Columnist Ogbuagu Anikwe on why citizens should think about what becomes of Nigeria after they cast the vote of 2023.

What becomes of Nigeria after we all cast the vote of 2023?

We are now in another political season when propaganda and material inducements are deployed to get citizens drunk and forgetful. Suddenly, it’s as if we forget that we have problems in the economy and in security. Trash that. We forget that parents find it hard to feed their families, pay school fees, and provide other necessities. Yes, we forget that our children who managed to graduate do not have jobs. We forget, even when regular cooking gas refill costs N10,000+ and fuel sells for N250/litre when you find it. The cost of food shot up through the roof. Life is now a big challenge for most families. Outside the home, we temporally forget that the bad people are still awake and at work. Terrorists, assassins, ritualists, kidnappers, armed robbers, and fraudsters continue to destroy and dispossess honest people of their hard-earned income.

Why we forget

We forget because we are made to temporarily lose balance to the powerful pull of propaganda. Politicians return to villages from their city sojourn, ready to throw the bones from fatted loot to the hungry dogs. Suddenly, they made it look as if all is well with Nigeria. Underneath the current frenzy however, the Nigeria government continues to live on borrowed funds. It no longer matters that we spend about 90 percent of what we earn to service foreign loans. The current electioneering acts as tranquilizers injected by our politicians to take our minds off today’s sorrows.

Which brings us to several questions. Does this mean we are naïve to expect our politicians to focus on citizen challenges? Is it too much to expect them to propose solutions that educate us voters so that we judge the right persons to choose? How did we expect them to remember our family challenges and talk about how they will resolve them? What will happen to us in Nigeria after the 2023 vote?

The questions are addressed to the voters, to us. And the answer is a simple question as well. Why not focus on our challenges and force the politicians to elevate them as issues of the 2023 election campaign?

Once again, Nigeria has arrived at the crossroads. It is time to talk about the challenges and their impact on individuals, families, and the nation. If we were serious about surmounting our challenges, the conversations we having should have been different. They should have been about how to elect capable managers to oversee the businesses of state at various levels. The Igbo say that a man whose house is burning does not go hunting for rodents escaping from the inferno. But is this not what we are doing? Our conversations on the coming elections are anything but relevant to voter issues. Examples abound.

Diversionary conversations

Take the ethnic origin of our next president, which has become a factor in deciding who we vote for. This was a deciding factor in 2015 election cycle that brought President Buhari to power. In our 2023 elections conversations, ethnicity arguments are comical and absurd. Your people are making that man look like an ethnic champion with all your noise and abuse of opponents; anyway, I want you to know that I shall not leave my own (ethnic) brother to vote for him!

We also hear that structure can make or mar the chances of a candidate in this election. A candidate may be a capable manager but will “go nowhere” without a “structure”. How can this be a handicap? Any political party with a popular presidential candidate can install and manage a winning political structure within seven months. Otherwise, the party is not worth the tag.

Then there is the age rule.  We don’t want some candidates in the contest because they are old. Really? Have management capacity and wisdom become exclusive preserves of the young? Health, not age, is the issue. At any rate, all three frontrunners have passed the mandatory retirement age of sixty years!

Finally, religion, the elephant in the room. We argue that a Muslim-Muslim ticket is bad for peaceful coexistence. How so? Since when? When did religion become a handicap to management capacity? Was there an uproar when Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Yoruba Christian, serially chose Igbo Christians to be his running mates? He did this twice in the two elections conducted during the Second Republic? Did Nigerians take to the streets when MKO Abiola, a Yoruba Muslim, similarly chose a Kanuri Muslim as his sidekick? What has someone’s religion got to do with their ability to govern effectively?

Where we miss it

The only argument closely resembling a focus on significant issues is that of corruption. But even here, the focus is askew, the logic flawed. We claim, with little or no evidence, that a candidate is corrupt and will steal Nigeria blind if elected president. All three frontrunners are billionaires who are not running for office to maintain their posh lifestyle. In 2015, we chose a “poor” “clean” and “frugal” General whose management ability got us to where we are today. Except for MKO who we denied his mandate, we have had only poor generals and politicians as rulers before now. And we enthusiastically elected MKO, a billionaire, without regard to what Fela warned us in song about him.

Why do we discuss diversionary matters and elevate them to issues to determine who our next president should be? Amidst the diatribe and illogicalities that we promote, our existential challenges remain. These challenges, common to all, do not discriminate against our religious and ethnic affiliations. There is no scientific basis to suggest that ethnic affiliation or religious zealotry guarantee management capacity. Nothing from our previous experiences suggest it either. We need a leader with clear understanding of challenges, a workable plan to deal with them, and proven managerial capacity. How do the frontrunners rate along the continuum? It’s not about where they come from or where they worship God.

The hour has come

For those who insist on promoting these diversionary conversations, don’t you worry. Our eyes will clear after the February 2023 vote. We are yet to get tired of voter remorse after each cycle. I liken us to the habitual drunk that wakes up every morning with a terrible hangover. We waste our votes each time we elect candidates who bring little, if anything, to the table.

Hopefully, 2023 will be the year that Nigerian citizens realize that voting decisions are made after careful consideration. In everyday life, we use facts and the reality we see around us to guide us into making good decisions. We do not depend on our emotions. At the end of the day, we must live with the consequences of the decisions and choices we make. And every choice we made on matters affecting the commonwealth will have its impact beyond our families.

As parents, for instance, decisions on how to train our children automatically affect the family name, for good or ill. Our training choices also affect teachers, neighbors, friends, and the community at large. Parents who train their children and empower them with skills create more value for society than those abdicating this responsibility. Conversely, allowing children grow wild impacts society when they eventually enroll in a secret cult or join criminal gangs.

Nigeria after the vote

In a democracy, voting is the biggest contribution that citizens make to promote individual, family, and social wellbeing. Our vote is like a parental decision to adopt a responsible child and make her heir to the family fortune. Politicians are the children that we must encourage or discipline with our vote. We should judge candidates like our children to know who should be entrusted the family business. If Nigeria is our personal business, which among the candidates can we entrust its management? We watched all three grow up and mature in politics.

The 2023 presidential election is therefore not about who among them is our favorite. It is about what our vote will make of this nation should our preferred candidate win. The diversionary conversations we are having cannot determine who will become the best manager for the job.

We make the election a horse race. This is meaningless because we know that it is a race that favours neither the old nor the young. The biblical prodigal son was of the same religion, a brother, and the youngest. On the other hand, young Solomon turned out to be the greatest and wisest manager from his lineage.

To conclude, no one says we should not pay attention to the religion, ages, and ethnicity of the candidates. They can indeed expose clues about whether these will affect their policies and programmes, including their political appointments. However, we are lucky that there are no irredentists among the frontrunners. Citizen that vote must remember that our nation’s problems continue to await Nigeria long after they cast their votes.

What becomes of Nigeria after they cast the vote of 2023?