Ayo Oyoze Baje

As the presidential campaigns kick off, towards the 2019 general elections a lot of contentious issues will certainly occupy the public sphere. These will include the troubled polity, economy, insecurity, corruption, unemployment and the quality of life or Human Development Index (HDI) of the average Nigerian. Most of us know the plethora of self-inflicted problems bedeviling the country, but few are ready to find sustainable solutions in practical terms. We are at another crossroad and expectations are high, firstly by electing competent leaders who can get us out of the woods.

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But trust the increasingly desperate, power-poaching Nigerian politician; with ample evidence of electoral shenanigans from the re-run of the governorship race held in Osun state back in September and the querulous party primaries which took place across the country recently. It is blatantly obvious that not a few of our politicians are masters of the game of grand deceit. Their bags of tricks are filled with con cards. Their stock-in-trade includes brazen acts of betrayal of sacred trust, blackmail, subterfuge and outright treachery. They are given to chasing the shadows of self aggrandizement as mere distractions from the main reason of their being in political office, which is good governance.

Ordinarily, candidates to the various posts should be telling us what exactly they hope to do; to better our lives. But what do we read on the pages of newspapers, the online media and see on our television screen these days? Most posts and comments are nothing but murk raking; vile-filled vituperations with character assassination, insults, innuendoes and the so called hate speech. Old files are being dusted up and sooty cupboards flung open to reveal some dark and ghoulish skeletons!

Unlike what played out in 2015, there are currently 91 political parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with 31 of them showcasing their presidential candidates! But political pundits and their permutations are narrowing it down to a two-horse race between the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).Interestingly, this time around a Northern-Muslim is pitched against another Northern-Muslim, both of the same Fulani ethnic stock! Even then emotions still run high, as to who the next presidential cap truly fits.

We need credible answers to the persistent questions on how to put food on our table, ensure sustainable infrastructural development to generate massive youth employment and mitigate the scourge of insecurity, so that we can go to sleep with our two eyes closed. With oil prices fluctuating at the international market, with the United States and China threatening to cut fuel import, vis-a-vis the Gulf oil crisis what solutions do you have to stem the rising tide of preventable poverty, that has Nigeria as its new global capital?

Beyond telling us, the electorate about your fanciful dreams for Nigeria we want specific details. How do you hope to bring qualitative, affordable and accessible primary health care delivery down to the grassroots? How would you reverse the drastic drift that has seen Nigeria ranking at the bottom rung of the global ladder in maternal and infant mortality rates and our political top shots jetting out to the United Kingdom, Germany and India for medical tourism?

What about the critical issue of education for the citizenry, which should form the solid bedrock of our national development? How would you guarantee that we do not continue to record the highest number of school-aged children out of school across the whole wide world? What about the fast crumbling infrastructure in public primary schools across the country, with some of our pupils compelled to receive lessons under trees, and on empty stomach, while their caring governors fly over them in private jets? How would you ensure that state governors pay their counterpart UBE fund as a matter of priority? How would you, as a patriot make sure that our secondary school students do not continue to record the highest failure figures in WAEC, NECO and JAMB? And by extension how do we feed our universities with quality undergraduates, information technology-savvy minds who would serve as veritable catalysts and drivers for the future? We need an enduring template on the anti-graft war to make sure that there is a level playing field for all. No sacred cows! Whoever has stolen from the national till harms us all and must not enjoy any form of immunity or suddenly become a saint by jumping ship from one political party to another. Corruption must be defined in its whole essence beyond pilfering of public fund. Of course, it includes flagrant disobedience of court orders or appointments that are skewed in favour of one axis of the country as against others, and out of tune with the laid down principles of federal character.

Furthermore, how would Nigeria key into the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs of saying ‘No’ to poverty, hunger and insecurity but ‘Yes’ to good health and wellbeing, quality education and gender equality? How would we gain access to clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth? What about industry, innovation and stable infrastructure, reduced inequality amongst the citizenry, sustainable cities and communities, peace, justice and pragmatic partnerships to achieve these laudable goals?

Like it or not, the critical issue of politico-economic restructuring and its attendant fiscal federalism is germane to how we move forward as a nation. In which other democracy do we have state governors going cap-in-hand to the federal centre to collect the so called federal allocation, sundry bail-out funds every blessed month and yet finding it some Herculean task to pay the long-suffering workers the paltry and insulting peanut of N18, 000? It does not play itself out like that in the United States from which we copied the political system we run. So, for how long are we going to run away from a holistic constitution review that would ensure that democracy here benefits the ordinary Nigerian?

We want Nigerians aspiring to public office to learn from former President Barack Obama of U.S. and David Cameron of the U.K. when they threw their hats into the political ring for their countries’ number one political spot. They were articulate enough to identify the state of the nation, and assembled the best of brains and mind to beam their probing searchlights into the future. Their campaign manifestos looked specifically at the issues of the economy, job creation, internal security, food security vis-a-kvis the rampaging impact of climate change.

On that score, one abhors campaigns of calumny against people, places or political parties. INEC’s independence must not be jeopardized. We want politicians who are morally, intellectually and physically prepared for the ever-demanding art of governance. Those who are passionate about Nigeria’s sustainable economic development; based on the principles of people-friendly ideals, and politicians who are ready to sacrifice the self for the state.

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Baje writes from Lagos