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Nigeria’s Obi promises a break from pains of political chains

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Picture: AFP – Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi, right, flanked by his running mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan, south-western Nigeria, in November.

By Omolulu Fagbadebo

On February 25, eligible Nigerians will troop out to cast their votes to elect the president and members of the National Assembly. This will be followed by the governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls on March 11.

Constitutionally, members of the legislature and the executive have a four-year tenure. The president and state governors can only rule for two terms, while members of the legislature at all levels have no term limits.

The tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari ends on May 28, and he is not eligible for re-election, having spent eight years in power. And indeed, Nigerians are tired of his administration because the euphoria that greeted his emergence died shortly after as the promised change became a mirage.

Eight years have gone by, and the parlous state of the country that prompted the yearning for a new dawn has become worse. The rates of insecurity, corruption, poverty, unemployment, and skyrocketing prices of goods and services have heightened. A public commentator said that the Buhari administration “has become reputed for clarifying problems without proffering solutions, with its persistent inabilities to promptly respond to the socio-economic need of Nigerians”.

Of all the categories of the election, the presidential election is more critical, given the nature of the country’s governing system. The stakes are high because citizens are seeking a change from what the majority has considered the eight years of pain-of-chain experience that characterised the government since 2015.

To most citizens, it is an opportunity for a change from the pains of the chains of the past eight years. The competitors have also unleashed their campaign machines to secure the mandate that would allow them to either continue on the path of the political past or make a break for the emergence of a new Nigeria for the benefit of Nigerians.

Nigeria’s presidential system celebrates an executive presidency with sprawling power that, in practice, towers above the legislature and the judiciary in public sector management. Thus, the occupier of the position has higher responsibility and determines the direction of public policy and its consequences on the well-being of citizens. In other words, the executive president has every legislative framework and personnel to provide the requisite leadership to harness the country’s abundant resources for the promotion of the welfare of citizens.

This system, with its imbued oversight mechanisms, rendered dysfunctional by political predators in power, promises inclusive governance outcomes that prioritise the effective delivery of public services to citizens. Sadly, the political leadership has deliberately weaponised poverty and hunger as governance instruments.

With more than 133 million, representing 63 percent of the estimated 220 million population living in multidimensional poverty and high inequality, wealthy Nigerians, mostly politicians and their cronies and proxies, are the beneficiaries of the proceeds of the country’s riches.

The bedrock of this malaise is the unchecked corruption and mismanagement that have characterised the leadership in the administration of the power of the state.

The 2023 election, therefore, is an opportunity for Nigerians, especially the youth population, who are victims of the fatal consequences of the country’s failing society. This section of the population constitutes the bulk of prospective voters in the election.

Mahmood Yakubu, the chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission, disclosed on Tuesday that 75 percent of the 93.4 million registered voters are youth.

With the aftermaths of the 2020 #Endsars, the enthusiastic activism that prompted the uprising waned but also aroused the consciousness of the need for change through the electoral process. This renewed hope has prompted the rising voice of the youth in support of one of the major contenders for the position of president. Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar of the All Progressive Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, respectively, have promised to prioritise the needs of the youth if elected, but Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) seems to have become the rallying point of the youth.

Picture: AFP – Nigeria’s ruling party presidential flagbearer, Bola Tinubu, left, and Nigerian former vicepresident Atiku Abubakar.

While Tinubu and Atiku represent established political structures that have been ruling Nigeria since 1999, Obi’s LP is an incipient political formation enlivened by the organic support of the youth. Unlike Tinubu and Atiku, with tainted records of service as governor and vice-president, Obi remains the only Nigerian governor with a unique record of service whose eight-year tenure in Anambra State was free of scandal associated with financial impropriety. Indeed, the legislature impeached him because of his penchant for transparency and accountability.

Obi runs a presidential campaign financed by the supporters, the first of its kind in Nigeria’s political history. While others could be regarded as typical Nigerian political actors, Obi leads an unprecedented movement that promises a new Nigeria built on the platform of transparency and accountability. This is the hope that beckons for a nation in search of a break from the pains of political chains.

Dr Omolulu Fagbadebo, Department of Public Management, Law and Economics, Durban University of Technology, Riverside Campus, Pietermaritzburg