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2023 Elections: The priorities for the citizens by Femi Onakanren

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Prof Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman electoral act 2023

By Femi Onakanren

President Muhammadu Buhari will be completing his second term come 2023. In the relay of governance and power, he will be handing over to a new administration to steer the country into the future.

He would be leaving behind a country which has made big and marginal progress on several fronts and has been limited, constrained and/or considered a failure on several others.

This has divided opinions thoroughly during his reign often polarizing the country into hailers (supporters of the administration) and wailers (non-supporters of the administration). There is a sparse middle ground of neutrals but these regularly vacillate between the two extremes.

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Thusly, 2023 presents itself as an event horizon, not just on the progression of governance, but also as an existential watershed junction for the country. In the considered opinion of many political and economics analysts, the country is at the precipice of either greatness or calamity and the process; candidate election, campaigns, electioneering process etc. must all come under focus.

However, despite the constellation of aspirants to the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is important that the polity does not take its eyes off the ball. Citizens need to understand that they are citizens first and foremost, not politicians, religious adherents or ethnic loyalists.

In recent times, the focus has been on the politicking game, with tongues and sentiments wagging, rather than on the ideology, progressive thinking and competence depth of the aspirants. Many of the 2023 aspirants have pitched their tents across ethnic, religious and partisan lines without deep consideration of what each aspirant has to offer.

We have been inundated with misinformation and disinformation, character assassination, misdirection, victim playing etc. A review of the opinions of many ardent supporters of either a party or aspirant will leave one confused. More often than not, there’s mudslinging, name calling, excuses etc. The irony is that we actually somehow expect progressive growth economically, politically and socially.

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Citizens need to focus on key issues and ask the hard questions of ‘hows’, ‘who’ and ‘ifs’ when engaging aspirants. Politicians will play the same card; euphoric and often outlandish campaign promises, leverage on the issues of the current ruling party/person, exploit ethnoreligious biases etc. We shouldn’t continue falling for the same trick.

If a politician raises a 2023 campaign promise, we should raise our hands to ask questions on how it will be achieved rather than in applause and empty fawning. The process should be as clear as the destination, the ideology should resonate with every bullet point.

Aspirants for 2023 should be reviewed dispassionately and objectively. An aspirant is not good enough just because we share ethnicity, religion or political allegiances. We mustn’t continue to celebrate mediocrity because ‘in the country of the blind, a one-eyed man is venerated’. We aren’t blind. We need to open our eyes in 2023, see clearly and act responsibly. We mustn’t be led by sentiments and illusions of Eldorado.

Competence at executive level should be in focus. The aspirants’ national focus and nationalism are important touch points; Nigeria for Nigerians should be the overriding factor. Political savvy to marry the different voices and interests is important. Character and integrity should play key roles in our assessment; whilst some of the aspirants may not have been convicted for crimes, those with substantiated or established character blemishes cannot be accommodated. Those who are suspected should be compelled to present clean bills of health. Antecedents in managing portfolios successfully cannot be underemphasized in 2023.

We must not forget that it is in the interest of politicians to keep us majoring in minors such as the cost of party nomination forms, how many wives of different ethnicities an aspirant marries or has married, redundant noise around academic qualifications, height, size of stomach or dance moves. Never again should any candidate be supported because he is Ibo, Yoruba, Hansa, Kalabari, Erik, Fulani etc. Ditto same for being a Christian, Muslim or others.

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This rationale must apply at the presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial, house of reps, state house of assemblies and local government elections. Every strata must be scrutinized and properly assessed.

We the citizens owe ourselves, and posterity so much more. We have become willing pawns in the hands of politicians who will leverage any weakness or bias for their own ends. We are making their jobs easy. This is why we have apathy towards getting involved; it is an abdication of responsibility and a dereliction of duty. Enough of the excuses! It’s time for us, the citizens, to build the country we earnestly desire. Failure to do so will in 2023 only mean we will be condemned to continuing the cycle of lamentations. The choice is ours.

Femi Onakanren is a Business Development Specialist and social commentator on local and global social and economics issues. He writes from Lagos

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