Whoever emerges as next president should be pitied, writes Fredrick Nwabufo
Expectations are high. Well Named. 2023 has been described as a breakthrough year for Nigeria. Citizens are looking for change. Things have to change. The current socio-economic drift must be stopped. But we have to be pragmatic with our expectations. Good things don’t come easily. No individual can turn Nigeria into an El Dorado in four years. Nigeria’s problems, which are functionally in situ, are centuries old. But an “Alexander the Great” can activate the process to cut the systemic Gordian knots.
According to legend, Gordius, King of Gordium, tied an intricate knot and prophesied that whoever untied it would become ruler of Asia. It was cut with a sword by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. AD Alexander then conquered most of Asia. Thus, the term ”Gordian knot”, which means difficulty, snag, setback, problem or obstacle, comes from the artful tapestry of the king of Gordium.
What are the Gordian knots of Nigeria? Pervasive insecurity, omnipotent corruption, nepotism, prostrate economy, deeply divided citizens, dilapidated health infrastructure, wobbly education, pervasive poverty, unchecked killings, indiscipline, persistent worker strikes, capricious and miserly fuel subsidy regime and general societal malaise .
The next Nigerian president will come at a time when the country is terribly divided along ethnic and religious lines; at a time of seething anger and great uncertainty; when the economy is in tatters; corruption at its peak; at such a perilous time when Nigerians cannot travel from one part of the country to another for fear of being killed and kidnapped; at such a vulnerable time when a dollar is worth 600 naira on the parallel market and more than 13 million children are out of school. The next Nigerian president will come at a time of anomie.
Under “Why Ethnicity, Zoning Dominate 2023 Election Issues,” I said while we focus on overarching concerns, we lose sight of the most important issues. We spend too much energy on trivialities and leave little to question those who have come forward to represent us. Even though ethnicity, region and religion should be criteria for selecting the next Nigerian president in the name of “justice, fairness and equity” as proposed by those who call for an orbit in the geography of power , this should not take precedence over the main issues of leadership.
The task ahead is daunting and Nigeria desperately needs the right people in government to get the right solutions.
Today, insecurity is a major concern. How would the next president tackle the hydra of insurgency, banditry, terrorism and kidnapping? What steps will the next president take to deal with spiraling debts, dwindling oil revenues and coasting inflation? How will the next president provide an elixir to our health sector and revive our wobbly education?
What are the plans to reduce youth unemployment? What will be the gasoline subsidy policy, given that 4 trillion naira will be spent on this Venus flytrap in 2022? What is the plan to oxygenate the Nigerian electricity sector and make it less embarrassing? How will ASUU claims be handled for good? How to tackle sectional unrest and ubiquitous corruption?
These are some of the questions the next president will have to face. The task before us is immense. If we really want to get out of the doldrums, we have to make that choice on real issues – with seriousness.
Who will begin the process of slicing Nigeria’s many Gordian knots? In fact, there is no shortage of people with the ability to rule here. But if we are looking for perfect individuals or celestial beings to transform Nigeria, we will only be chasing a wisp. Again, we have to be realistic and measure our expectations.
No government alone can solve all of Nigeria’s problems. What we need is successive corrective leadership. One government takes on critical challenges, and the next builds on the successes of the other. Governance should be a progressive continuum.
If 2023 is truly a watershed year for Nigeria, then we need to start making every step of the process of electing new leadership count. We need to prioritize the real issues and interview those who have run for elected office. It is easy to assume that because the delegates, who are often bribed, will nominate the candidates for election, the choice of the uninitiated population is already compromised. It is not a done deal. Delegates do not exist in isolation. They are everyday Nigerians burdened with the same everyday problems.
I believe the zeitgeist; the mood of the moment, (among other factors), will govern the nomination of presidential candidates by parties.
And if I read the mood of the country correctly, Nigerians are tired.
My sympathies in advance to all who will take the leadership of Nigeria under this reign of Babel.
Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.