2019: What Is Really At Stake?

Pic.9. A Elderly voter being accredited, at Sekonanear Ife, during the 2018 Osun state Governorship Election on Saturday (22/9/18). 05010/23/9/18/Timothy Adeogodiran/JAU/NAN

As politicians and other stakeholders make permutations towards the general elections in 2019, nothing has become as unclear and dreadful as what fortunes may befall the country in the days ahead. And the reasons for this are evident in the current state of the nation: The country of about 200 million people is afflicted by and inflicted with dishonest special purpose vehicles as political parties and unscrupulous characters masquerading as public office holders. This newspaper has even had to describe the country’s political leaders as Nigeria’s own genre of ‘natural disasters’ just as the earthquakes and tsunamis that despoil other countries. The prayer, therefore, is: May they not do any more damage than have already been done and may the people of Nigeria rise up to their responsibility as owners of the nation’s sovereignty.

Despite the Constitution and other mechanisms guiding administration of the polity, activities of government still run at cross-purposes. Whilst the fight against corruption has subsisted at the level of rhetoric, infrastructural development has been no different from the routineness of yesteryears. All these are further compounded by a skewed governance structure that rips off and economically disenfranchises its constituents.

Realising that the present state of affairs may adversely affect the fortunes of 2019, there are certain expectations by Nigerians of those who would be the main actors in the 2019 general elections. The first issue at stake concerns what manner of country Nigerians aspire for. Nigerians need to ask whether the governance structure of the federation as it is, with its strong centre and weak subnational units, is a system they want to continue with. This is germane to rebuilding the nation from its present rubble.

Judging by the outcomes of debates amongst Nigerians, it is clear that a restructured federation signaling true federalism must be the first rule and barest minimum below which the country cannot go. Thus the ideal thing to do would be an amendment of the Constitution to reflect a people’s Constitution and to expunge unjustified centralist tendencies that emasculate the legislative as well as productive capacities of subnational units in the country.

Whilst there is a need for a strong government at the centre to keep the country together, the devolution of powers to the subnational units is equally necessary to avert the various injustices and the lopsided distribution of the common wealth that leads to fractious tendencies within the polity. In this regard, as a beginning, there is need to carry out a forensic analysis of the three legislative lists that guide Nigeria’s governance structure, namely, the exclusive list, which assigns areas the Federal Government can legislate on, the concurrent list which defines areas which both the Federal Government and state can legislate on and the residual list assigned to the states. A thorough analysis of the 68 areas of legislation in the exclusive list would reveal that there are areas that seem really preposterous for the Federal Government to legislate upon. For smooth political engineering listings such as the construction of federal roads, control of mineral resources and many others may be removed from the exclusive list.

Another issue at stake is the endemic culture of corruption that tends to define Nigeria’s economy. In the last years, the catch phrase ‘fight against corruption’ which endeared people to this administration has turned out to be what it has always been – just a phrase. The exercise of loot recovery, witch-hunting and selective sanctions meted on perceived perpetrators of economic and financial crimes is a mockery of the anti-corruption crusade. This is because corruption cannot be fought in an omnibus and fraudulent federal system built on a faulty super structure. There is urgent need to redefine and systematize the fight against corruption. To address the challenge of profligacy and sheer wastefulness amongst public office holders, public offices at all levels must be made less attractive. And all acts of corruption must be made to have consequences.

In this regard, Nigerians expect to see law enforcement in action. More people need to be brought to book; corrupt enrichment and disbursement of state treasures and privileges to further personal interests, under whatever guise, should be properly investigated and defaulters diligently prosecuted. Moreover, Nigerians hope to see that the idea of public service as a commitment to the common good is matched by action.

Given the alarming quantity of small arms finding their way into the country as well as the terror perpetrated by killer herdsmen and the lingering platoons of a spent Boko Haram hitting at soft targets in the north east, it is certain that the polity is still charged with fear. This fear is further heightened by the unjustified militarisation of other parts of the country undeserving of such security presence. The government must ensure that the Nigerian people have the freedom to exercise their franchise as free agents capable of making moral choices for their personal and corporate security and to enjoy temporal good and have basic human quality of life. In this regard, the security operatives must be seen to be representative of the organic security of the Nigerian people and not a militia converted to serve a group of persons or a certain ethnic group.

Furthermore, the year 2019 will make it one year to the magic year 2020, when Nigeria hopes to attain the generation of 20,000 megawatts, and thereby become one of the most industrialised nations in the world. Whether this is a pipe-dream or just self-mockery is left for history to tell. Yet, this remains one of the most important infrastructural issues at stake in 2019. For many years, Nigerians have been slighted by the lack of adequate electricity supply. And the same excuses of improper metering of consumers, pipeline vandalisation, and inadequate supply of gas have been adduced as reasons for this predicament. Although many experts have stated that the facilities for power supply, presently, cannot support the generation of more than 7,000 megawatts, Nigerians expect some improvement in the consistent distribution of the present capacity. The same expectations apply to the issue of road management, healthcare delivery, housing, education and other aspects of infrastructural development.

A major point at issue is the conduct of the elections itself. Though this is being taken for granted, Nigerians need to ask frank questions about the situation they would have to contend with in the election. Considering the fact that election processes are meant to produce credible governments and ensure equity and justice for all, the prevalent practice of unrestricted campaign financing and its resultant social hindrance to credible election should be addressed. It is common knowledge that reckless and uncontrolled campaign financing put aspiring political office holders under undue financial pressure to do immoral and unethical things. It leads to electoral fraud, encourages looting of resources, godfatherism and promotes the use of violence. Nigerians expect good team players, gallant losers and winners willing to cooperate with the opposition to move the country forward this time. This is the least they deserve after about 20 years of uninterrupted democracy.

All this will come to naught, however, if there is no manpower to either set these expectations in motion or attract the calibre of human resource that can change the course of Nigeria’s distressful journey. Nigeria needs leaders who are visionaries and problem solvers; leaders who are God-fearing, have respect for the dignity of the human person, rule of law and who understand that public service is sacrificial.

Nigerians would embrace a judicious leadership recruitment process and succession management plan built around enlightened, critical thinkers with home-grown solutions to problems as opposed to the congregation of sinecurists, lettered and sophistic armchair speculators who know it all but cannot solve any problems. Naturally, this would also entail a revamped educational system that will refocus the whole gamut of structure, content, form and purpose that make up an educational system. This is a serious point that should be at issue in this coming election.Whoever wins, Nigerians expect to have a leader who would make the largest concentration of blacks on earth, Nigeria, a country of significance!