The salient is­sues in the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion

Sunday Trust - - VIEW POINT - By Gozie Irog­boli Gozie Irog­boli is an econ­o­mist, con­sul­tant and pub­lic pol­icy an­a­lyst. [email protected]­

Nige­ria is in an elec­toral sea­son and once again the at­mos­phere is fired up with un­cer­tain­ties. In con­trast with what is ob­tain­able in ad­vanced democ­ra­cies, the usual things preva­lent in Nige­ria dur­ing this pe­riod are the sense­less jostling to re­cruit thugs that will in­tim­i­date vot­ers and snatch bal­lot boxes. Mud­sling­ing, char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion, ru­mor ped­dling, inane pro­pa­ganda, po­lit­i­cal grand­stand­ing, trite rhetoric, empty prom­ises, and more re­cently vote-buy­ing which have taken an egre­gious di­men­sion are com­mon­place dur­ing our elec­toral pe­riod. Cam­paigns are scarcely based on is­sues as politi­cians play the eth­nic and re­li­gious trump cards.

Clearly, as the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion draw nigh, there are many ques­tions nudg­ing for an­swers and many is­sues re­quir­ing ur­gent con­sid­er­a­tion. The is­sues that should be on the front burner are vot­ers’ ap­a­thy, the ail­ing Nige­rian econ­omy and how to re­vamp it, na­tional se­cu­rity, frag­ile na­tional unity, fight against cor­rup­tion, sur­vival of democ­racy, per­for­mance of the cur­rent regime, the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the can­di­dates stand­ing for elec­tions, INEC neu­tral­ity and ca­pac­ity to con­duct free, fair and cred­i­ble elec­tion among oth­ers.

In­deed, one glar­ing is­sue which should bother every gen­uine can­di­date but which has al­ways been glossed over is that of vot­ers’ ap­a­thy. This has been the case, more so, as the con­tes­tants are ap­par­ently more con­cerned with rig­ging than ac­tual vot­ing. Vot­ers’ ap­a­thy can be re­duced when thug­gery and vi­o­lence at the polling booths are re­duced and vot­ers feel that their votes can count. Again, it can be re­duced when the elec­toral com­mis­sion and the can­di­dates stand­ing for elec­tion en­gage the elec­torates closely and prop­erly ed­u­cate them on elec­tion­eer­ing is­sues. But strangely, the Nige­rian politi­cians seem to have ac­cepted rig­ging as the norm as their main pre-oc­cu­pa­tion dur­ing elec­tion­eer­ing pe­riod is the strat­egy to out­rig one an­other for rather than en­gage the elec­torates and sell their man­i­festoes, they pre­fer to hire thugs and arm them for vi­o­lence.

The neu­tral­ity and ca­pac­ity of the INEC to con­duct a cred­i­ble elec­tion is also an is­sue. An­other wor­ri­some is­sue is the vote buy­ing syn­drome which has be­come dan­ger­ously en­trenched in this era. An­other crit­i­cal fac­tor il­leg­i­ble vot­ers are ex­pected to con­sider in their vot­ing de­ci­sions is the econ­omy. The econ­omy at present is in a co­matose state as no vis­i­ble in­vest­ment on crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture that will stim­u­late the econ­omy has been made in the past three years. Tech­ni­cally, it is said that the econ­omy is out of re­ces­sion but in re­al­ity, the coun­try is neck deep in eco­nomic de­pres­sion. In just 3 years the gains of the past years have been re­versed; over 11 mil­lion jobs have been lost, thriv­ing busi­nesses have closed down; ex­ter­nal debt pro­file is grow­ing at an alarm­ing rate. Nige­ria has fallen from the height of the big­gest econ­omy in Africa and one of the fastest grow­ing in the world to the poverty head­quar­ters of the world where the cit­i­zens swoon in ab­ject poverty. All the in­di­ca­tors are point­ing in the neg­a­tive di­rec­tion and there is a warn­ing that the econ­omy may re­lapse into re­ces­sion if pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures are not taken. The crit­i­cal ques­tions now are: how did we get there? Does this regime have the pro­grammes or pol­icy frame­work to re­sus­ci­tate the econ­omy? Does the cur­rent regime have the ca­pac­ity to ini­ti­ate, for­mu­late and im­ple­ment work­able poli­cies to re­vamp the econ­omy? And who among the can­di­dates has the wherewithal to work for the growth of the econ­omy? Without doubt, an­other is­sue that is ex­pected to shape the vot­ers’ de­ci­sion in the forth­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion is that of na­tional se­cu­rity. In the last three years, the level of in­se­cu­rity in the land is un­prece­dented. The war against in­sur­gency is far from be­ing over as claimed, the men­ace of herds­men is felt ev­ery­where. In the South the alarm­ing spate of un­em­ploy­ment is fu­elling crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties. Gam­bling, cult ac­tiv­i­ties, kid­nap­ping and oth­ers so­cial vices are rife.

Fur­ther­more, Nige­ri­ans are ex­pected to put na­tional unity into con­sid­er­a­tion in choos­ing who will pilot the af­fairs of the na­tion. I do not be­lieve in the cyn­i­cal claim in some quar­ters that all the can­di­dates are the same. It is a care­less gen­er­al­iza­tion and a mis­chievous at­tempt to dis­credit gen­uine can­di­dates-one that may lead to vot­ers’ ap­a­thy. I must state un­equiv­o­cally that the can­di­dates are not the same and can never be. War against cor­rup­tion is an­other fac­tor that may af­fect vot­ers’ de­ci­sion. De­spite the din about fight­ing cor­rup­tion by the present gov­ern­ment, Nige­ri­ans po­si­tion on the cor­rup­tion in­dex has not im­proved.

It is a very dan­ger­ous thing to have an in­com­pe­tent per­son in a po­si­tion of au­thor­ity. Nige­ri­ans should open their eyes and ig­nore the an­tics of the politi­cians and those of their hirelings and spin doc­tors in the me­dia and vote ac­cord­ingly.

But the per­ti­nent ques­tions are: are they go­ing to vote ac­cord­ing to their con­sciences or vote where their po­lit­i­cal demigods ask them to and af­ter­wards sit back to whine about hard­ship and bad gov­er­nance? Are they go­ing to vote ac­cord­ing to ca­pac­ity or com­pe­tence of the can­di­dates or sen­ti­ment? Are they go­ing to be swayed by ru­mours, fake news about un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions?

Do we con­tinue to show blind sol­i­dar­ity and al­low pri­mor­dial and parochial con­sid­er­a­tions to blight our views and de­ci­sions? Can Nige­ri­ans es­chew eth­nic and re­li­gious sen­ti­ments and vote for com­pe­tence and na­tional unity? Fi­nally, as the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion beck­ons, Nige­ri­ans are ex­pected to be vig­i­lant and avoid the mis­takes of the past by elect­ing cred­i­ble and com­pe­tent lead­ers. Nige­ri­ans must dis­re­gard ru­mours, empty prom­ises, pro­pa­ganda, eth­nic big­otry and vote for their fu­ture and the sur­vival of the na­tion. I urge Nige­ri­ans to brace up, slough off the cloak of lethargy and ap­a­thy, watch crit­i­cally, ex­er­cise their civic duty con­sci­en­tiously, take the can­di­dates to task or for­ever keep quiet and bear the bur­den of their de­ci­sions or in­de­ci­sion.

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