Every election in any country is unique in its own way and comes with its own twist and lessons for students of history to learn from. The 2023 general election in Nigeria is no different. It was one of the most interesting elections many young Nigerians have witnessed in a very long time. The lessons of the February 25 presidential election will forever be registered in the hearts of many.
From the incumbent president losing his own state, Katsina, to an opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; to Bola Tinubu, an ex-governor of Lagos State, and the eventual winner of the election who ran on the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, ticket, losing his own base, Lagos, and the nation’s capital, Abuja, to a ‘third force’, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP; to about seven sitting governors losing their senatorial elections.
Perhaps, the most weighty of the lessons is the massive political participation of the youths, who, hitherto, have been apolitical. Now that the elections are over and May 29, the date for the inauguration of the President-elect, is here, many well-meaning Nigerians have continued to call the attention of the new administration on how to fix Nigeria, and I’d like to lend my voice to theirs.
There is no doubt that many Nigerians are not impressed by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which came to power in 2015 with the promise of curbing the multifaceted challenges bedeviling the nation, including insecurity and corruption. No doubt, the administration has done its best, but we all must admit that the gaps left behind have posed exponential challenges for the new administration.
The state of the nation is a sad tale: 20 million out-of-school children, two million unemployed citizens as of 2020, 44.6 trillion in public debt as of September 2022, and 133 million people living in poverty. This is a clear indication that the new administration should put on its thinking caps to come up with a lasting solution to these challenges, which have smeared the image of the nation among the comity of nations. Firstly, the new administration has the big task of fostering national unity through sincere policies that can strengthen our diversity. Though the APC won the presidential election, the party still has a long way to go to win public trust because many are still dissatisfied with the party’s choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
It is not enough to debunk the speculations that the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is aimed at the Islamisation of the country, the new administration should really be intentional about running a ‘government of national unity’. One way to do this is to revisit the proposals made during the National Conference of 2014, a roundtable discussion on nation-building involving all critical stakeholders. In his Easter message, Bishop Hassan Kukah lent credence to the need for the incoming administration to prioritise national unity.
He said: ‘To the incoming President, I am hopeful that you will appreciate that the most urgent task facing our nation is not infrastructure or the usual cheap talk about dividends of democracy. These are important, but first, keep us alive because only the living can enjoy infrastructure. For now, the most urgent mission is to start a psychological journey of making Nigerians feel whole again, of creating a large tent of opportunity and hope for us all, of expanding the frontiers of our collective freedom, of cutting off the chains of ethnicity and religious bigotry, of helping us recover from the feeling of collective rape by those who imported the men of darkness that destroyed our country, of recovering our country and placing us on the path to our greatness, of exorcising the ghost of nepotism and religious bigotry.’ Secondly, security is a paramount duty of any responsible government.
The importance of securing the lives and properties of citizens cannot be overemphasised. The outgoing administration scored low on security. According to a report by SB Morgan, about 2,085 people were killed in Nigeria in the fourth quarter of 2021 in violent attacks by terrorist group Boko Haram and militia herdsmen, and by the end of the year, the number of deaths was estimated to be 10,366. Also, according to data sourced from the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR, and National Security Tracker, NST, an estimated 4,545 people were killed by different groups of terrorists and bandits, and incidences of kidnapping stood at 4,611 in 2022.
From the aforementioned statistics, it is clear that the incoming administration is inheriting a disturbing security situation, and as such, it must take urgent steps to address the push and pull factors behind these insecurity issues, such as abject poverty and unemployment, among others. The security architecture in the country also needs to be restructured in tandem with global best practices, and the welfare of the intelligence agents needs to be prioritised to enable them to discharge their duties effectively and efficiently.
Thirdly, the economy of any nation is a building block for development. Nigeria is regarded as the giant of Africa because of the prospects and strength of its economy. Sadly, Nigeria’s economy has depleted under the present administration. Before President Buhari took over power in 2015, Nigeria’s inflation rate averaged nine per cent, but since then there has been a surge.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, under the current administration, the country’s inflation rate hit a 16-year high amid an increase in the prices of goods and the poor purchasing power of the local currency. The urban inflation rate increased to 17.35 per cent (year-on-year) in April 2022 from 18.68 per cent recorded in April 2021, while the rural inflation rate increased to 16.32 per cent in April 2022 from 17.57 per cent in April 2021. Similarly, the last poverty survey from the NBS showed that more than 65 per cent of the Nigerian population, or almost 95 million people, live below the poverty line.
The 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index further reveals that 63 percent of Nigerians—133 million people – are multidimensionally poor. These indicators are all worrisome, and the new administration must put its house in order in order to solve the economic crises facing the country. Already, many young Nigerians have lost hope in the country due to the economic woes and are migrating massively to other countries with buoyant and thriving economies.
To restore the faith of already-disillusioned Nigerians, the new government must take active measures to provide substantial opportunities and create a conducive environment for businesses, especially micro, small, and medium enterprises, MSMEs, to thrive by tackling the epileptic power supply in the country.
With the likes of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala heading the World Trade Organisation, WTO, and Akinwumi A. Adesina heading the African Development Bank, AfDB, Nigeria should not be rated as the poverty capital of the world. Fourthly, the new administration must not downplay the critical need to restructure the country.