Nigeria-2023 President-elect: Rerouting Nigeria’s pathway to glory, by Prof MK Othman
Deep Thoughts with Othman
In Nigeria, tension, apprehension, anxiety, and uncertainty enveloped the nation few days after the 25th February 2023 presidential election. On 23rd February, two days before D-day, I was on a trip to Kano from Zaria and found myself driving in the campaign train of one of the four leading political parties. A journey of one and a half hours took me four hours with all my maneuvers and knowledge of alternative routes. The mammoth crowd of youth, elderly and women campaigners shouting and cursing with euphoria made the scene look like a war zone. No one was talking about any political party agenda of good governance, economic emancipation, illiteracy eradication and the like. It was simply a show of political force with rented and other crowds to outwit other parties. That scenario was replicated in almost every nook and cranny of Nigeria in the name of political party campaigns from a few months to few days before the election. The scene created tautness and nervousness among the electorate while eroding hopes for a glorious Nigeria. With this scenario among the lower class of Nigerians, the political elites were spiritedly undoing each other in the spirit of “either I or my stooge get political power by any means or no one gets it”. Right from the parties’ primaries, Nigerian politicians showed their true colors as each one of them was pursuing personal and primordial interests above that of the nation. Delegates of the two major parties were transported, fed, camped, and teleguided on whom to vote for a handsome price in hard currencies.
In the end, winners of the two leading parties emerged not for what some of the politicians did but despite their undoing. Surprisingly, some elements in the ruling party, APC made effort to sabotage the emergence of the popular candidate. Even after the party reluctantly declared the winner as its presidential candidate, there were behind the scene shenanigans making some of us wonder why the ruling party was not interested in succeeding itself. The attitude manufactured a conspiracy theory of a possible military coup before the 2023 election. The Defense Headquarters had to issue a stern warning dismissing the ‘coup rumour’ as ‘malicious propaganda’ by ‘unscrupulous elements’ and further said “It needs to be stated that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is a professional military that is loyal to the constitution of the Federal Republic and will never be part of any evil plot against our democracy”.
Additionally, there were (and still are) two persistent anti-people issues; fuel scarcity and currency change which seems like a forced implementation of a cashless policy. The reasons for the fuel scarcity across the nation were sketchy and unconvincing. The online paper ‘Premium Times’ of 21st January 2023 reported the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, (MOMAN), attributing the lingering fuel scarcity in the country to “high costs of vessels and inadequate trucks to deliver petroleum products from depots to filling stations across Nigeria”. It stated further that, “the major cause is the shortage and high US Dollar costs of daughter vessels for ferrying products from mother vessels to depots along the coast”. “Next is the inadequate number of trucks to deliver products from depots to the filling stations nationwide to meet the demand”. Within this period of fuel scarcity, the official petrol price was clandestinely jacked up from N181-185 per liter to N210 per liter. This is in addition to the cost of queuing for several hours in the few filling stations dispensing at this rate otherwise you have to purchase it at prices ranging from N320 to N400 per liter in independent marketers’ filling stations. There are no more “black markets” for the sales of fuel as the NNPC price regulatory body became “dead and buried” and independent petroleum marketers sell at any price without qualms.
As Nigerians struggled to survive under the cutthroat pressure of fuel scarcity, the currency change and forced cashless policy implementation made the situation generally unbearable. Millions of Nigerians live in a hopeless situation of economic desperation, misery, hunger ad desolation. Perhaps, the CBN Governor sold a dummy to Mr. President that the cashless policy was a shortcut to fast-track the economic revival before his exit. How could this be? How can a cashless policy be implemented successfully in an environment without adequate infrastructure? Some of the existing infrastructures are dilapidated, archaic, inadequate, epileptic and dysfunctional.
In a survey, the 2022 Speedtest Global Index, published by US-based internet speed analysis firm, Ookla ranked Nigeria 150th in the world for its internet speed. Nigeria was reported to have recorded a download speed of 9.70 megabytes per second (Mbps) for fixed broadband, which was a far cry below the global benchmark broadband download speed of 69.14 Mbps. This is grossly inadequate Internet download speed to operate a cashless policy, which is entirely dependent on the internet capacity in addition to the GSM services. The results are massive system failure, failure of business transactions, massive retardation of economic growth, and exacerbated widespread poverty. Even people with money in their accounts cannot escape the hardship and embarrassment caused by the cashless policy. Last week, I was a victim of a cashless policy embarrassment in a Restaurant. Before the order of the food, I requested the POS service, and was given “no objection” but after the meals with my friends, the POS declined, we were all looking at each other until a good Samaritan observed our dilemma and embarrassment and decided to bail us out. He paid on our behalf and then supplied his account number for a refund later. That was how we escaped cashless catastrophe and detention despite having funds in our bank accounts.
These anti-people policies and actions were supposed to have negatively affected the fortunes of the APC candidates, especially the presidential one in the elections but Nigerians rose above party politics, analyzed the presidential candidates, and voted for Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
INEC declared Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the APC as the president-elect with 8.7 million. He defeated the former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP with 6.9 million votes, former State Governor Peter Obi of the LP with 6.1 million votes, and 15 other contestants with insignificant votes. An estimated 25 million votes were cast out of the 87 million registered voters.
Tinubu’s emergence as the APC presidential candidate and eventually as the President-elect was a miracle as none of the past elected presidents faced uphill opposition within and outside their parties like he did. Except for the 2015 presidential election, all other elections were challenged in a court of law. This one is similarly and legally being challenged by 89 SANs, legal luminaries for and against.
While waiting for the outcome of the court judgment, it is important to articulate thorny issues that have been a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progress to a glorious future. Five key sectors; education, agriculture, health, security, and infrastructure will be discussed starting with the low-hanging fruits for the president to easily pluck as Nigeria’s pathway to glory.
(To be continued next week)
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.