Are Nigerians fed up with their circumstances and ready to vote for a leader that will set the country on an upward trajectory? Or will they succumb to the manipulations of politicians because the suffering at the hands of their oppressors is not enough to prompt an awakening?
As Nigeria approaches yet another crossroad, many have cause to reflect on the country’s progress, its pitfalls and its hopes. Few people will deny that the country is full of ‘potential’, and yet, almost 63 years after independence, Nigeria is yet to actualize the full extent of its potential. The pressing question on our mind is: why has Nigeria not been able to convincingly begin its journey towards meeting its key development goals?
In the past eight years, Nigeria has dropped in almost every human development index ranking. Over 60 per cent of its population live in multidimensional poverty, and pervasive insecurity means that travellers must now prepare for treacherous journeys on bandit-ridden roads. Continued dependence on oil production keeps the country vulnerable to global external shocks and many of the country’s brightest have ‘japa’d‘ ‘to escape the teeming dysfunction. The upcoming elections offer an opportunity to elect a leader with the right solutions to Nigeria’s persisting and expanding problems.
From America’s founding fathers to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew, and Botswana’s Seretse Khama; leaders hold strong, optimistic and pragmatic development paths for their countries. These figures knew that good leadership is service. Nigeria is in dire need of this kind of leadership, and this election offers the chance to focus on the integrity and competence of its presidential candidates.
As Chinua Achebe notes in The Trouble with Nigeria, the country suffers from a leadership deficit, and as it charts its democratic path, new and competent leaders must be elected by the Nigerian people.
NOT JUST FOR NIGERIA; FOR EVERYONE
Many have described Nigeria’s upcoming election as 2023’s most important election in Africa, and arguably around the globe. This is because a productive Nigeria can trigger a continent-wide development drive, bringing immense economic benefits to its people and those who have the foresight to invest in Africa’s future. For one, the country is perfectly poised to be a regional trade and transport hub. Its location at the heart of Africa allows for transit to various parts of the continent and
Nigeria can develop stronger connectivity by land, air and sea which the growing number of free-trade zones, such as the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos and the Lion Business Park in Enugu will effectively leverage. Considering the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, prospects look even better as the agreement offers the opportunity for regional trade across the continent unfettered by tariffs and red tape.
Nigeria’s development is important to Africa and the globe in many ways. The country could be a major consumer destination for manufacturers and foreign investors who are keen to engage in what is likely the next theatre for globalized growth. Nigeria’s arable land mass, natural resources, and large population make it an especially attractive location in Africa for investors. These advantages can be strategically used by the government, private sector actors and other key stakeholders to create economic opportunities that could achieve tremendous development. However, for all these initiatives to come together and effect real change, the country needs political stability and effective leadership.
GOOD LEADERSHIP MAKES DEVELOPMENT LOOK EASY
The difference between a Nigeria that squanders all the aforementioned opportunities and one that effectively uses them to its benefit hinges on the president that will emerge in the next election. Throughout history, good leadership has been the cornerstone of many development success stories. From presiding over South Africa’s transition from apartheid to freedom, to Botswana’s circumvention of the ‘resource curse’, and Rwanda’s solution to achieving justice after the 1994 genocide, effective leadership has steered nations to prosperity and healing.
Good leadership inspires confidence in the people, and with the right leader Nigeria can invariably solve its peculiar problems. For this to happen, Nigerians will need to consider not just the capability, but the character of their next leader. In essence, Nigeria needs a Philosopher King (or Queen, eventually); one who is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and harmony in all matters—both geopolitical and personal, and one who will remain courageous, optimistic, benevolent, and just in the face of harsh realities.
Unfortunately, the country appears to be afflicted by selfish politicians, feudal lords, and despots, who have used ethnicity and religion to manipulate their followers. These elections offer Nigerians the opportunity to decide which way the country will progress, either to its full potential, or to continue on its downward spiral.
RESISTING THE STATUS QUO
After 63 years of nation-building, Nigeria and Nigerians remain bound by the constraints of ethnic bias, religious fanaticism, and a complex history yet to be fully understood by the younger generation (who have been intentionally hindered from learning this history), and those reluctant to discuss this history openly. Although the Nigerian people are no longer subject to the political and economic subjugation of the colonial era, they are still bound by their fears, distrust, and hypocrisy.
A gang of political elite continue to manufacture and exploit the prevalent fear and distrust to pursue their selfish ends, even at the expense of justice and equity. They have weaponized mass poverty and stifled the growth of institutions, leaving people dependent on ethno-religious affiliations. It is time for Nigerians to resist these ploys and to consider, for once, what is truly of benefit to them. To do this, Nigerians must put aside their prejudices and focus on what hopefully they now recognize to be in their best interest and that of their children, rather than seek to live off the handouts from political predators. Nigerians must realize that they have the agency to resist the political status quo; now is the time to use it.
THE TIME IS NOW
Nigeria’s dire circumstances should be a wake-up call to its citizens about the urgency of the 2023 general election. Recent acute fuel and cash shortages in the days leading to the election have exacerbated frustration with the country’s dysfunction and the political status quo, but will this frustration be enough to impact who people vote for on 25 February?
The political and economic ramifications of this election will be felt for decades to come, as it may change Nigeria’s political landscape so dramatically that it would be unrecognizable. On the verge of a major generational transition, depending on how they vote, the elections could mean liberation from a political system rife with godfatherism, coercion and bigotry⎈
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