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Nigeria: The Road To 2023 Nigeria: The Road To 2023
by Kola King
2022-04-26 06:31:20
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Nigeria: The Road To 2023
Widespread insecurity poses a major threat to the 2023 general elections

ln good times and in bad times, in periods of war and in peacetime, in times of uncertainty and strife, politics will always gain ascendancy no matter what happens because man is a political animal. Indeed this is the season of politics. The starting gun has been fired and the race is on. Jostling for power and position has started in earnest. Politicians have a date with destiny. The road to 2023 is also a magical date for Nigerians in the sense that failure to get it right may lead to a slide to the slippery slope. This may eventually lead to a race to nowhere, as it were. Already red flags are on the horizon. For example, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that elections might not hold in some parts of the north due to widespread insurgency in that region. In this regard, terrorism, insurgency, and kidnapping pose a major security challenge. In the southeast, activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have created a smouldering security challenge there as well.

nig00001_400_03Most troubling is an alarm raised by INEC that over 45 percent of the Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) in the country are invalid. The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this at a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, however, said 1,390,519 PVCs are found to be valid as of January 14. He also expressed fears about the 2023 elections due to worsening insecurity in the country.

In the same vein, both the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar have also warned that widespread insecurity across the country is the greatest threat to the forthcoming 2023 general elections. Other groups including the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Ijaw National Congress, the Northern Elders Forum, and the Niger Delta Self -Determination Movement have expressed similar sentiments while speaking during the inclusive Security Dialogue Retreat jointly organized by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa in Abuja recently.

Be that as it may, politicians have taken to the road. As expected, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu fired the first salvo when he declared his lifelong ambition to run for president during a meeting last January with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. He is a front runner in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Ever since Tinubu declared his stand, there has been a flurry of public declarations by sundry politicians from both sides of the political divide. From the sublime to the comical, all manner of characters and jesters have indicated their intentions to step into the shoes of President Muhammadu Buhari. Also, stakeholders from the southeast, the Igbo cultural association, Ohaneze Ndigbo as well as political gladiators from the Southeast have insisted that it is the turn of that zone to produce the president come 2023 in the interest of justice and fair play. So politicians have been crisscrossing the country forging alliances and seeking partnerships across the board.

Now the field is becoming crowded. From the APC, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has finally laid all speculations to rest and thrown his hat into the ring. He will square up with his erstwhile mentor Bola Tinubu. Also in the race are the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, as well as Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. On the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has declared his interest to run for president, despite the extant PDP policy on zoning. Former governor of Anambra State Mr Peter Obi who was on the same ticket with Atiku Abubakar as running mate has also declared his interest in the presidential race. Others in the race are Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State. The former Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki, as well as Governor Nyesom Wike, are in the race as well.

As things stand, the current economic and security challenge presents the PDP the opportunity to worm its way into the hearts of the people, and to give APC a kicking, assuming it's able to get its acts together. However, the issue of zoning remains contentious with stakeholders from the north arguing that the race should be thrown open, while the Southern Governors forum insists on maintaining the party’s zoning policy. For now, the party seems to be in hot water over its zoning policy.

But then what’s at stake goes beyond the prosaic for we live in extraordinary times. In the existing circumstance, the nation is at a crossroads. Given the prevailing situation, now is not the time for another round of Russian roulette or a game of musical chairs for a stab at power by charlatans and perfidious politicians who wish to seek the highest office in the land not for service but for their own self-interest. The situation on the ground demands knowledgeable politicians, technocrats, and securocrats with a track record of service delivery. Nigerians cannot afford to have a leader given to fumbling and dithering in office rather he should be prepared from day one to roll up his sleeves and get down to work. Nigeria can ill afford a candidate who wants to learn on the job. Nigeria needs a leader who will hit the ground running. That is the challenge of the season. This is the reason why the parties must play a critical role in the candidates being picked for the presidential race. They must sift the wheat from the shaft and separate the boys from the men

As things run, the Buhari administration is now a lame-duck as it prepares to leave office by May 29, 2023. Even the staunchest admirer of President Buhari will accept the fact that the standard of living has plummeted under his watch, far below what it was in 2015 when he assumed power. Besides, runaway inflation has made short shrift of salaries and wages with prices of foodstuffs skyrocketing and beyond the reach of many, affecting the cost of living. Now workers spend about 80 percent of their salaries or more on foodstuffs.

Again bandits have chased farmers away from their farmlands further compounding an already bad situation. Also, food security has come under immense threat due to the pernicious activities of terrorists. Indeed Nigerians are poorer now than they were in 2015. It has been a steady slide into poverty. The promise to lift a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty remains a pipe dream. Instead, the majority of Nigerians have further sunk into the poverty trap. It appears as if the APC overpromised but under-delivered in its promises to secure the nation, create jobs, and revive the economy.

In fact, the existential uncertainties have gone beyond the pale. Insecurity has further deteriorated and widened as bandits hold sway in the northwest and parts of the north-central. In the northwest Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, and Zamfara are under siege. The same thing applies to parts of Niger State in the north-central. At the same time, bandits have unleashed brutal attacks in Benue and Plateau States leaving death and destruction on their trail. Still, to varying degrees, no part of the nation is immune from insecurity. Due to the current insecurity, the population of Internally Displaced Persons has increased exponentially. Vice President of ECOWAS, Finda Koroma has declared that about 3.3 million Nigerians have been displaced due to activities of insurgents and bandits. Also, no fewer than 1,545 persons have been killed by terrorists within the first quarter of 2022, a joint report by the Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities and the Joint Action Civil Society Committee under the aegis of Nigeria Mourns has revealed.

Apart from living from hand to mouth, there’s the challenge of living from one day to the next without falling victim to bandits, kidnappers, and sundry criminals who currently rule the roost. Homes are no longer safe. The bandits are so brazen that they now abduct people right in their homes. For example, in Plateau State, a commissioner’s wife and daughter were kidnapped right in their home. So many cases have gone unreported. This new trend in kidnapping has become a common occurrence in parts of Kaduna.

More broadly, the highways and the byways have been taken over by criminal elements and our security forces are overstretched and overstressed due to the widespread insecurity in the land. As it happens, military operations are currently ongoing in virtually all geopolitical zones. To a large extent, the situation in the northeast has been brought under control. Still, the railways that are considered a safe mode of transportation have become the target of terrorists. Even our airports are under the shadow of terrorist attacks. It has never been this bad. In a way, it is stating the obvious that the nation is at war. In a word, life has become nasty, brutish, and short.

Without a doubt, President Buhari's successor would have a lot of fish to fry. First and foremost, insecurity has to be tackled headlong with fresh ideas, adequate intelligence gathering, the use of technology such as drones, and more firepower for the security forces. Furthermore, there’s a need for more robust interagency cooperation between the security forces. Since the military is not groomed for this asymmetrical war the military will need to train and engage in counterinsurgency operations. More importantly, there's a lot of work to be done to rebuild and fix the economy. Due to unbridled borrowing, we have accumulated a debt of over 33 trillion naira in both foreign and domestic loans. In general, the economy is in dire straits. On the other hand, health services are in shambles, while the educational sector, especially public universities have broken down. Above all, efforts should be geared towards fixing the damage done to national unity and cohesion through the president's acts of omission and commission, which have proved divisive and further exposed the fault lines of the superstructure of the nation. As a matter of fact, no nation can make any appreciable progress when a crucial part of its constituent unit is excluded from the commanding heights of politics and governance.

To be fair, the Buhari administration has invested in infrastructures such as roads, railways, and bridges. Its major legacy project is the second Niger Bridge at Asaba which is billed to be commissioned by October. Last June the president commissioned the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railways. Plus, the armed forces are well equipped with arms and ammunition, yet the security situation remains dire and it remains a major blot on the administration’s overall performance. Apparently what seems lacking is the will to rein in the bandits and insurgents once and for all. Arguably, President Buhari was swept to power in 2015 on account of his credentials as a retired general and with high hopes and inflated expectations that he would be well placed to tackle the insurgency in the northeast. Despite his exertions, security remains his Achilles heel, hence those expectations have not been met. Truth be told there are no easy answers to the battle against terrorism. Still, President Buhari’s successor will have to respond to the challenges of the times. Without sounding pessimistic it's hard to imagine when the situation will improve. That's why the road leading to 2023 is uncharted territory, full of twists and turns.

 First published in METRO


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