APC will say, “we have done in the area of infrastructure,” and they mention roads and bridges, some of which were already paid for and mobilized by the Jonathan administration under the PDP. This claim must no longer be allowed to be made unchallenged.
Besides, one take at the looks of the infrastructure of Nigeria’s National Universities, or public schools, one is forced to ask: where are the infrastructures that this administration claims to have improved. The environments of our universities; our Federal Medical Centers; our National infrastructure – roads, bridges, and ports are in decay.
The Nigerian built space is in decay; in worse condition that it was ever before Buhari came to office. I came to Abuja in February, it was hardly like he Abuja I came to in 2014. The great capital city under Buhari looks poorly served. Its vibrancy is gone. So where are the infrastructures? Candidates must address the question of Nigeria’s National Infrastructure and the built space.