January 5, 2023

2023: Nigeria’s future hangs dangerously in the balance

By Olu Fasan

THE phrase “make or break” is often used with little meaning and consequence. But if there’s any time the phrase is consequential, it’s this year as Nigeria elects its next leader. Make no mistake, the outcome of February’s presidential poll will determine whether Nigeria’s chronic and acute rut will start to reverse or deepen further and further.

That’s why no patriotic Nigerian should sit on the fence or be indifferent to next month’s presidential election. And it’s why I have nailed my colours to the mast, why I have been unequivocal in this column about where I stand regarding Nigeria’s next president.

Truth be told, the battle for the soul of Nigeria and the future of this country, is between the forces of evil and the forces of good; between the forces of stagnation and the forces of change; between the forces of retrogression and the forces of progress. Dare I add, the forces of division and exclusivism, as well as the forces of unity and inclusivity. 

Sadly, while the forces of good, progress and unity are in the majority, they are often too indifferent, too inactive, to make a difference. By contrast, the forces of evil, retrogression and division have enormous resources and absolute motivation and determination to organise and mobilise to achieve their self-serving objectives.

The above proposition is best explained by Mancur Olson’s collective action theory and public choice theory. According to these theories, it’s hard to achieve the critical mass for positive change because everyone wants to “free ride” on the efforts of others; everyone is waiting for others to take the necessary action. But if you’re waiting for me to do something, and I’m waiting for you to do it, well, simple logic: it won’t be done!

However, what political economists refer to as “concentrated gains/dispersed losses” is the root cause of the collective action problem. Basically, this means that the gains from a particular endeavour are so concentrated that those likely to benefit from the endeavour would do anything to pursue it.

But the losses from such endeavour are often so dispersed and widely spread that those likely to suffer from the endeavour often lack the incentive to mobilise and stop it. This is also called “concentrated interests” versus “diffused interests”.

For example, if someone says that becoming Nigeria’s president is his “lifelong ambition” and that it’s his “entitlement” and “turn” to be president, surely, the gains from achieving that ambition would be so concentrated for him, his family, his friends, his hangers-on, etc.—”concentrated interests”—that he and his loyalists would do anything to achieve, by hook or crook, that self-interested ambition.

Now, for Nigeria as an entity, the losses from the actualisation of that selfish “lifelong ambition” would be concentrated in terms of various harms to the nation. But for all Nigerians, the losses would be dispersed, thus creating “diffused interests” across the country.

In such circumstances, many people, particularly the middle classes and the youth, who think they can “get by” under any hardship, and rarely worry about Nigeria as a whole, may lack the incentive to mobilise and act collectively to scotch such selfish and potentially national-harming ambitions. And that’s without mentioning primordial factors, such as ethnicity, religion, and the role of unexplained wealth, of slush funds!

The above is what, ominously, makes this year “make or break” for Nigeria. The truth is, the forces of evil, retrogression, and disunity are circling like vultures, marshalling all resources, illicit or otherwise, to capture the presidency. They are supported by enemies of Nigeria, who tell us that character, integrity, and honesty do not matter as presidential attributes. But where are the forces of good, progress and unity?

Are they going to stand idly by and allow the forces of evil and their enablers to prevail? I mean, how many Nigerians who truly love this country and are eligible to vote have collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs, and how many of those with PVCs will actually vote on February 25? And would they elect a president with the right combination of capacity, competence, integrity and vision, who can start the process of rebuilding Nigeria and radically transforming its destiny?

I repeat: no patriotic Nigerian should sit on the fence or be indifferent to February’s presidential election. That’s why I applaud former President Olusegun Obasanjo for publicly endorsing former Governor Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, for president. In an open letter on January 1, titled “My Appeal to All Nigerians, Particularly Young Nigerians,” former President Obasanjo wrote: “None of the contestants is a saint, but when one compares their character, antecedents, understanding, knowledge, discipline, and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today, Peter Obi has an edge.” I totally agree!

Of the three leading candidates – Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Bola Tinubu of the APC, and Obi of Labour—Obi is the best. To be honest, I like what Atiku is saying. “Restructuring,”, “government of national unity,” “free-market economy” are what I have advocated for years. But Atiku has a trust deficit; there’s something of the night about him.

Besides, given Nigeria’s diversity, it’s hard to justify Atiku, a Northerner, succeeding Buhari, a Northerner! But Tinubu is absolutely beyond the pale. Indeed, a Tinubu presidency would be so utterly abhorrent on so many grounds that I regard anyone supporting his “lifelong ambition” and endorsing his “Emi lokan” sense of entitlement as Nigeria’s enemy. Those citing his overhyped “achievements” in Lagos State, ignoring allegations of massive “state capture”, are deluded: Nigeria is not Lagos!

Besides, Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, his risks to ethnic and religious harmony, and his character and  integrity deficits make him unsuitable to be president. Think about it. With all the drug-related allegations, can Nigeria have as president someone who once forfeited $460,000 in a drug-related property seizure? Only the unhinged, the unpatriotic,will endorse that! Nigeria’s future hangs perilously in the balance. Nigerians, avert the calamity next month!

Happy New Year to everyone!