Thoughts on the 2023 Presidency
By Ganiu Oloruntade
8th November, 2019
8th November, 2019
If not for the 'ethnic-induced' nature of Nigerian politics, the discourse on the 2023 Presidency race should have been focused on getting the right and competent hands into Aso Rock. Unfortunately, our political landscape had been submerged in the deep sea of ethnic chauvinism; a consequence of our inextricable ties to cultural primordiality at the expense of national development. When we talk politics and governance in this clime, we do that mostly from the lenses of our traditional settings. Welcome to Nigeria where ethnicity precedes patriotism.
Much —evident in the flowing penned (or perhaps 'keyboarded') opinions— has been said as to who becomes President Buhari's successor even when we ought to be resonating our voices louder in the call for good governance and sanity in our renascent democracy. Our slipping economy needs attention. Our security is threatened by insurgents —our homes ravaged, lives lost, families displaced. The quality of life is declining; food security is still a mirage. The 'Nigeria of our dreams' is gradually ascending into the skies of impossibilities. The present administration must 'really' intensify and reintensify its efforts in tackling real issues. This should be our collective clamour. Real problems demand real solutions.
The crux, however, is the famous and infamous "zoning" of the Presidency across the six geopolitical zones in the country —a strategy supposedly birthed to allow equal participation of all regions (and societies) in politics. Based on this unofficial arrangement, the Presidency had been reportedly "zoned" to the South; therein are two major contending zones— Southwest and Southeast.
One of Nigeria's foremost political figures, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is rumoured to likely throw his hat in the ring. 'BAT', as he fondly called by his fans, is from Lagos State, Southwest region of the country. And as expected, diverse reactions have emerged from this development; ranging from the battalion of self-dubbed "Tinubuists" and APC apologists, to another group of Nigerians who are either skeptical or opposed to his presidential bid. I belong to the latter category and I have my reasons. Asiwaju is undoubtedly qualified for the nation's top job. As a former Senator and Governor of Lagos State —West Africa's Economic Capital, he has paid his dues and learnt the robes. However, there are certain salient questions that should be asked: Can he replicate his achievements in Lagos State at the centre? Bearing in mind the complexity of the federal architecture; Does he have the capacity to run a 'complicated' Nigerian structure? Can he integrate Nigerians towards true development? If yes, how does he intend to do that? What feasible economic policies will he propose to resuscitate our crippling economy? Does he have the mental and health flexibility to sit on the 'hot seat'? We obviously don't want to expend state resources on another ailing President.
This should be the discourse, and not zoning.
I honestly don't understand the rationale behind this. Zoning undermines competence and capacity to deliver; it equally gives room for mediocres to find their way into public offices under the guise of it-is-our-turn-to-rule belief. We must outgrow ethnic based politics, albeit partially indispensable, and opt for an integrative polity.
Meritocracy should be our watchword in assessing presidential hopefuls. People shouldn't bank on ethnicity to justify mediocrity. Tribe shouldn't be a criteria, rather the aspirant's track record, competencies and visions for the nation's growth and development. The debate should transcend beyond the 'north-south' divide and focus more on the individuals vying for Nigeria's number one seat. We should interrogate their ideals on restructuring, economic blueprints, development-friendly orientations, political ideology and other cogent issues of national concern.
Furthermore, it is high time that we emphasized the need for electoral reforms, political restructuring and institutional reengineering. Our democracy is in danger if we continue to operate a deeply flawed system that is characterized by electoral violence, vote buying, gerrymandering, implausible electoral process, and so on.
Our political framework needs to be reconfigured. Pubic confidence must be restored through accountability and transparency in governance. Our democratic institutions must be strengthened. The judiciary —last hope of the common man— has become compromised and partisan in the adjudication of justice; this must be fixed. Real autonomy must be given to this arm of government as democracy can only thrive when its tenets —including an independent judiciary— exist.
The Electoral Management Body — Independent National Electoral Commission — must 'up' its game against the systemic defects: deregistration of 'mushroom parties' is non-negotiable; pursue the total adoption of e-voting by 2023; ensure electoral credibility through openness; shun partisanship in the discharge of its duties and ultimately consolidate our renascent democracy through a free and fair process (I'm optimistic that we'll get there someday). Also, of great importance is the problem of electoral insecurity. The violent-ridden nature of our elections remains appalling and requires urgent and lasting solution.
While the power game continues, we shouldn't forget to remind the power brokers that the thrust of governance revolves around the ordinary man. Even democracy —the platform upon which this politicking happens— preaches people-inclined representation. At this point in our democratic life, entrenchment of 'public-centricism' in politics should be pivotal.