A friend called me from the United States of America immediately after Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was declared winner of the presidential election, to ask whether Nigerians are actually suffering economically the way it is being projected in the media. He was surprised that people could still vote for the All Progressive Congress at the highest level of governance when it is clear they have failed economically and security wise.
He reminded me of the fact that under the APC, Nigeria was declared the poverty capital of the world. He pointed out the massive depreciation of the naira, the current monetary policy mismanagement with scarcity of money with attendant negative effects in production and consumption. The unfulfilled promise on youth employment and the debt trap hanging on the country. He was right. Clearly the APC did not win the election on the basis of good performance but ethnicity and religious factors.
He explained that the United States would not have had a black man, Barack Obama, as President in 2008, if the economy was not so bad in the 2007/2008 global recession. People were more concerned about their well-being, level of employment, and a growing economy competing favourably with other advanced economies around the world. They looked for whoever was going to solve their economic problems and found one in the Democratic Party.
In many of the developed countries, economic issues are important in determining elections into various offices. Of course, there are many differences between the developing and developed countries not only in political economy but many other spheres of life. And, to compare ourselves with them in respect is unnecessary and over ambitious. To do so, we have to be at the same level of literacy particularly, enlightenment, economic and technological advancement. Albeit, there is nothing wrong in being ambitious.
The politicians in this clime are hardly concerned with economic issues as that can be sorted out through vote buying before or during voting exercises. They have unleashed poverty on the people as a weapon of submission. In a normal circumstance, people will react during the election by voting against those who have brought them to their knees. But in a circumstance where poverty and illiteracy go together, one can imagine the state of the mind. More vegetables than vegetarians!
It is however important to separate national elections from the state elections. While economic issues can be whittled down at the national level because of the overriding factors such as tribalism and religion, it is not the same at the state level. Performance of the governor is of greater importance than where the governor comes from or his religion. Performance in this case relates to the state of well-being of the people, provision of social amenities like educational and sports facilities, roads, transportation amenities, and other basic needs. That was the fall back position for some governors seeking a second term while different presidential candidates or different parties took over their states in the February 25, 2023 elections.
Many state governors lost elections because they owe workers some months salaries and allowances or other entitlements. Even governors seeking a third term through seats in the Senate were promptly denied by the electorate for failing to perform economically as governor. In some other cases, inability of a senator or a representative to mobilise federal projects to a constituency can make the candidate lose his or her seat. So, economic factors matter at the lower levels of national politics. Also, because economics matters, the comparisons among the contending major presidential candidates were initially weighed on economic performances in their states as governors or for the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar as vice-president. It is equally instructive to note that the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, won Kano State with landslide due to his performance as governor of the state. What is the implication of these records?
- Economics of tokenism
- Economics and the better angels of our nature
- Photosynthesis side of economics
The electorate might have switched religion and ethnicity for economic reasons in the last presidential election. It should not be taken for granted that the electorate preferences will always remain so. The PDP took the electorate for granted in 2015, playing ludo and enriching individual or personal accounts with our commonwealth. The result was that their ambition to rule Nigeria for 60 years was cut down to 16 years through the ballot. The APC needs to seize the present chance to rule again for four years in the first instance as an opportunity for redemption in many respects.
A large segment of the Nigerian elites within and outside Nigeria are of the opinion that the president-elect will ‘colonise’ Nigerian wealth as they believed he did with Lagos wealth since 2007. I have listened to arguments about the truth and fallacy of this personalisation of state wealth as well as those on the incongruence of equating what can be done with Lagos State wealth with what cannot be done with Nigeria’s commonwealth. Reality on ground is that as an entrepreneur, the businesses of the president-elect are not hidden from the public and are doing well to sustain him even after leaving office. Of course, he will be expected to declare his assets on assumption of office. If there is any image to redeem in that respect, it will be through running a government that is based on transparency and accountability.
Behind the façade of religion and ethnicity is the issue of economy. The majority of Nigerians, irrespective of the results that we have, are convinced that governance under the APC is worse than under the PDP. To that extent, some of the votes that were obtained by the Labour Party and the NNPP indicate rejection of the APC and the PDP. There were people looking for a third force and found this in other parties. The opportunity to redeem the image of the APC as a party established to promote corruption, punish and unleash poverty on Nigerians as well as mismanage the country’s resources is now in the hands of the incoming government. Fortunately, the incoming government cannot claim that they did not know the economy was this bad as the party did in 2015.
The president-elect has a lot of goodwill among the electorate who believe that he can perform, given his antecedents in governance of Lagos State. He has shown indications that the nation will not wait for six months to get ministers and other actors. Of course, he has just explained that he will run a government of national competence which is what the country needs. Every state has competent people who can make things work. If by mistake some incompetent persons get themselves into a position of managing the polity, the President should not find it difficult to replace such a person from the same state. Nepotism should no longer have room in governance in Nigeria. We know that many of those who worked excellently with him as governor of Lagos State are just in their 60s or about clocking that age. So, working with a younger generation but with required experience should be easy for him.
There is a need to redeem the country’s image among a committee of nations. We need to turn the bend towards progress rather than retrogression which the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (redt) administration had pursued in the last few years. Nigerians cannot raise their heads, even among Africans because of the way our economy has been mismanaged by incompetent leaders over the years. A planless economy and without an accurate database run on trial and error. A country with oil and gas, steel and gold, cotton, cocoa, palm oil, and many natural resources with human capital or talents swimming in the ocean of poverty! This is a country that should engage in what Justin Lin called Comparative Advantage Following development strategy. That is, developing through reliance on our resources for industrialisation. Vision 20:2050, for example, should not remain a vision but reality in 2050.
Nigeria should not be a country that encourages capital flight in money and human beings. But that is what we do and what must be reversed. Let us develop our home grown national and state development plans for the next 50 years following the footsteps of the Economic Commission for Africa’s Agenda 2063 launched in 2013. Let us resuscitate and complete the suspended development plan. The president-elect has challenged that we should, ‘Let the world see a Nigeria that nothing can stop.’ I am fairly certain that the next election will be anchored more on economic performance than ethnic or religious factors and if we are on the path to greatness, the APC would have been redeemed for future governance. The converse is also true.
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